JUST ASK JED: Is there any correlation between theater size and the success rate of the shows in those theaters?

Image“Most interested in Theater economics. Particularly, Discount Cash Flow Analysis as related to theater size. Are you aware of any studies on this? In plain English, is there any correlation between theater SIZE (number of seats, and by extension, potential revenue) and the success rate of the shows in those theaters (tranched by size). Let us say 500 to 700, 700 to 1000, 1000 to 1400, and so on. Does the House SIZE have any bearing on the success of a show? And if so, why?” - Barry

Jed: There is no study that I know of. My guess is there would not be much of a correlation. Show profitability does not really relate much to the seating capacity as it does to “demand,” capitalization costs, and running costs. If there is no interest in a show, it doesn’t matter how many seats there are in the theater and conversely, it could cost $100 per week to run a show or $1,000 per week – in the same theatre – based on what you are putting on the stage.

Got a question of your own? Submit it here or let us know in the comments! 

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Drew Hodges of SpotCo on Marketing for the Commercial Theater

Jed-DrewDREW HODGES, founder and CEO of entertainment advertising agency SpotCo, has been in the entertainment industry since SpotCo first opened as Spot Design, a design studio for entertainment graphics, in the late 1980s. In 1997, Hodges launched SpotCo and countless Broadway, Off-Broadway, and institutional branding and advertising campaigns were born. SpotCo’s roster of clients includes The Weinstein Company, Cirque du Soleil, The Disney Channel, and over 20 current Broadway and national touring productions. 

The agency has been honored with awards from the Art Directors Club, The American Institute of Graphic Design, Print, HOW, Communication Arts, and the Broadcast Design Awards, and has represented 6 Pulitzer Prize winners.

So who better than Drew to give you a little inside peak at how Broadway campaigns come together and how the landscape of entertainment marketing is changing? CTI’s Executive Director JED BERNSTEIN hit Mr. Hodges with a few questions about this vital component of the theater industry.

JED:  What is the process by which an ad agency gets hired to work on a production?

DREW: Some clients are returning clients – in that case, we get a call, a script, or perhaps an informational meeting where a project gets discussed. On occasion, large musicals ask several agencies to pitch. Not unexpectedly, I find this process a less than efficient one, but it is a part of the current landscape. The least good part of a pitch? Most of the work is never used, as it is very early in the process, and the agency is just beginning to understand the project.

J:  What are some strategic differences for marketing and advertising between open ended and limited engagements?

D: Obviously, one difference is that from day one of the campaign, you get to promote the urgency to “buy your tickets now”. And keep doing it. It also gives you a strong closing message, which helps considerably. Also, your audience is a fairly known quantity. An open ended run has an audience that keeps expanding like the rings on a bullseye. Which means your tactics need to keep evolving as your audience does.

J: Given the increasing importance of digital media, what are some key ways in which commercial theater marketing has changed over the past decade?

D: To quote a famous co-worker, “Print is dead”. Digital is the equivalent of The New York Times at this point. Shows are launched digitally. Also, digital allows you to reach a theater insider at a very low cost, which I believe is allowing budgets to work with broadcast to reach out to a larger audience. And lastly (actually not lastly – this question could go on and on) digital is the first real tool that allows our marketing to reach beyond the local New York market.

J: What do you think is a common trap that a marketing campaign should avoid? 

D: Not being honest about what elements of your production are pros and what are cons. And then using your marketing to solve those issues. Young producers think their production is perfect. Experienced producers see both sides.

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To learn more about commercial theatrical marketing, sign up for CTI’s MARKETING: Measurement, Analysis, and Tactics seminar (or webinar simulcast for those of you who can’t attend in person!). Instructors include the best and brightest from SpotCo and other top advertising and branding companies AKA, Situation Interactive, and Serino Coyne

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The Key to the Perfect Pitch

A week from today, on Friday, November 16th, CTI will host its Investor Relations & Here’s the Pitch course. Students have the opportunity to present their ideas to a “celebrity” panel of successful producers and receive detailed feedback about how to improve their pitching.

This time around, our panel of experts includes EVA PRICE, whose producing credits include Annie and Peter and the Starcatcher; FRAN KIRMSER, who is currently producing Glengarry Glenn Ross and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; PAIGE PRICE, the Artistic Director of Theatre Aspen; and AMANDA WATKINS,* who produced Lend Me A Tenor. Today, they give us their insight on pitching and give you an idea of how you can make a better pitch and avoid common mistakes.

CTI: What is the single most important thing that all pitches should have?

Eva: The most important thing a pitch should have is clarity and confidence. If the pitch, in words alone, lacks punch and precision and then how can a Producer have faith that the whole idea/script/score won’t lack it as well?

Amanda: A pitch needs to include more than an idea; a realization of how the idea is actualized on stage (in terms of physical production) can give a jumpstart to a producer’s ear that is obviously not familiar with the “pitcher’s” mind’s eye.

Fran: A CLEAR and POINTED ask!

Paige: Clarity.

CTI: What are some easily avoidable mistakes in pitching that are commonly made?

Eva: Easily avoidable mistakes include repeating yourself multiple times without saying anything new. Saying the exact same thing, over and over, without giving follow up or evidence, but just relying on one plain statement…is not the way to get your project noticed and considered.

Fran: Letting an ask linger and pitching with an inappropriate amount -either too high, too low, or not getting to a number at all.

Paige: Don’t assume we know anything – especially references, unless they’re obvious.  Don’t rush. If we lose track or you present too manically, we won’t be able to be drawn in.

Amanda: A pitch can be very muddled by too much jargon around how COMMERCIAL the concept is; the passion and vision are much more important; it is up to the producer to make it commercial.

Our celebrity panel is ready to help you perfect your pitch. Whether you’ve already taken the class and just want to practice your new and improved pitch or you need help taking your pitch to the next level, Investor Relations & Here’s the Pitch gives you access to industry professionals with invaluable experience and insight. Also available as a webinar simulcast for those who aren’t New York City-adjacent.

*EDIT: Amanda Watkins is no longer able to join the panel this Friday, but we thought her answers were just too good to remove! 

photo credit: M Glasgow via photopin cc

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Meet the Instructors: Tom Viertel and Jason Baruch Will Teach You WHO GETS WHAT

In an effort to give our students and those who are interested in producing but haven’t yet taken a class more access to the the theater industry’s top producers and business insiders, we’ve launched this blog, which we hope will lead to thoughtful and engaging discussion about commercial producing.

This week, we’re speaking with TOM VIERTEL and JASON BARUCH, who are familiar faces to students who have taken CTI’s Who Gets What? half-day intensive seminar in previous years. The two powerhouse Broadway insiders share their insights with us and give you a little something to look forward to in our upcoming Who Gets What? class on October 26th. If you’ve never taken this course, now is your chance!

Q&A with TOM VIERTEL

Tom-ViertelTom Viertel has produced a wide range of plays and musicals on and off Broadway, in London and on tour for over 27 years.  Shows include: Old Jews Telling Jokes, Leap of Faith, A Little Night Music, Young Frankenstein, Burn the Floor, Hairspray, The Norman Conquests, Gypsy, The Producers, Sweeney Todd, Company, Little Shop of Horrors, The Weir, The Sound of Music, Smokey Joe’s Café, Angels in America, Oleanna, Love Letters, Diving Miss Daisy, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Penn and Teller.

CTI: What is the most common misconception that new producers have when it comes to financial matters?

Tom: I think the most common misperception has to do with how quickly substantial money will be needed.  Most shows will need $150,000 to $250,000 very quickly to pay for an option, engage a general manager, a director, a casting agent and a lawyer as well as for many other expenses.  Unless a new producer can find that much in high-risk front money, they will quickly be in trouble.

CTI: When should a producer start working on a budget?

Tom: A producer should start working on a budget as soon as a general manager can be engaged but after the rights have been obtained.  The budget will help guide the process pretty much from the outset and a producer will be at a disadvantage at every turn without a budget.

Q&A with JASON BARUCH

Jason-BaruchJason Baruch has served as production counsel for dozens of musical and dramatic stage productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, West End and elsewhere around the world,  including Pulitzer Prize-winner Clybourne Park, Seminar, Rock of Ages, Lysistrata Jones, and Finding Neverland.  He also represents play publisher and licensing company Samuel French and numerous regional theatres around New York and the rest of the country such as Second Stage Theatre in New York and Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia.  Jason is legal counsel to a large roster of award-winning dramatists, directors and choreographers, designers, performers, orchestrators and arrangers.

CTI: How did you become involved in the commercial theater industry? 

Jason: As a Philosophy major with no practical skills whatsoever, I decided to go to law school. With an abiding love for theater (it runs in the family) and an equal obsession with “Law & Order”-type television procedurals, I decided I wanted to become either an entertainment lawyer or U.S. attorney. After a short span litigating a re-insurance defense claim for a huge firm, I made a quick career correction into theater law.

2. When is the right time to consult with a lawyer on a new work in development?

Jason: If material is based on underlying material, I suggest a consultation with a lawyer before the dramatists spend a huge number of hours and the producers spend a huge number of dollars on developing the piece. If a producer is interested in optioning an original stage play or musical from dramatists, I suggest a consultation with a lawyer before discussing terms of the option with the dramatists and certainly before expending substantial time and effort into the development of the piece.

 

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