Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How Much?

A recent blog from Seth Godin got me to thinking. How much should you charge for theatre tickets?

I'm not one of those airy-fairy types who believe that "in a perfect world, we'd do it for free." On the contrary, I believe that in a perfect world people would want to exchange money for content; as opposed to the current scene, where some people believe that artists owe them their content. (More power to Radiohead and like-minded artists who chose to give their stuff away. Some of us have to scrape to make a living.)

But I digress.

I've come around to the idea of charging about what you'd pay at a "premium" movie house, such as the Arclight, or the Chinese. This means $15 - $20 a ticket. It seems reasonable to me, and looking around seems to be the standard pricing for an under-99 house.

As reasonable as $15 - $20 seems to be, there are still those who balk. I've had people tell me that they'd love to see a show I'm in, they just don't have the money. It embarrasses me, but I've used the same excuse, at least to myself.

And so here's Seth:
What they are really trying to say is, "it's not worth it." As in, it's not worth reprioritizing my life, not worth the risk, not worth what I'll have to give up to get this, not worth being in debt for.
You can't beat people away who are excited about something. Witness the iPhone, an overpriced gadget that most everyone knows will be improved upon in short order, making the first model obsolete. $15 for a play ticket? The average Starbucks customer spends more than that in a month for coffee. And I bet they don't even realize it.
So okay, let's say for the sake of argument that $15 is just too unreasonable. Why not lower the price?
A show I was in a couple of years back was so bad, we slashed ticket prices at the door to $5, and actively tried to get walk-ins. This was on Hollywood Boulevard on an evening with heavy foot traffic. We managed to snag four walk-ins ... who loudly demanded a refund at intermission.
People won't want to part with so much as pocket lint for garbage. And as the old saying goes, "fool me once ..." Nothing kills off repeat business faster than one lousy experience.

Again from Seth:
The best response is to make something worth paying for.
And there is the drum that Godin beats with great fervor throughout his work as a marketing guru. "Be remarkable."

Which brings us to a very important question: What are we doing in the theatre that can't be done better on screen, iPod to Imax?

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