Theater Companies Sweeten Subscription Deals

By Carter, Alice T | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Theater Companies Sweeten Subscription Deals


Carter, Alice T, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


When City Theatre subscribers arrive at their seats for the current show, they'll find a renewal form for the 2012-13 season with a special offer taped to their seat backs.

Those who renew their subscriptions, and non-subscribers who sign up while at the theater, will go home with a bottle of wine. They also will have their names included in a drawing for a $500 Nordstrom gift card.

"We want to make renewing and subscribing an event ... something fun to do, and you get to drive home with something in your hand," says Emily Price, City Theatre's director of marketing.

The reminder, the wine and the gift-card drawing are among an increasing variety of innovative promotions local theater companies employ to nudge subscribers and non-subscribers to commit for the upcoming season.

Earlier in March, PNC Broadway Across America -- Pittsburgh hosted a first-ever event to announce its 2012-13 season.

The series' partners -- the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Broadway Across America -- invited subscribers, donors, sponsors, community partners and potential group sales clients to a free hour-long performance of live and video excerpts from next season's lineup that includes "Flashdance the Musical" and "The Book of Mormon."

The star of the evening was Joey, the stallion from the play "War Horse" that's a larger-than-life puppet manipulated by three performers.

Desserts, coffee and a sign-up table awaited the departing audience in the lobby.

The mission was to sell subscriptions, spur group sales and generally get people talking about next season's shows.

"We wanted to educate and wow," says Marc Fleming, vice president of marketing and communications at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. "We were overwhelmed by the response. ... Dozens of people bypassed the desserts to go directly to the subscription table. That's the kind of reaction we want."

Two years ago, Pittsburgh Public Theater began a similar event that invites potential subscribers, lapsed subscribers and repeat single-ticket purchasers to a cocktail party for which they pay $10 to hear producing artistic director Ted Pappas reveal and describe the upcoming season.

The Public Theater events included a that-night only subscription special: buy four plays and you get tickets to all six of the season's shows. Availability was limited to select nights and seating locations.

"It has been incredibly successful. Well worth doing," says Lou Castelli, director of external affairs for the Public. Several hundred people have attended each of the events. "We've seen a 50- percent conversion. Half of those attending have purchased the subscriptions."

These initiatives to woo new or returning subscribers come at a time when many theater producers or presenters are already doing well.

"Subscriptions are always a challenge, but we're on track to meet our goals," says Cindy Opatick, associate producer for Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, who declined to give specific figures.

Only one month into its new campaign, Pittsburgh Public Theater's subscription sales are 20 percent ahead of sales for the same time last year, reports Castelli.

PNC Broadway Across America -- Pittsburgh subscriptions have been steady for the past two years, Fleming says, with nearly the same number of subscribers, and subscription sales for the coming season are trending ahead more than 15 percent over the same period last year. …

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Theater Companies Sweeten Subscription Deals
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