All In The Timing

While I was at my state presenters’ conference last week, I was speaking to a colleague at a theater a couple hours away about possibly collaborating on advertising on public radio stations in whose coverage area both our theaters are in. My thinking was that people might be confused by separate ads. They might think, was that on Tuesday here in town and Wednesday 90 miles away or vice versa?

In the course of conversation, she mentioned they hadn’t announced that part of their season and would be waiting until January. (This was something of a relief for me because I hadn’t seen the show on their website and was afraid they backed out.)

She said they decided to break up their season and only announce half at one time in order to generate renewed excitement about the theater’s offerings. Unlike my venue, they don’t have any subscribers from whom they are seeking an ongoing investment. It sounded as if this is the first year they will be trying this as a bid to renew momentum for their programming so I don’t have any sense of how successful the approach is.

I was wondering if any one else had done this sort of thing and if they had any success with it. Are there any tips that you might have for catching attention and getting people excited, especially during the first year or two when people aren’t expecting to hear about a raft of new shows?

I just anticipate I may end up adopting similar tactics one day and there are probably a number of other readers who are ready to give it a try right now.

Many theaters are experimenting with different types of ticketing models from choose your own seasons, themed mini-seasons, punch cards allowing you to see any show in their season as many times as you like up to a limit or fewer times/shows with as many friends as you like.

I haven’t really heard about people playing with the timing of announcing groups of events in order to find an idea spacing. People would quickly become inured if you ANNOUNCED! EVERY! SINGLE! SHOW! WITH! GREAT! FANFARE!

But I am sure there are timing tricks that haven’t been widely explored. I imagine in snowier climes, if you announce a whole new group of offerings in January after the Christmas buzz has worn off and the winter doldrums have set in, your announcement might gain some traction.

Television networks abandoned announcing new seasons of series every Fall decades ago in favor of floating starts throughout the year. Is there a viable way to do something similar for live performances?

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


3 thoughts on “All In The Timing”

  1. Hi Joe – at 59E59 Theaters in New York, we announce quarterly – aiming for the end of the months Feb, May, Aug and Nov. We are a presenter and do 36 shows a year so it helps with focussing on smaller groups of plays. We have Members, who have the choice of attending any of those productions. And we also have Subscribers, who attend a group of five plays spread over the year – those five play are announced when the season is announced, but are also included in the quarterly season brochures.

    Also look at the model of Soul Pepper Theatre in Toronto. I think they announce their season without fixed dates, and then run their shows in rep – closing shows when they run out of steam with another show ready to have its dates announced.

    • Brian-

      Thanks for the response. I will definitely take a look at Soul Pepper Theatre.(just bookmarked them) With 36 shows a year I imagine that it would help to announce quarterly, especially given the “noise” of so many events competing for attention in NYC.

      How long ago did you move to this practice and what was the decision based on? What were positive/negative results of this decision?


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