Similarities, Yes, But Important Differences

” Older audiences will only be around so long. If you teach the rising generation that the theatrical experience is completely extraneous, that experience probably won’t be around for the next one.”

Sentiments like these have been expressed for some time in the performing arts world. In fact, it has been said so often it probably has risen to the level of cliche.

However, I pulled this quote from the end of a Washington Post opinion piece regarding movie theaters.   The columnist, Sonny Bunch, placed a lot of the blame on movie studios which were either streaming movies a short time after they were released in theaters or releasing the movies straight to streaming.

Judging from the comments on the piece, older audiences may not attending movies in theaters much longer either. There were complaints that movies aren’t being made for them any longer, rising concessions prices, people eating too loudly and the power recliners being uncomfortable.

While live performances share many of the same issues with movies theaters in terms of rising prices, uncomfortable seating, and being disturbed by others in the space, one advantage live experiences have is greater control of the content and nature of the experience.   There is a greater capacity to provide content that engages the community at a time, place and manner suited to the particular needs of that place.

Likewise, there is a greater ability to make a decision to provide better hospitality and experiences customized to the content of a performance, unconstrained by corporate policy.  Leaning into that in communications and social media to raise awareness and differentiate yourself rather than constantly promoting upcoming programming are among the best ways to leverage that advantage.

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.


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