I was just reading a really interesting post by Darren Barefoot about Victoria’s Belfry Theatre, called The Economics of a Theatre. In it, he breaks down how much money the theatre is spending, and where their revenue comes from. Now, The Belfry is doing pretty good–last year, they sold 92% of their tickets, which, in an industry where you are considered to be a success at anything over 40%, is fantastic. More than half of The Belfry’s income comes from ticket sales. Very impressive.
Then I started to look at their expenses. Their greatest expense is actually production costs, things like sets, lights, costumes, and, of course, actors, designers, directors and technicians. But their second biggest expense, in fact 18% of their budget, goes to marketing and publicity. Which leads to 52% of their income coming from ticket sales.
Not to compare apples and oranges, but locally, the greatest theatrical success story in town is undoubtedly Bard on the Beach. Last season, they did 96% at the box office. Percentage of their budget that goes to Marketing and Publicity? About 10%.
Well, to be fair, you don’t have to spend loads of dough on marketing and publicity. If–and only if–you have time. If you don’t have loads of money, but you have lots of time, you can get away with not spending so much, but your investment is still there–just an investment of a different kind.
Simon Ogden just wrapped a play, The 21st Floor, produced by Lyric Stage Project over at the PAL. The numbers are still coming in, but early reports indicate they did about 80% at the box office. In terms of expenses for marketing and publicity, they paid for things like postcards, stickers, a website, paper, printing and ink. But they also used the internet to do marketing. They set up a blog, which was written by one of the characters in the show, and handed out invitations to everyone they knew and met on the bus. They used Facebook, Twitter, and invited bloggers to come and see the show and write about it. They also managed to get some preview coverage on radio, and quite a few reviews.
So, the next time you’re producing a play, unless you are lucky enough to have someone on staff that has lots of time to devote to marketing and publicity, you should budget between 10-15% of your overall budget to help get the bums in seats.