A Shift in Broadway Audience Composition?

“Extra! Extra! Young Adults turn out for Broadway shows in record numbers, read all about it!”

There was encouraging news in the annual Broadway League demographics report today, as the 18-24 year old age segment showed a significant spike in attendance. Young adults constituted 14% of last season’s audience, up from 11.1% just a year ago. The average age of a Broadway audience member dropped slightly this season to 42.5 years. In addition to the 1.6 million 18-24 year old tickets, over 1 million audience members were under 18. This is great news for the industry, perhaps showing that Broadway shows are increasingly being seen as an attractive (and affordable) option for family entertainment in New York. Charlotte St. Martin, League director, released a statement applauding the growth in youth theatre attendance, saying “we are hopeful that this trend will continue and these young adults will continue to attend theatre as they age and introduce the theatregoing tradition to their own families.”

The marketer in me wonders what could have driven this spike, and if it is sustainable. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Just from my personal observation of audience composition over the summer, I could see the content of this season’s new shows attracting a younger crowd. As Neil Patrick Harris memorably quipped in his Tony’s opening number: this whole season looked like Chuck E. Cheese’s. And the shows brought an audience to match! Matilda was swarming with children, Newsies with teenage girls, and I would have to assume that the crowd for Kinky Boots probably didn’t skew too old. In fact, even through it is its 16th year on Broadway, this season’s highest grossing show was The Lion King, showing that good old-fashioned family entertainment never goes out of style. If this is indeed the case, this industry-wide change might be sustainable, at least in the short term, thanks to shows like Aladdin and Holler If Ya Hear Me (the upcoming Tupac musical) opening this season.
  • The way this generation of theatre-goers approaches ticket buying is rapidly changing. The League report also showed that while box office visits are remaining remarkably consistent in the digital age, online ticket buying seems to be replacing telephone orders. Many of the industry’s typical discounting methods (lotto, rush, TKTS, SRO) would seem to be targeted at younger market segments. Increased awareness of these discounts combined with innovative new offers (such as Mormon‘s Twitter lottery which I wrote about earlier) could drive attendance in youth segments.

What do you think is causing this change on Broadway? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


Glass Menagerie Recoups

The Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”, originally produced by Diane Paulus at the American Repertory Theatre, has recouped its investment of $2.6 million according to multiple media reports. The play’s run has been extended to February 23rd.

Lottery Goes Digital? Mormon stays one step ahead.

The Book of Mormon is no stranger to owning social media, with it’s #LoveMormon campaign plastered across Penn Station last summer and hoards of fans sending in their #SuperMormonSelfies in a successful push to interact with it’s audience and create offbeat word of mouth in the digital space.

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But it’s latest marketing effort might just take the cake. Brace yourselves: The Mormon ticket lottery, already one of the most sought after (and competitive) on the great white way, has gone digital

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The details are still a little murky, but the basic gist of the contest is something like this: To be eligible for the lottery tickets, you must

  1. Be following the Book of Mormon twitter account
  2. Retweet the lottery announcement tweet
  3. Be a New York resident (the account claimed this is due to tax codes)

The results remain to be seen, but my first impression is that it’s a brilliant move on the part of the Mormon marketing team. By requiring a follow and retweet for entry, they are taking advantage of the nature of social media to grow their Twitter audience. This audience can be leveraged later to push offers to fans, strengthen their brand image, and interact with their rabid fanbase. Perhaps the most ingenious part of this move: assuming the digital lottery utilizes the same ticket pool as the physical one, this comes at zero marginal cost. In essence, they are getting the benefit of Twitter advertising, targeted specifically to Mormon lovers and their friends, for free.

A couple other random thoughts:

  • This first run of the digital lottery saw 522 retweets in the 6 hour open window. Crowds for the lottery outside the Eugene O’Neil are usually estimated to be between 100-200 people, so despite branding Twitter as an “easier” way to get Mormon tickets, you’re actually better off heading to Broadway yourself (so long as you don’t care about opportunity cost of time). But the fact that there are suddenly two less tickets up for grabs could leave some entrants feeling, much like Joseph Smith the American Moses, like “they have maggots in their scrotum”.
  • How many shows could pull something like this off on a daily basis? It requires a large, active twitter audience, with a schedule that allows them to go to a Broadway show with 24 hours notice. Mormon’s audience at least appears to skew younger than most, and their industry leading twitter audience (over 90k followers) is ideal for this kind of push. What other shows do you see as prime candidates? Maybe the “fansies” have something to say about this…
  • The Mormon twitter account sometimes tweets news about their touring productions. Since this contest is limited to NY residents, it’s not exactly ideal for growing their twitter audience on a national scale. It would be interesting to see if they come out with an idea that reaches a broader market (a merch giveaway perhaps?). The major benefit of such a drive would be the ability to geo-target advertisements and special ticket offers to followers in specific touring markets.

It should be interesting to see what new Broadway marketing ideas come out of social media this year, and following Book of Mormon is a proven way to stay on the cutting edge!