The importance of good timing

kinky boots and pippinAs we all know, timing is everything. Of course we can look at this on a large scale – You could have a fantastic new show to launch but if 10 other shows are launching at the same time or if your audiences are on holidays then who is going to come? But I think it is more interesting on a much smaller scale . . .

A large proportion of the New York theatre market consists of visiting tourists. Whether from ‘Down Under’ in Australia or just around the corner in Boston, they are still tourists. And the good thing about the tourist market is that they are likely to make spur of the moment decisions.

This is why the TKTS booth is so successful.

For those of you who are unaware, TKTS is a shop in the middle of Times Square that sells heavily discounted tickets to Broadway musicals, plays and various other shows. And most days there will be a three-hour queue just to get to the ticket window. They are that cheap!

But it says something about the tourism market. If they haven’t got anything else planned, they will happily make a decision to go and see a Broadway show now (or at least in three hours once they get through the TKTS queue).

However, if a three hour wait isn’t your idea of a vacation, another way to get heavily discounted tickets (although not quite as heavily discounted as TKTS) is by visiting the theatre’s box office right before a performance. And this is where timing is important . . .

As Times Square is packed to the rafters with Broadway theatres, most very successful Broadway shows are playing either next door or only a few doors down from another very successful Broadway show. For example: take Kinky Boots, Once and Pippin.

All winners of a Best Musical or Best Musical Revival Tony Award, these three shows are all playing within 150 metres of each other (along with a number of rather successful plays and the soon-to-open Billy Crystal show). You would think for the tourist market, such close proximity would cannibalise their business. But that isn’t the case.

The performance schedules for each of these shows are slightly different and the only times when all three shows are starting at the same time is on Friday and Saturday nights when they will sell out without the spur of the moment tourist market.

Take the Wednesday matinee time for example. The curtain goes up for Once and Pippin at 2.00pm, but Kinky Boots holds back half an hour until 2.30pm. Why would this be?

Well, imagine you are a tourist and aren’t fussed what show you see as long as it is a good one. You go and try your luck for a Pippin ticket but find out that the theatre is already full and by the time you got through the queue it is already 2.00pm and you have missed out on the Wednesday matinee slot. But wait . . . what’s that? Why don’t you go and try your luck next door at Kinky Boots? There is still plenty of time as the curtain doesn’t go up for half an hour.

And the opposite will happen as well on a Thursday evening performance when Kinky Boots kick off at 7.00pm and Pippin doesn’t start until 8.00pm.

They pick up each other’s left-over business. And let’s face it, when the audience’s main motivation isn’t to see a specific show but just to experience a Broadway show, it is a pretty clever way of making the most from the marketplace.

See, a bit of competition never hurt anyone!