A Thanksgiving Tradition

Broadway producers had a lot to be thankful for last week with the busiest Thanksgiving week on record for the Great White Way. But while this dramatic increase caused a flurry of articles about this incredible week of theatre, it was only incredible for some. And I think I can see a trend coming through . . .

Thanksgiving Family

Thanksgiving week is always a big grossing period for theatre in the United States and it also signals the start of a prosperous run towards Christmas. People come to New York to see the Thanksgiving Parade, take advantage of the holiday season and spend more time with their family looking for exciting outings. So attending a show is the natural by-product of this festive behaviour. But this year was bigger than most with the number of tickets sold increasing to 288,018 for the week (despite a very slight drop in overall gross of 0.79% which says that audiences are becoming more discount savvy and looking for better deals to determine which show they see).

However, as is always the way in the theatre world, the riches were not distributed equally amongst the shows. In fact there appears to be a bit of a trend to predict success over the Thanksgiving period.

This week’s big hitters, posting an attendance increase in excess of 15%, were Chicago (+15.5%), Finding Neverland (+15.5%), School of Rock (15.7%), Phantom of the Opera (+18.3%), Matilda (+18.9%) and Les Miserablés (+21.3%). Notice the trend?

It all comes back to risk. Every show on this list is a very low risk option because they have either been running for eternity or are based on another widely appreciated entertainment property. Chicago, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserablés have a long history of acclaimed productions behind them making them an easy choice and Finding Neverland, School of Rock and Matilda all come from some very well-known family movies and books.

So why are these ones rising to the top of the chart this week?

Thanksgiving, much like the Australian Christmas, is a time to spend with your family. And the last thing that anyone wants to do at this time of the year is spend a lot of money on an experience that no-one will enjoy and won’t keep the kids entertained. They are the safe bets. Everybody loves those classics and the kids loved the movies and books behind the others so they will surely love the stage show.

What is the learning? Some customer behaviour is predictable. Every year, at this time, the safe bets will always have the biggest rise at the box office because the audience is risk-averse as family audiences often are. Don’t curse the theatre goers if your show isn’t doing that well. Maybe this isn’t the right time to launch it with the current audience. But if your offering will appeal to the family market then there is no point waiting until January!