Capturing the Family Market

Melbourne has had a big week of openings with CATS prowling into the Regent Theatre and the new Australian show Georgy Girl opening on Tuesday night. But it doesn’t stop there with the Andrew Lloyd Webber-led Fiddler on the Roof following closely on its heels starting previews at the end of December. They say that good things come in threes, but why would you open your show at the same time as plenty of other new, shiny and audience-attracting offers?


There is a phenomenon in New York’s theatre scene that hasn’t really transitioned to Melbourne . . . yet. The Christmas Show. Radio City and its Rockettes are famous for their seasonal Christmas offering and recently shows such as Elf and A Christmas Story have begun to run short seasons over the December and January period. This is significantly different from the traditional show ideal where a musical will run for as long as it viable before shutting their doors but that isn’t to say that these Christmas offerings are wrong. In fact, they might have a better audience insight.

Every show attracts a different audience. Some shows are a great draw for the older, more mature audiences. Some shows attract non-theatre crowds. Some shows are targeted predominantly at children and families. And each of these audience segments have different competing priorities, so why not be selective about when your show plays to capture the best audience?

Elf and A Christmas Story are largely family and kids shows, so the available audience increases dramatically around the winter school holidays period. Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular is a big drawcard for tourists who are visiting the city to revel in Christmas celebrations. Closer to home, classic musicals such as CATS and Fiddler on the Roof, as well as Sydney’s The Sound of Music and Matilda, are widely-loved shows that constitute a safe bet for a young child’s first experience of the theatre with their family. So it would only be logical to concentrate the majority of these show’s runs around the time when these families are available to take their kids to the theatre without the competing interests of exams and school work.

As the market gets more competitive, it is only going to become more important to study your customers. There are only so many nights family audiences will go out when the kids have to rock up at school the next day. And there are certain times of the year when consumers become more family-centric and are looking for experiences to occupy each other. And it’s not surprising that this happens a lot over the Christmas period!

If you want to capture the family market you need to think about your timing carefully . . . and it certainly doesn’t hurt that everybody is looking for the perfect gift right now as well!