Theatre’s Passport into the Digital World

We are only a week into 2016 and already a couple of my New Year’s resolutions for the theatre are coming true! Customer experience and technological advancement have been revolutionised with a special announcement in the last couple of days from the iconic theatrical brand, Playbill. Playbill has released an app . . . that is made for the theatre . . . and intended to be used inside the theatre!

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There are two major oversights missing in the current theatrical realm. A view that the customer experience extends outside the immediate theatre experience and the lack of mobile integration with this entertainment platform. And Playbill has taken the first steps towards changing these with the release of their new app, Playbill Passport.

Playbill has been supporting the theatre-going experience for decades through the provision of a free Playbill to every person who enters a Broadway theatre. Inside these small booklets are important information about the show, plot, cast and creative team; a couple of articles about pertinent theatre news; details for all the other shows performing on Broadway and off-Broadway; as well as plenty of advertising space for advertisers looking to reach every single person who walks into a Broadway theatre. But for years they have only ever been produced in a physical form.

Recently, Playbill has been branching out into the digital realm. This has taken the form of a make-your-own Playbill site allowing users to create Playbills for their local productions, a Playbill Vault where interested users can digitally pull up any Playbill in the history of the company, all in addition to their dedicated theatre news site. And now they have branched out into a Playbill Passport app.

The name speaks for itself. This Playbill Passport app gives downloaders access to information about every show currently playing on Broadway. Before your visit, you can log in to check out playing times, compare shows and watch some preview videos to see if you will like the theatrical piece. After you have seen the show, you can find information about nearby dining options, New York attractions and directions to the stage door. But the most exciting part comes inside the theatre . . . and with this latest advancement it is only a matter of time before mobile phone laws change.

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When you are inside the theatre, the app’s location sensor will take you directly to the show that you are about to see. Here you can access pictures from the show, cast biographies and information about the plot, fun facts about the show to give you a quick behind-the-scenes experience and access to all the relevant social media handles and hashtags with the ability to post directly from the app. With easy access to these hashtags and handles, no longer will audience members be making up their own. All posts about these shows will come together in one place in the digital realm providing a wealth of information and great experience for anyone who stumbles across them while researching a show.

But that isn’t even the best part . . .

It is often discussed that the way to stop live theatre disappearing into a raft of film and television special is by providing an experience that cannot be replicated across these mediums. By all means, let audiences watch the shows at home but make sure they desperately want to then see it in the theatre so they can marvel at Saharan animals moving through the aisles or Mary Poppins can fly above their head. This app is no different.

When you are inside the theatre, you will still be given a Playbill upon entry. But if you are engaging with both the physical Playbill and your app then you have access to exclusive content. By scanning your physical Playbill into the app, app users will have access to behind-the-scenes footage, extra information about the show and a whole range of premium content that isn’t necessary to enjoy the show but adds another whole level of satisfaction on top!

Congratulations Playbill. This is one of the most exciting and innovative developments to happen in the theatrical customer experience since cats started crawling around the theatre. But I wonder . . . where will you take this app next? I have some ideas – but that’s for tomorrow.

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