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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The spooky, the mysterious...the bizarre! » » Marketing Bizarre Entertainment (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

ptbeast
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Oregon
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Theatre Macabre's Halloween run is half over. I wanted to share a few observations and ask for opinions from those experienced in marketing bizarre entertainment.

For those who don't know, Theatre Macabre is a small troupe of bizarrists. We have two small theatres (36 and 44 seats) that are co-located with two traditional haunted houses, a haunted museum, and a haunted play area for children. We have five different shows, with two playing each night (one in each theatre). Each show is 20 minutes long, and they are staggered so that a new show starts every 15 minutes. We have a large Theatre Macabre Banner, as well as movie-style posters for each individual show.

Tickets for each of the major attractions are $7. A package deal of all four for $20 is available.

Okay, here is the crux of my problem. Although the vast majority of the feedback from those who have attended our shows is very positive, many atendees are not buying tickets to the Theatre. For example, last Saturday over 1000 guests came through the front door, yet only 130 purchased tickets to Theatre Macabre. Rick Maue told me that he did not feel that the haunted house crowd was the best draw for this type of entertainment. What I am trying to determine if anyone has ideas for pitching our shows in a way that will reach THIS audience. Since, at least to them, this is a new and different kind of entertainment, it seems many are not willing to risk their hard earned dollars.

Ideas? Similar experiences? Do we need to give up on this idea and go back to more traditional "Theatre" venues?

I am very interesed in what all of you think. Thanks in advance.

Dave
Lee Darrow
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V.I.P.
Chicago, IL USA
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Two words - STREET BALLY!

Do a sidewalk pitch for your shows as people come in.

That way, they know about you, have seen something eerie, and will be more likely to buy a ticket.

Just a thought,

Lee Darrow, C.Ht.
http://www.leedarrow.com
<BR>"Because NICE Matters!"
Seance
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Talking on the other side with
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Ok - The typical "Haunted House" crowd is expecting a thriller type experience: fast, hard and unexpected.

They are prepared for the "Gotcha!" effect, where an actor startles them from an unseen position.

The average age of the attendence is teens and young adults. This market is more male-oriented (with girlfriends willing to play the part of the scared female, so the men can feel more like the protector).

This makes it hard for you to entice this type of audience to be willing to sit for an extended period of time in a theater. Is the majority of the 130 people unlike the rest of the crowd that attended? That may help you in deciding how to market for your intended audience.

If feedback for your theater was successful, perhaps try to investigate why word of mouth advertising was unsuccessful. Word of mouth (positive or negative) usually makes or breaks the attraction.

I would suggest more feedback research as to why the attendees would not go to your attraction. Perhaps you may find that with the additional attractions offered, you may be competing with them for the dollars. If there are limited finances coming into play (what is the employment rate in that area?), audiences will choose the familiar and enshew the unfamiliar.

I believe with continued feedback, you may find the reasons why you are having trouble.

Good Luck,
Dave
"Even the dead tell stories."
boblinds
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Los Angeles
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Dave:

(First, a shout out to Jantzen Beach. When I was a kid, I used to ride the roller coaster there. Long gone, I'm sad to say....)

Count me with the street bally advocates. A little sample of "what's on the inside" while folks are standing in line could generate interest among folks who think they're primarily there to walk through the mazes.

Also, I went to the website and looked at your posters. They're very nice, stylishly designed. But I think they may be a little too subtle for the Halloween spook house crowd. Something cruder and more sensational -- akin to old carney sideshow poster art -- might make your offerings more appealing to this group.

Obviously, you don't want them to think they'll see a 10-in-1 freak show, but you want to emphasize the bizarre nature of the performance which I think your current artwork doesn't quite do. They look too much like mainstream movie posters and the folks at Scream at the Beach, I suspect, DO NOT want mainstream.

Dare them to see your shows. Will they be able to withstand the pulse-pounding shocks that await them when they surrender to the madness of Theater Macabre?
Keith Jozsef
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This is my fifth consecutive year producing a bizarre show for the general public in, typically conservative, St. Louis. First, my target audience is not teenagers with their parents, or twenty-somethings (unless they have money!). Our show is $20 for 45 minutes includes 2 drinks w/admission. Limited to 30 people per show. 2 shows a night. thus we're going after adults that are into the swanky upscale bar scene, sophisticated theater crowd, etc... Each and every show has been sold out, and that is the result of word-of-mouth, neatly produced promo hand-outs that include a photo, and by taking advantage of all the free press in town. I would strongly agree that the haunted house crowd is not the type of group that wants to be upsold on your bizarre show. They have just payed for admission and now probably want to go get drunk with their friends, if they're not already!!

Bottom line from my point of view: If you have a great show, and I am sure you do...change venues and target the people who will really appreciate your presentational skills. (our venue is a studio space in a rehabbed old building downtown...cheap rental when you know the owner. Network!!)

best of luck,

Keith Jozsef

Click here to view attached image.
Sean Lough
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In addition to Street Bally --

I would suggest some market research. Have a pretty friend with a clip board walk the line and the exits and find out why people aren't buying tickets to the theatre. Then find a way to address this market on the whole. Is the Haunted house too expensive to merit another ticket? Do people know it exists? Do you have their attention?

Are the interested? Have you created enough desire for them to attend.

So: attention -- what if you (once or twice a night) had the same pretty friend run screaming from the theatre.

Or -- what about a claque? Or what if the performers come and "kidnap" a guest (all in good fun) from the haunted house line.

And -- I'm not suggesting this by any means -- years ago a helpful asthmatic friend was nice enough to trigger an attack, resulting in a visit from the paramedics. Imagine what a stir it would cause if the EMTs came to help someone who'd swooned from your shows...

Smile

Best of luck -- wish I could see all your shows.

S.
ptbeast
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Thanks for all the ideas. We are learning a lot with this little experment. It seems that the biggest part of our problem is that people really don't know what to expect. The see "Theatre Macabre" and our posters and the come away thinking that we are showing movies. For some strange reason, some have assumed that our attraction was for children (though it is labled not appropriate for impressionable children).

The street-bally/barker ideas a good ones. I wish we had more personell so that we could have someone out there full time, doing line magic and talking up the shows. It does seem to help when we do.

Word of mouth is slowly spreading, and as Halloween approaches our crowds are getting steadily larger. I know that part of the problem is simply that this is our first year and with such a short run, word may not spread until we are almost done for the season. Perhaps that bodes well for next year though.

Thanks again everyone. I will let you know how things turn out.

Dave
boblinds
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Quote:
Word of mouth is slowly spreading, and as Halloween approaches our crowds are getting steadily larger.


I hope that growth continues until you can't handle the crowds, PT. I wish I could be at Jantzen Beach to see you guys work. (I don't suppose you're doing a bizarre Christmas show. Smile I generally get up there to visit my folks during the holidays.

Quote:
I will let you know how things turn out.


Please do. I know all of us who contributed our thoughts would be very interested in how your season concludes.

Best,
Bob L.

PS -- You might make up some banners to paste across the corners of your posters: "LIVE! ON STAGE!" and "TOO SHOCKING FOR CHILDREN!!!"
Dark illusionist
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pough town new york
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I do a shock magic show at a haunted house. By now ive done it for almost 3000 people and the response has been extremely positive. The people attracted to this type of show are looking either for shocks, thrills, and fun, or there looking to be jerks and make fun of everything.

My show is targeted to entertain both of these groups. Its fast paced, disturbing, and exciting. So even the people looking to make fun of me have a good time.

My advice, and I am but a youth, Is to either make your show shocking, which would probably not be the best advice seeing as what your doing is what works for you, or switch venues.

Haunted Houses, well at least for me, are a place for shock and not for subtle bizzare entertainment.
Check out my brand new website:

www.ovationmagic.cjb.net

if you like it sign the guest book, if you realy like it then realy sign the guest book. If you hate it then go away.
ptbeast
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A couple of comments and a quick update/thank you.

First off, I must disagree with Dark Illusionist, at least up to a point. I think that haunted house crowds are a fair target audience as far as enjoying what we do. While we have changed our presentation to be a little faster paced, with bigger stage and parlor type illusions, it is at its root still bizarre magick. And it is playing very well to those that we manage to get in the door. For example, last night I had a group on which I thought my routine had fallen very flat. I was making a comment about how that show had been terrible, no energy, when the ticket taker walked in. She laughed her head off. It seems that the audience was standing outside babbling about how scary my show had been. Seems that they were so freaked out by the occult portion of my show (tarot cards, pentagram and more reveal a strange curse is now upon my guests) that the more shocking ending (my turning into a werewolf and coming after them) hardly had an effect.

Marketing to the haunted house crowd is a different story entirely. They come in with certain preconceived notions of what haunted entertainment is, and we must deal with those. A sit down attraction is not what they expect.

I would like to thank all of those who suggested that we increase the amount of street-bally/barker activity. We pulled all the shows from one of our performers and moved him out to the line. Friday night, before we made the move, we sold 166 tickets. Saturday night, after the move, we sold 333. Double our best previous nights. It looks like it is working.

One week to go and we are still having fun! Thanks again for all the advice and support.

Dave
cfrye
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Portland, Oregon, USA
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Quote:
On 2003-10-27 14:28, ptbeast wrote:
Friday night, before we made the move, we sold 166 tickets. Saturday night, after the move, we sold 333. Double our best previous nights.


And double again would be 666. A good omen for a bizarre show!
Dark illusionist
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I would like to Congragulate you PTbeast. But persponaly I think that the reason why your show went so well was because you filtered out all the people that didn't want to sit down and appreciate a bizzare show. If every single person that came to the haunted house saw your show then it would have to be faster paced IMO. We get alot of jerks at the haunted mansion and it requires thinking on you feet to not get trampled on by your audience. By making your show seporate from the main event you can perform for only the people that are willing to pay extra and sit through a performance. My apoligys if you misunderstood me a litle bit.
Check out my brand new website:

www.ovationmagic.cjb.net

if you like it sign the guest book, if you realy like it then realy sign the guest book. If you hate it then go away.
DanielGreenWolf
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Waterbury, CT
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In my personal opinion, and the opinion of many others, when people go to a haunted house, they want to be scared, horrified, and given nightmares. For an honest bizarre show, you can't call it part of a haunted house. People misconceive it. You have to place it into a new venue, a new promotion type all its own. Upselling to a 2-h crowd can be dangerous business wise, and its suggested that you focus your venue into a more profitable view.

Just a thought from a madman,

Malak
-Much love,
Daniel GreenWolf
Celtic Magician

www.GreenWolfMagic.com
ptbeast
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I am going to have to disagree with those who think that bizarre entertainment is inappropriate for a haunted house audience. My recent experiences have confirmed that. We performed for over 2200 people last month as one of several haunted attractions. The others were traditional haunts and we were a series of stage performances. The exit interviews showed that the majority of those who viewed our shows loved the experience. Many said it was the highlight of their evening.

Marketing is another story. People don't know what bizarre entertainment is. Even though our posters said "live entertainment" many thought that we were showing movies. Others thought that we were supposed to be for kids. Our problem was not with entertaining that market segment, but educating them. We placed one of our performers outside to do nothing but talk to people before they bought their tickets and our sale sky-rocketed.

In the end we had what we considered a very successful season. We only made a very modest profit, but even that is almost unheard of for a first year attraction. On top of that, we raised over $1000 for the Red Cross. All in all, a great year. Thank you all for your advice and support during this season. We made a little and learned a lot. On to next year!

Dave
boblinds
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Quote:
We performed for over 2200 people last month as one of several haunted attractions.


Congratulations, Dave, this is great news. My best to you and your colleagues (from an old Portland guy.)

Best
Bob L.
rcad
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St-Eustache
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Ptbeast,

I think you did very well! If you want to repeat the experience next year, may I suggest you come up with some kind of survey for those who attend. To encourage them to fill it out, make a contest out of it. Those who will have filled the survey could win... Whatever.

The point is this survey wouldn't be to know how they felt about the show but to know WHO is attending them. Their age, gender, income, education level, consumer habits, etc... The more you know who your clients are, the more you'll be able to reach them. You could even find a way to advertise your show in advance so that people will be coming to the haunted house to see your show, not go through the maze...

Just an idea. Keep up the good work!

Richard
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." Albert Einstein
kaytracy
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Inner circle
Central California
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Just a quick thought from another thread, though relevant, We really enjoyed the ghost tour by Mr. Fassbinder, as a marketing strategy, he uses it year round, and works with the local haunted hotel to help market each other.
Bizarre magick and an informative tour of the local haunts! what more could you ask for!?! Smile
Kay and Tory
www.Bizarremagick.com
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