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Subscription Seasons

August 6, 2014

In the 1980s, the owners of the Old Vic, the Mirvishes, attempted to bring their Canadian business model to London and sell a whole season of tickets – a seat at each of 4 shows, to the public. It didn’t work then… and when the Spacey regime tried it again at the Old Vic in March 2014, it didn’t work either.

I wonder why? It seems to work for opera – and it’s the only way to be in with a chance of seats (not prom places) at the “Last Night Of The Proms” each summer.

So why not for theatre audiences in the West End?

I guess partly because a good proportion of West End visitors are tourists, and won’t be sticking around for the whole season.

For locals, I think there’s so much choice that many don’t wish to be tied down. Opera and Classical music are a fairly homogenous art form. Theatre is so varied that there’s always something new and interesting, so you have to keep your dates open.

I’ve also noticed that Londoners don’t book that close or that far ahead. Busy lives, so around 3 weeks to 3 months seems to be the norm – so far as I can see. To commit to so many dates up to a year ahead… maybe not.

Of course, the fact is that regulars usually have a good sense of what will discount, and that too makes a difference.

Finally, for the latest Old Vic attempt, I was also slightly baffled. Had I known that I could have booked “Clarence Darrow” and “Electra” despite already having seen “Other Desert Cities,” I’d have been on it like a shot. But I just didn’t get the message. And in the end, I was lucky and got tickets to Darrow because everyone else appeared as bewildered as I was.

In a way, I’d quite like someone to try again, to see what happens if the system is brought in at the start of the season, rather than after the first production. If there were great discounts and the advantage of priority for “hot tickets” it could just work – a really fun challenge for some marketing team, somewhere, perhaps…

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