When is an event at your historic venue a time bomb? Just like in polite conversation, when you bring in religion or politics, you’re asking for trouble. Obviously we all want as many paying, quality events in our venue as possible, but it is crucial to remember that when you cater to any one group exclusively, you are potentially alienating others. The real trick is to manage your rentals so as to not create the impression of being to closely associated with any one side, religion or issue.
Political rallies and small fundraisers can be great, as they expose a group of people to your venue, create a positive experience and memory, and can create return customers. However, it is best to closely monitor the diversity and frequency of your “political” events. It’s always best to balance them if at all possible, (like print and broadcast media do during an election cycle) and to avoid any differential treatment to any one side. It is essential that you provide the same service, billing and exposure to both sides of the fence. Be careful to avoid undo exposure on your marquee, website or print ads, and avoid special “thank you’s” on printed materials if at all possible.
Recognition of any religious holiday is a potential minefield. While it is possible to try to make everyone happy, it is inadvisable. It is best to avoid any stereotypical representation of religious holidays both in marketing materials (ads, posters, website, holiday cards) and in building displays.
To many Americans in the 1930’s, movie palaces were considered the “church” of the American middle class. Theatres also played an important role in many political campaigns (not to mention Ford’s Theatre and the Lincoln assassination) and important war bond sales efforts in the 1940’s. While the public’s use of and appreciation of historic theatres has changed over the years, the best thing we can do as stewards of these properties is to make sure we don’t alienate any of our audience members regardless of their religious or political beliefs.