Many historic theatre operators think they know their audiences to a “T”, but with declining attendance and decreased revenue can we really be sure we know our patrons?

When was the last time you polled your audience?

We all know that historic theatres have extremely diverse visitors depending on the program being presented, but it is crucial to not only be aware of these audience demographics and to attempt to maintain their patronage. There are several simple steps one can take to better “take the pulse” of the attendees at your venue that are not too time consuming nor expensive.

1)   Be there – It sounds simple, but simply being present when an audience arrives for a show and departs, (I’m speaking of management/programming/booking staff) will not only let you know who is coming to shows, but to give you a chance to interact with some audience members for an informal chat.

2)   Create a simple survey— Use volunteers to hand out a short 5-10 question survey to get some answers on their frequency of visits, etc. Offer a raffle prize to encourage participation and have golf pencils on hand to make it easy to comply.

3)   Analyze your data – Not everyone is a data junkie but there is so much information that can be gleaned from a simple review of attendance numbers, concession sales, social media interactions, etc. Spend some time with the data and see what it is telling you.

What you may find after a little research is that while you are serving some segments of your audience quite well, you are leaving other folks out in the cold. Your next step is to find ways to reach out to these “other demographics” and find a way to make them part of your audience. Strategic partnerships, targeted programming and outreach can all be brought to bear in growing a new audience without sacrificing your existing one.