Best Practices – A Few Words

Despite differences in location, audiences, experience of staff/Board of Directors, condition of the physical facility and other tangible differences between historic theatres, there are some important elements of operation, best practices in the industry, that can be defined, areas include;

• Patron experience

• Stage safety

• Business practices

In the area of patron experience, it remains crucial to deliver a quality EXPERIENCE to the patron every time they visit. Despite what we may all feel is the overwhelming positive of visiting our venue, more than ever it is easier, sometimes cheaper and more interesting to go somewhere else. How can we continue to enjoy the audiences we have worked so hard to bring back to our venues, to our downtowns? By maintaining a unique, positive experience from the ticket purchase (on-line, phone or in person) to the arrival at our venue with swept sidewalks, a smiling face at the door, clean floors, well-stocked restrooms, good concession options, quality performances/screenings, comfortable atmosphere (HVAC), assistance if needed and a “thank you” at the door when the patron leaves. It’s amazing how much of a difference customer services means and your patrons will appreciate it when they experience it.

It seems odd to even have to talk about stage safety given the complex and dangerous equipment many of us have on site, but often new staff members or board members are not aware of standard protocol related to safety in the most dangerous area of our property. Whether you are a “hemp house” or a modern facility with motorized, computer controlled rigging systems, there are thousands of pounds of equipment suspended above your head every time you are on the stage. Facility stage staff should define and implement safety protocol that MUST be followed by all staff. In short, don’t go on stage unless you have to, or have been told to. Equally, don’t operate equipment you have not been trained on as it is expensive, costly to replace and essential to the operation of the facility.

Historic Theatres practice their own unique business practices, not many other businesses invite people into a big room, serve them food & drink and turn off the lights hoping for the best. Along with patron experiences it’s important to maintain the highest level of business practices in relation to advertising, marketing practices, legal filings, hiring and firing of staff and outside sales and rentals of the facility. It is advisable to have specific guidelines for any institution so that a “brain-drain” will not occur with the loss of any staff, and many of these areas are common sense. Make an effort to establish a reputation in your community as a model business.

By following these simple best practices, your theatre has a better chance of surviving and thriving in the long run.

Herb’s dedication, passion and experience has yielded remarkable successes in many communities across the country and his ongoing work helps to ensure that our historic theatre resources will continue to thrive for years to come.

Kara Long
Former Executive Director, Strand Theatre, Delaware, Ohio; Executive Director, Egyptian Theatre, Coos Bay, Oregon