Remember when people lined up for theater tickets like it was a new iPhone?

I’m jealous.

The photo in this blog is of folks standing in line, waiting desperate to buy the new iPhone 6.

I want a line for Broadway shows too!  And not just when we sell stuff at 50% at the TKTS booth!

Without sounding too much like Fantine, “There was a time when theatergoers stood in line . . . There was a time, then it all went wrong.”

Do you remember those days?

If you were in NY anytime prior to, oh, 1998-99, then you remember how the morning after a show opened (to favorable reviews), there would be a line down the street and sometimes around the block for the right show.

Just like a new iPhone.

WAAHHH!!!  (That’s my only child spoiled brat coming out – because I want a line too!)

But that just doesn’t seem to be the way people buy tickets anymore.  It’s no coincidence that the lines disappeared when online ticketing exploded – why wait in line when you can just go online, right?

And, since shows go on sale online months before box offices open, there’s no way to generate a line for your “release.”

But wait a second . . . the iPhone is sold online too, isn’t it?  But they still have a line.


Ok, we’ll never be Apple, and we’ll never be an iPhone, but there is still a lesson to be learned here.  There is obviously something about the “value” of the very high priced iPhone (more than a theater ticket, mind you) that helps generate this kind of “I’ll wait in line for days” attitude.  And I can’t help but wonder what we can do increase the “value” of our experience to get people ready to queue up for us.

  • Should we put our shows on sale at the box office for one day, before the shows go on sale online (this would require a special dispensation from the union, but since this would be more work than their members would normally receive, I can’t see why this would be an issue)?
  • Could the best locations be reserved for people who show up in person (this idea is also called the “broker buster” – because it would prevent the brokers from using automated programs to buy up tickets faster than the regular consumer can click)?
  • Could the cast be there to greet the ticket buyers?

There’s nothing like the right sized line to get other folks interested in what’s happening in your space (the nightclub industry has line management down to a science – I learned that after waiting in line for a Vegas Club for 30 minutes once, only to find out there was no one inside the club when I got there).

What can you do to get folks willing to wait in line for what you’ve got to offer?


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.