Why do people give Standing Ovations? We did a SURVEY to find out.

If you’ve seen a show lately, then I’d bet money that you’ve seen a Standing Ovation as well.

They seem to be everywhere these days, don’t they?  I remember seeing them at every high school show I saw when I was a teen, and that trend took over Broadway as well.

To be honest, I don’t really care if every show has a Standing ‘O’, as I wrote about a couple of years ago after John Simon e-screamed that the perfunctory elevated ovation should stop (you can read that original post here).

But does every Broadway show really have a standing ovation?  And why are people standing up?  Do they really think the show deserves it?

We can hypothesize all we want, but there really is only one way to find out . . . Ask The People!

So that’s what we did.  I sent my peeps into the street and we asked a hundred theater going folks the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the last Broadway show you saw?
  • Did that show get a standing ovation?
  • Did YOU stand up?

Here is what we found out:

  • The average show was given a rating of 8.52.
  • 99% of the shows received a standing ovation.
  • Of the 99% of shows that did receive a standing ovation, only 5% of those surveyed did not stand with the rest of the audience.

So it looks like standing ovations really are everywhere.  And just about everyone is participating when they see one.

But wait . . . there’s more to learn from this.  Let’s dig a little deeper.  The shows received an average rating of 8.52.  I wonder what the Standing “O” numbers were like for people who rated their show less than an 8 . . . which would equate to a “so-so” theatrical experience, right?

Let’s see . . .

  • 28% of the people we surveyed rated their show less than an 8!
  • Despite this mediocre (or less) rating, 79% of them stood anyway!

So let’s get this straight . . . people see a show, they think it’s “eh” but they get on their feet anyway.  Why?  Peer pressure?  Get halfway to the door?  Stretch their legs?

We asked the folks who stood up, even though they didn’t love the show, why, and here’s what they said:

  • 41% said, “I liked the actors, just not the show.”
  • 36% said, “Everyone else was standing, so I did too.”
  • 9% said, “I was just trying to get a better view of curtain call.”
  • 5% said, “I’m just nice, and I felt bad not standing.”
  • 5% said, “I stood out of enthusiasm, it was a climactic moment.”
  • 4% said, “I just love theatre in general, so I stood.”
Pretty interesting stuff, isn’t it?  Lots of takeaways about how actors influence audience response, and how Social Proof can get people to do something they aren’t inclined to do on their own.
But my big takeaway, and one that all Producers should remember when they are standing in the back of their house, watching an audience give their show a standing “O” . . .
It’s easy to get people to stand up these days.  It’s not as easy to sell tickets.

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
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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.