Why Theater Tickets make horrible gifts and what we can do about it.

Happy Black Friday, y’all!

On this day, all around the country world, people start their holiday shopping in earnest.  Toys and clothes and hickory farm meat and cheese boxes will start flying off shelves.

But what about theater tickets?

Unfortunately, we don’t see theater tickets sell like the latest video game or the latest punch-me-in-the-face Elmo, or whatever is hot this year.  Because the truth is, they make crappy gifts.  Here’s why.

1.  Theater tickets are date specific.

No one wants to buy a gift for someone that has to be used on a certain day and time.  There’s a huge chance that the recipient just won’t be able to go.   And nothing makes a gift giver feel worse than giving something to someone that they never use.

2.  Theater tickets have to be bought in twos.

Theater tickets are expensive enough.  And when considering a gift of tickets, you can never get someone just one ticket.  You can’t say, “Go to this show alone!”  So you have to buy two.  And now you’ve dropped over $200.  How many people in your life do you spend more than $200 on?  (Oh, and it doesn’t help that our “price tag” can’t be removed.  What you paid is right on the ticket.)

3.  Our gift cards are generic.

Sure, one of the answers to the problems above is “get ’em a gift card.”  But when you get a gift for someone, you want to show your friend or family member that you put thought into it.  You want them to know that you picked out something that fits their personality.  Something they’d really like . . . like a specific show.  If you want to get a gift card in our business, you buy a Telecharge gift card.  Or a Ticketmaster gift card.  And that just doesn’t sound like love, does it?


I could go on and on as to why theater tickets don’t make great gifts.  But like I tell my employees and myself when faced with a problem – lets not dwell on the negative.  Let’s identify the problems and then crush them with solutions.  Here’s what I’ve got.

1.  Holiday Ticket Exchange

I know that our industry as a whole isn’t ready to adopt a ticket exchange policy yet (even though Disney is already there).  But what if we had a special offer for tickets purchased between Black Friday and Christmas Day for performances after New Year’s that could be exchanged?  Give the gift-getter the chance to go when they want, without making the giver feel like they are forcing their friends to do something they may not be able to do.

2.  Holiday Sales

Count how many Black Friday Broadway sale offers you get today.  I’ll tell you  . . . NONE!  Forget Broadway Week and Off Broadway Week, people are spending money now . . . today . . .  so I’d offer a 2-for-1 Black Friday sale for tickets between January 5th and the end of February.  We’d build an advance during our crappiest time of the year, and encourage people to give the gift of theater going.

3.  Brand our gift cards.

Do you want to give/get a Telecharge gift card or a Phantom gift card or a Book of Mormon gift card?  Which one sounds more personal and even more valuable to you?  We need to allow shows to sell their own gift cards.  Oh, and by the way, we need them to be able to control the money if they aren’t used (right now the ticketing company just keeps control of the funds – and since tons of gift cards aren’t redeemed, it becomes a big profit center).  (We did this for Godspell – but it wasn’t easy.)

I could go on and on . . . but this is something we all need to do together.  There are billions being spent right now, and Broadway doesn’t have enough of a piece of it.

Have you ever purchased tickets for someone as a gift?  Why or why not?  What do you think we can do to increase holiday ticket buying?


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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.