Thursday, December 11, 2008

Round Two: Arena Stage's New Deal Program

When designing the Arena Stage "New Deal" One Day Only Sale, I knew that we were applying a temporary band-aid to a relatively large problem, and we would have to take a more systemic approach to dealing with the issues ahead of us. To keep the analogy going, I didn't expect the one day only sale to be the knock out punch in the first round, so here we are in round two (actually probably round 3).

In our response to the economic crisis, we have done the following:

Round 1: Arena Stage "New Deal" One Day Only Sale (November 14, 2008)

Round 2: Adjusted income projections and decreased expense budgets. Senior staff and members of the board formed three committees--the earned revenue committee, contributed revenue committee and an expense reduction committee. Each committee met several times over the course of a month to develop a recommendation for action for the full board. Both the earned revenue and contributed revenue committees readjusted their projections from the approved FY09 budget, presenting to the full Board conservative estimates on the impact the current economic crisis will have on the company. To match these adjustments, the company reduced its expenses and raised additional contributions. (November 21, 2008)

Round 3: Launch of the Arena Stage "New Deal" seats for all performances (December 12, 2008). Arena Stage previously operated on two classes of seats: A seats (prime seats) and B seats (economy seats). We were finding that we weren't having problems selling prime seats, but that our seats at the lower end of our pricing chart weren't moving as quickly as usual. To create a lower entry point while trying to avoid upsetting our subscribers who purchase early and therefore get the greatest discount, we created a new section of seats, called the NEW DEAL seats and set a price of $25. The NEW DEAL section would be limited to the last four rows in our Crystal City venue and the upper balcony in our DC venue. These areas of the each house didn't contain any subscribers, and therefore they wouldn't be upset by a mid-season change in pricing. To further address any subscriber concerns, we sent each subscriber a letter outlining the new program and giving them access to purchase NEW DEAL seats a day before the general public. The new $25 ticket price is 47-64% off what those seats previously cost, offering a significantly lower entry level price to all our performances. No other discounts can be applied to these tickets, and subscriptions aren't available in this price category (to prevent B seat subscribers transitioning to NEW DEAL seat subscribers). So far this move has garnered us some press attention from the Washington Post and our local NBC affiliate, and although I suspect these tickets will be quite popular, they won't sell at the pace of the previous offer. Where Round 1 was a sprint, this is more like a marathon.

I will keep you updated on the results. We opened NEXT TO NORMAL at Arena Stage last night, and I was really struck by one of the lyrics--"even the darkest night will see light."

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