Critics affect Ticket Sales
Many things go into making a hit show. First, you need a great script, which keeps the audience member engaged throughout the production. You need
great actors who are the channel for which the playwright gets their message across. Money is always a nice resource to have when trying to get the
word out and allow you the ability to put your show in front of people in the hopes of getting them to buy tickets. A great production team,
marketing and advertising team as well as a top notch PR Company. After assembling your dream team, will this guarantee ticket sales and full houses?
The answer is not so clear. Inevitably you need some good work of mouth, and critics play a large part in the process.
Seems easy enough. Send out a few invitations, offer comp tickets and they will come. Well...at least in theory. However it is becoming increasingly clear that more and more theatre companies are finding it harder to get critics to come and review plays. Why? Several factors contribute to this and the simple answer is simply that there aren't enough critics to keep up with the amount of productions opening each year. In Los Angeles for example, there are hundreds if not thousands of plays being produced each year and only a handful of critics available to review. Therefore it is mathematically impossible for every production to get reviewed.
Mix into the recipe that as recently as 2 weeks ago the local rags in Los Angeles again began cutting back the arts department by letting go to top reviewers. Although both have said that they will remain on in some capacity, probably an online bog of sorts, these departures will continue to hurt local productions with lack of exposure. A lack of exposure will put fewer butts in seats directly affect ticket sales.
So if there are too many shows for reviewers to see and the pool of reviewers continues to get culled, what can this mean for up and coming performing arts projects? It will be more difficult to have that particular production seen.
Critics have always played a large role in determining the success of the arts. They keep dialogue moving on the performing arts and act as a bridge between the theatres and the community. If fact entire campaigns are run with tag-lines of well known and not so well known critics giving praise to certain productions. Almost every press release, in one way or another, incorporates a blurb from a local critic claiming that this production is a "must see" or "GO".
With the numerous choices these days of how to entertain yourself, large numbers of people rely solely on the review and consumer comments before deciding on what to do. As the economy continues to take a nose-dive its more important that people spend money on a sure-thing, at least in the eyes of their peers and not risk "wasting" money on something that may or may not be likeable.
Personally, I have always enjoyed going to see new and edgy works that might not get the attention that larger productions might receive. Simply relying on someone else's idea of what's good or not often leads to disappointment. A recent example is a production of Tiny Ninjas, which ran at a small theatre in Hollywood. Before going I found tickets and was intrigued by what they were doing and was not enticed to go by rave reviews. Luckily the show was fantastic and was one of the more interesting things I have seen in some time. After seeing the show I, of course, recommended this to as many people as possible.
Attending the arts is more about the experience and opportunity to broaden ones mind. Artists must continue to take risks by producing lesser know works and nurturing the creative juices that might produce the next great actor or playwright. Unfortunately these shows are not always in the mainstream and might take a little hunting to find, but can also be extremely rewarding. Relying on someone's subjective opinion of a particular work should be used only as a guideline and not as a decision maker.
So the next time you decide to enjoy a night out on the town, have a little fun and do something a bit outside the norm. While it may not always pan out, at least you will be able to form your own opinion on what's worth the price of admission.