Results of Our Indoor ‘Experiment’ at ’50 Shades’

CATEGORY: Starlight

Welcome to our new Q&A series with Rich Baker, Starlight president and CEO. On a regular basis, Rich will share his thoughts and insights about topics related to our Broadway season, venue, industry trends and more. This issue’s topic addresses Starlight’s recent presentation of its first-ever musical indoors on the Cohen Community Stage. 
Q. What were the results and key takeaways of Starlight’s first presentation of a Broadway show during the winter and indoors on the Starlight stage?

A. If you want the short answer…2 thumbs up! But if you have a few minutes to read, I’ll gladly share a few details of what I consider to be highly favorable results from our February staging of 50 Shades! The Musical Parody.

As I tried to indicate in communications sent in advance, as well as in the show program, my primary goal in presenting 50 Shades was to gauge whether or not Kansas Citians would come to Starlight in the winter months to see a show. If we found they would, we felt it would open up opportunities to use our expansive stage and the overall Starlight facility on more of a year-round basis.

While I definitely wanted a show that audience members would enjoy (they did, as evidenced by hoots, hollers and uproarious laughter at every 50 Shades performance!), our bigger mission was to determine “if we build it, will they come?”

It was all new for my staff, our contractors and our new catering partner – and they were up for the challenge! Over the course of 2½ days, our production and operations staff led the conversion of Starlight’s 12,000-square-foot “black box of a stage house” to an intimate, inviting (and, yes, warm) space for up to 500 people to enjoy a nationally touring show. They installed heavy-duty rented risers, positioned 500 chairs, labeled seating sections and aisles, set the Applause Club as a pre-show lounge, loaded in the show’s costumes and scenery, and so on and so on.

Apparently they did a really good job because, upon entering the performance space each night, many an audience member was overheard saying, “Gee, I never knew they had this indoor theatre.” Well, surprise…we didn’t!

Starlight staff personally caught many positive vibes during our indoor theatre “experiment,” but, as we do with every Broadway and concert event presented, we wanted to give all of our guests a chance to weigh in. So, we emailed a brief online survey after each of the eight performances, and we got an amazing response rate of 44%.

What did audience members tell us:

  • 96% felt they received good value for the ticket price they paid
  • On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being excellent), they rated production quality a 4.58, seating configuration a 4.31, and parking a 4.26
  • 99% were likely, very likely or definitely willing to recommend the Starlight indoor experience to family, friends and colleagues
  • Fully 100% were likely, very likely or definitely willing to see another show indoors at Starlight!
  • And, they are most interested in seeing adult theatre (91%) and off-Broadway musicals and plays (84%)

Interestingly enough, we were thrilled that our indoor theatre experiment also turned out to be a very successful audience development tool. Of the 1,193 customers who bought nearly 3,400 tickets to the show, 42% were brand new to Starlight! Based upon some of the verbatim comments received in our survey, I think a lot of them will be back in the summer season, too. For example…

“I brought a group of 10 ladies from 2½ hours away to the show. Only one lady besides myself had ever been to Starlight before. Each one of them LOVED IT and want to go back, especially to see an outdoor show because they all loved the beautiful grounds. Well done – and Starlight just gained 8 more fans!

So, stay tuned. A Starlight Broadway indoor winter series might be in your future.