5 Ways Theaters can grow Ticket Sales in the LGBT Community

lgbt community

Many theaters have a tradition of being welcoming places for members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community for both employment and event patronage. Every theater can make itself part of the LGBT community to improve lives and revenue. In this post we share how theaters can increase ticket sales through LGBT-friendly events and outreach.

A Safe and Transforming Place

Recently the ZACH Theatre in Austin Texas pulled back the curtain on its new venue, the Topfer Theater. The new multi-million dollar facility had its grand opening to the general public as well as several specialized events occurring simultaneously. One of those special events was the Oscar Wilde party designed specifically as a LGBT-friendly gathering. The Oscar Wilde party is just one example of how a theater can cater to the LGBT community serving both altruistic and business endeavors at the same time.

The Chicago Stage Review may have described theaters relationship with the LGBT community best in its widely read article 'National Coming Out Day = National Theater Day' published in 2010. The well written piece describes how theaters do so much for an often marginalized group of people and more importantly, how theaters can do even more. Of note from 'Theater Day':

Through the years of invisibility, partial visibility and now widespread attention, there has been one place where LGBT kids and adults alike have found a relatively safe place. That is theater. We could see confirmation that we were not alone. As adults, theater has been a place where we have seen some of the first and strongest representations of our stories fearlessly presented. This is the safe and transforming place that theater has provided for so many. In this regard, as in so many other regards, theater is always ahead of its time.

'Theater Day' goes on to list very specific examples of how the theater has improved the lives of many in the LGBT community and cites specific Chicago area venues as exemplary. Chicago is a major metropolitan area but not every city has such a well established dynamic between the theater and its LGBT population - Why?

Missing in the Mission

All too often the mission statements of local theaters describe themselves in terms of investor relations and donations, and do not make any specific mention to their LGBT friendly stance. Theaters wishing to increase their LGBT patronage need to include clear language stating as much on their website.

An excellent mission statement that all theaters may wish to use as a guide when reaching out to the LGBT community is The Center in San Diego California:

The mission of The San Diego LGBT Community Center is to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV communities by providing activities, programs and services that create community; empower community members; provide essential resources; advocate for civil and human rights; and embrace, promote and support our cultural diversity.

By appending their website mission statements and about pages, LGBT friendly theaters will make themselves better known to search engine's crawler bots. Once the theater websites have been indexed to include LGBT community inclusiveness, discovery by those wishing to learn about gay-friendly events in the area are more likely to find the theater's offerings. From the mission statement or about page, the theater is just a mouse click away ("events button") from selling more tickets.

It is important to note, if a theater is open to the idea of increasing its ticket sales to the LGBT community, a mere update to its website stating as much isn't enough. The Theater board and its employees must be genuinely committed to social change and become part of the LGBT-friendly bossiness collective.

After making the sincere effort to be part of the LGBT community as a "friendly" place, the next step would be to begin booking performances that have so-called gay themes. That should not be thought of as an exclusionary practice, just one aspect of the season of performances a theaters has.

Gay themed plays, musicals and even operas that have seen tremendous financial success include 'TRU' and 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays'. Of particular note is the way some theaters orient their outreach, often letting them be rally points used by the LGBT community to nominate new material for booking. The popular website Meetup.com has an entire area dedicated to this and it serves as both a community outreach platform for theaters to connect with potential new patrons and as an advertising platform.

5 LGBT friendly theater resources

Theaters and venues wanting to increase their participation in the LGBT community, and thereby increasing ticket sales, can review the following list of five resources.

The Center on Halsted, Chicago, IL

Center on Halsted is a source of referrals and event promotion and awareness for many Chicago theaters. Center on Halsted is the Midwest's most comprehensive community center dedicated to building and strengthening the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. More than 1,000 community members visit the Center every day, located in the heart of Chicago's Lakeview Neighborhood.

The About Face Theatre Collective, Chicago, IL

About Face Theatre is a collection of activists, artists and performers with the stated goal of "Working within and beyond the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities." About Face Theatre is committed to innovation, artistic excellence and community transformation. Through our projects, we strive to challenge our artists’ and audience’s intellects, imaginations, self-conceptions, moral expectations, and ideas about gender and sexuality in contemporary and historical contexts. The group includes a roster of established venues for performances and also facilitates productions at new venues wanting to expand their patron base.

SNG, Seattle WA

Seattle Gay News is one of the oldest LGBT specific community resource channels in the country and has extensive theater listings. SGN's calendar of cultural events is made up of almost exclusively LGBT-friendly theaters. The website has professionally written reviews and their advertising department is well versed in bringing new theaters to the attention of the LGBT community.

The Center, Denver Colorado

The Center describes itself as "...the premier gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organization in the Rocky Mountain region. We will advance a vibrant quality of life for the LGBT community, inspired by the principles of leadership, excellence, integrity, equality, inclusivity, healthy living, and community connection." Of note for theaters is the close business relationship it has with Boulder and Denver area productions. The Center lists theaters in the "Rainbow Alley" area but also lists gay themed entertainment all across Colorado. The Center has exclusive booking arrangement with the Denver Center for private functions and social events held by the LGBT community.