As venue owners, operators and employees, we’re always searching to get the most out of our venues. Whether that’s concessions, merchandise or hosting multiple shows per day, we want to maximize our opportunity to generate revenue and make our art form go as far as possible.
But one option that so many venues miss out on — or simply don’t think about — is renting their theater space out when it’s not being used for other live events.
Rentals are an absolute no brainer. Your venues are sitting dark for days at a time within a week — why not utilize that time to your benefit? Sure, it might take a bit of additional effort, but since when has revenue ever come without work? (Answer: never).
Another great way to think about this is the fact that the sharing economy — the Uber’s, Lyft’s, and AirBnB’s of the world — are on fire right now. So why not take that same model and apply it to your theater? Not everyone has a need for a theater all year round, so step up and make the option of renting your theater a possibility! Talk about a box office solution!
To put things into perspective, here’s a quick comparison of a hypothetical venue that doesn’t do rentals, versus one that does live event rentals:
When it’s all said and done, who doesn’t need an extra $270k in the bank? (Answer: everyone does). But other than the obvious extra revenue, what are the benefits of renting out your theater?
Here are some tips on how to maximize your rental business. And remember — if you don’t think you can pull off a large scale rental operation, start small and work your way up to something more.
Tip 1: Maximize efficiency with your calendars, discounts and staff
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as running an extremely efficient outfit, regardless of what line of business you’re in. But especially with theaters, the opportunity to run an efficient organization is massive.
Before all else — get your calendar in order!
As with most things, having an efficient calendaring system is key to ensuring your venue is never dark. Your calendar should be viewable by your entire organization to ensure that no wires are crossed. Juggling multiple events can be complex, so make sure that you’re really thinking about any dark days that might be on your calendar and utilize them for rentals.
Every month, look at your next three months for days without events. Make those days available for rental, and if you have a lot of early weekdays open (like Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays) that are dark, think about discounts for those days. You want to make sure those empty days get filled to maximize your efficiency.
Get your staff on board and trained up!
You’re already paying the rent or mortgage, which means you have staff (or volunteers) already working your events. Utilize that existing staff for these new live events, and make sure to train them on rental event details — as the specifics of a rental show will be different than shows your own company puts on.
Tip 2: Create and nurture new audiences using your database and ticketing
You work hard to garner loyal patrons through the productions and events you host in your space. But the fact of the matter is — expanding the type of events you host will in turn expand the type of audience you attract.
If you’ve traditionally hosted musical theater, for example, you can have renters that offer avant garde theater, sketch comedy, children’s theater… the possibilities are endless.
Adding more events, especially ones that you aren’t controlling from soup to nuts, means that staying organized is more important than ever. First, you’re going to want to have a solid database where you can create, organize and manage these additional events.
To go along with this, you’ll want a ticketing company that can help you manage these events in the same fashion that you manage your current events. Giving these renters the opportunity to use your online ticketing system is a huge advantage for them, since they most likely won’t have their own ticketing platform. And they won’t always need access, but they do need reports on how their events are selling (think of it as one more benefit to renting out your theater).
Make sure you’re able to tag events by renter to check how each renter is performing, and consider things like unique URLs so you can track how effective each renter’s marketing campaigns are.
Tip 3: Think about the personas you want to address
Before you embark on your rental program, take time to think about the types of audiences you want to bring to the theater. Is that 18–34 year olds? Elementary school age kids and their parents? Older, wealthier audiences? This will inform not only your mission statement but also the types of renters you want to appeal to.
Venues, for the most part, already have specific programming that is catered to a specific audience (or specific programming that draws a certain crowd). Renting your theater out allows you to host a wider variety of shows and events, giving your venue a more diverse set of options for your patrons.
Not only does this act as a draw for new customers, it also helps you diversify your venue from a brand sense. Hosting different types of events quickly transforms your venue from being pigeonholed from one genre or type of event.
Tip 4: Establish your mission and brand identity
Every business needs a mission statement. Create a mission statement for the live rentals side of your business that’s broad enough to appeal to all renters you want to bring in. And hey, while you’re at it you may want to take time to refresh your original brand now that you’re selling to more diverse audience.
Think about what you represent and what you are against, write it down to solidify it, and stick that puppy on the wall in your office (trust me; physically writing it down goes a long way and makes it real).
So to recap, here’s four quick tips we have for turning your theater into a live events business:
- Maximize efficiency with your calendars, discounts and staff
- Create and nurture new audiences using your database and ticketing
- Think about the personas you want to address
- Establish your mission and brand identity
The rental process is one that takes careful planning and attention, but if done correctly can seriously increase your revenue and let your venue work even harder for you. Stay tuned — we have a post on the way about setting expectations and marketing these events.