A new Telecharge study explores whether Broadway audiences prefer to go to the theater on weekends or weekdays and which performance show times people like to buy tickets for.
The study looked at the three basic geographical groups of Broadway theater audiences: New York City locals, Tri-State locals (also known as suburbanites or “bridge and tunnel” folk), and, of course, Tourists.
New York City Audience Preferences
When it comes to the show time preferences of New York City’s Broadway theatergoers, there is a marked difference between Manhattan dwellers and people who live in the city’s other four boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx). Audiences from those four "outer" boroughs buy Broadway tickets for weekend shows far more often, with their favorite dates and times, in order, being Saturday matinees, Saturday evening shows, Sunday matinees, and then Friday night performances. This may be because many people in those boroughs work there and don’t come into Manhattan regularly, so they would rather save their major entertainment and recreational activities for the weekend.
Manhattanites, on the other hand, favor weeknights for attending Broadway theater. Thursday night performances are the most desired, followed by Tuesday nights. Oddly enough, Wednesday night is relegated to fifth place, with Friday night taking third and Saturday night fourth. One interpretation of this data may be that audiences in Manhattan feel more flexibility since they live so close to the Broadway theater district, but nonetheless maintain some preference for weeknights because a) there are better Broadway ticket deals on weeknights, b) they won’t have to deal with weekend and tourist crowds, and c) they can easily go after work.
Suburbanites Don't Like To Go To The Theater At Night
To anyone who has ever attended an afternoon performance of a Broadway show, it is no surprise to find that ticket buyers from the suburbs like matinees the best. Since these suburban Broadway fans have a sometimes lengthy commute to get into the theater district, they understandably favor daytime performances, especially if they are traveling by train and don’t want to have to worry about missing the last train out of New York City at night.
This preference for matinee shows isn’t slight, either. There are more suburbanites attending a Wednesday matinee than any evening performance the entire week. The Saturday matinee is the most popular performance overall with this demographic, followed by the Sunday matinee, so it is clear that they also like weekend performances the most.
Tourists Enjoy Broadway In the Dark
Now for the big guns. Tourists account for the biggest slice of the Broadway ticket buying pie, so the number crunchers are most interested in knowing about their theatergoing habits. And the verdict is that tourists display a preference for evening shows on Broadway.
The fact that Friday night and Saturday night, respectively, are the most popular Broadway performances with tourists seems logical, since people from out of town often come in on weekends and likely prefer to see their Broadway shows at night in order to leave the daytime free for New York sightseeing.
The Broadway performances that have the highest percentage of tourists in attendance are Sunday evening (66%) and Monday evening (65%) shows. Sunday and Monday are traditionally “dark nights” on Broadway, but a select few Broadway shows perform on these nights, precisely because they know that they won’t have much competition for the tourist demographic hoping to see a Broadway show during those times – and clearly the strategy is paying off.
The Purpose of the Study
Now that Telecharge and the Broadway theater industry have this information about audience show time preferences, Broadway marketers will be able to more effectively target that advertising towards the right people. It may even influence some smart producers to consider instituting unorthodox show times. For instance, when the recent Broadway show A Catered Affair discovered its matinee performances were very popular, while evening shows struggled, the musical added a Thursday matinee - a performance time that simply doesn't exist on the traditional Broadway calendar. If other Broadway shows follow suit, one day there may not even be such a thing as the standard Broadway calendar.