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Chicago Theatre Week: The Collaborative Approach to Audience Development
By Nancy Malitz
June 7, 2016
Founded in 1979 as an alliance to promote, support, and advocate for Chicago’s theater industry, the League of Chicago Theatres (LCT) leverages the collective strength of more than 200 theater companies ranging from small storefront operations to major cultural centers with multi-million dollar budgets.
Frigid February in the Windy City is a hard sell when it comes to coaxing Chicagoans from their homes, let alone out-of-towners. “The one thing that unites all our member theaters is that we need butts in seats,” says LCT Executive Director Deb Clapp. The League looked to the ever-burgeoning success of Chicago’s city-wide Restaurant Week, launched in 2008, for inspiration. People apparently loved the idea of choosing among defined (bargain) price points ($22, $33, or $44) to dine on multi-course menus created by top chefs. [PHOTO: League of Chicago Theatres Executive Director Deb Clapp.]
Using Restaurant Week’s five-year success story, the League decided to create its own limited-time-only campaign, offering tickets at fixed prices. With a goal launch date of 2013, it sought and received funding from the city’s newly streamlined tourism
arm, called Choose Chicago, which built and hosted a Chicago Theatre Week page on its own web site.
Chicago Theatre Week launch
Staffing and getting the word out
“It’s an ecosystem in which we all play a role.” Clapp says. “Arts audiences are going to be crossover audiences.”
Nancy Malitz is the publisher of the web magazine Chicago On the Aisle and an editor of the web site Classical Voice North America. She was the founding music critic at USA Today and the first director of new media for The Detroit News. She has written about the arts for a variety of national publications.
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