Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Selling lessons from Christmas Panto

Stats. from The Stage newspaper.
The six week Pantomime ( Panto) period over the Christmas season is a critical selling window for theatres across the UK.  Last year Pantomime productions accounted for 16% of all tickets sold in regional theatres in 2014 – more than 2.7 million, making almost £52 million.

Sales Growth

The 200 member organisations of UK theatre increased their ticket sales by £4.5 million from 2013 to 2014. UK Theatre’s data reveals that almost 100,000 more tickets were sold for pantomimes in 2014 than in 2013

Up to 60% of tickets have been sold up to the beginning of December most producers can accurately predict sales turnover for the period so long as the season is not hit by heavy snow. ‘Dreaming of a white Christmas’ is a nightmare for the Pantomime business.

“Don’t let it snow, Don’t let it snow, Don’t let it snow !”

Aladdin at Camberley
Panto is the goose which each year  lays golden eggs. Whether local theatres consider Panto as their Cash Cow or Cash Horse, the revenue it generates is lifeblood to many local theatres.

The market leader in Pantomime productions is Qdos Entertainment which this year is producing 24 shows . Another provider FFE has a 2015 programme which features the customary schedule of recurrent favourites: an Aladdin, a Sleeping Beauty, and two productions each of Dick Whittington, Snow White, Cinderella and Peter Pan.

Panto can teach us all lessons in selling.

Jack and the Beanstalk
at Guildford's
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
As well as being an entryway to the theatre, the stories of traditional Pantomime can also be an early introduction to the world of selling for better or ill for youngsters going to their first experience of live theatre.

Selling narratives

 Many of the stories have a cautionary moral concerning business conduct.  They tell how riches can be earned in a right or wrong way rudimentary ethics even today’s business could still pay heed to. They also show the contrast of good and bad personal behaviour in conducting our affairs. For example:-

Aladdin at Oxford's Playhouse

The story of Aladdin has the wicked sorcerer , Abanazar,  inveigling into the family posing as Aladdin’s  trusted Uncle who offers to set up the young near-do-well lad as a wealthy merchant.  This tale from 1001 Arabian nights teaches us all to be wary of offers that too good to be true. Aladdin’s wife is enticed by the offer or ‘New lamps or old’.

Jack and the Beanstalk
 at Basingstoke's
 Anvil theatre
Similarly Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk appears another naive negotiator when he exchanges his family’s cow  ( their only source of income ) for a few worthless supposedly ‘magic’ beans.

However as we know those worthless beans grow overnight into a huge beanstalk.   We in selling maybe can learn to have patience to let our prospective beans grow and then emulate some of Jack’s courage in venturing up our equivalent beanstalks and overcoming the objections of a yelling Giant to achieve the objective of the Giant’s bag of golden coins. 

I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.”

The Pantomime of Dick Whittington follows the classic basis of Fairy Tale, and indeed does many a pantomime. The Poor boy makes good through some heroic or magical deed. By rewarding others he achieves his target or sales objective -a Kingdom, a Princess, Untold wealth, or, in the case of Whittington he becomes fabulously rich, and is made Lord Mayor of London three times.

The pantomime of “Mother Goose” in the form we know it today was written in London in 1902 by J.Hickory Wood  who created a new pantomime especially for the leading comedian of the day- Dan Leno. It has the biggest part for a Dame in any pantomime.
Dan Leno created a poor woman who befriends a magical goose that provides her with Golden Eggs. She is rich, but there is something she wants more than money- she wants to be young and beautiful.

Sleeping Beauty at
Victoria Theatre
The pantomime has a strong moral- Beauty & Wealth alone seldom bring you happiness.
In Beauty and the beast the Beast (a ‘cursed’ prince)  can only break the spell by learning to love another and earn her love in return before the last petal from his enchanted rose falls, which would bloom until his twenty-first birthday.

 In the beginning Beauty views him as nothing more than a monster, he views her as difficult and stubborn. But the two soon taste the bitter-sweetness of finding you can change and learning you were wrong.  Perhaps we as sellers, can draw some parallels on the skills of relationship building both with co-workers and clients from the story.

In Snow White the proud, overbearing and beautiful Queen of the Grimm brothers cannot bear to be surpassed in beauty by anyone. In her several attempts to kill off the young and  beautiful Snow White at the house of the seven dwarfs she manages to be allowed entry to the house through her sales pitch:-

 “ Fine wares to sell. Fine wares to sell”  “ Good wares, fine wares laces of all colours”.

Aldershot's Princes Hall is presenting Cinderella
The tale of Cinderella teaches us remain ethical and moral ( in the Grimm Brothers’ tale “pious and good”)  and endure hard work so when the time is right our Prince will come,  and the story of  Peter Pan  shows us that fortune favours the brave.

Pantomime is family entertainment which enchants children through the magic of the fairy tale, and adults through the humorous risqué double entendres which are supposedly above the children’s heads.

Of 16 theatrical genres analysed by UK Theatre, pantomime achieves the highest capacities, and is matched only by comedy, recording an average capacity of 73% in 2014.

The Theatre’s own ‘Cinderella’
When compared with other theatre art forms, Panto starts looking a bit more serious. Last year across the UK, plays achieved 52% capacity, with contemporary dance attendance falling from 59% in 2013 to 42% in 2014.

Panto productions may not feature in the glamorous award ceremonies such as the BAFTAs , the Evening Standard Drama  or Olivier awards yet but for the sales of Pantomime tickets UK theatres would be all the poorer and quite possibly out of business. They also play a part in the cross sell to live drama.

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