The Arts In the Market Place

Dallas’ live theaters are learning how to sell themselves to the city’s art lovers, and the result has been their best year ever. Use of sophisticated marketing techniques, a better sales pitch and improved direct mailing techniques have generated record attendance at the Dallas Theater Center, Theatre Three and Theatre SMU.

Dallas Theater Center closed its 1974-75 season with 10,400 season ticket holders, up from the previous year’s 8,579. Theatre SMU’s season ticket holders numbered 700 this season, up from 98 last year. Theatre Three’s season is still underway, but an estimated 44,500 patrons will attend its regular productions this season, compared to last year’s 35,200.

The idea of marketing live theater in Dallas was pioneered by the Dallas Theater Center, which hired Chicago marketing consultant Danny Newman in 1971. Newman sums up what others have learned since, that the trick to increasing ticket sales is to define precisely who Dallas’ art lovers are and then to keep in touch with them by direct mail during the season. “For years fine arts people thought things like the theater shouldn’t be marketed – that somehow people were just either born to appreciate art or they weren’t,” Newman says.

Newman’s results at the Theater Center have been remarkable, and now seven Dallas arts organizations have teamed up to form the Combine of Dallas Arts Mailers, an association which shares mailing lists.The organizations hope to avoid wasteful duplicate mailings and also to zero in on all the city’s arts patrons.

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