ARC inspires US theatres to adopt successful pricing policy

Our Pay What You Decide policy returns for the autumn season after influencing other venues in locations as far afield as the USA to trial the model.

Since January 2015, customers attending any of our drama, dance and spoken word performances have been able to decide for themselves how much they want to pay for a ticket, based on their enjoyment of the performance and overall experience.

The first full year’s results, for 2015, showed that audiences were up by 34.5%, income was up by 52%, average ticket yield was up by 32%, audiences new to our venue were up by 31.25%, and audiences new to theatre at ARC (i.e. had attended other artforms or activities) were up by 13%, compared to 2014.

A survey of audiences attending PWYD performance showed that 60% of people said that they came more often as a result of PWYD, and 30% said PWYD enabled them to bring other people.

After learning about the continued success of the scheme, which remains in place indefinitely for our drama, dance and spoken word shows, staff from Pennsylvania-based Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble have taken the decision to implement their own policy on a trial basis. They will apply the same model to a selection of drama performances at the Alvina Krause Theatre from September 2016 to April 2017.

Jon White-Spunner, Managing Director at Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble said: “We have been looking at different ways to reach out to portions of our community who don’t come to shows. I heard about PWYD at ARC in Stockton through the Theatre Communication Group (TCG), here in the USA.

“I reached out to Annabel and got a very speedy response with a whole package of information which made it much easier to convince my board that we should try it. In June we met up with Annabel in Washington DC at a conference where she brought together a number of other theatres who had either decided to go ahead with or were thinking about applying a Pay What You Decide pricing to their organisations. That meeting confirmed our decision to do PWYD for the opening night performance of four of our productions in this upcoming season.”

Another US based theatre has also taken inspiration from our success. Staff from Philadelphia-based Theatre Azuka visited ARC earlier this summer to talk to Annabel Turpin, ARC’s Chief Executive about the policy as part of their research into the model, and they since have applied the policy too.

Annabel Turpin said: “We hope to keep the profile of PWYD up and gather a greater evidence base of its success, nationally and internationally, to encourage more venues to introduce it. In terms of our own audiences, this autumn we will be working to share more information with audiences about what is involved in creating a theatre show, to see if this knowledge has an effect on ticket yields.”

Many UK venues have also decided to trial the pricing method including Harlow Playhouse, Alnwick Playhouse and The Customs House.

The Pay What You Decide policy works by asking customers to book their seats in advance without paying anything at the time, then on exiting the performance they can either put cash in a box or make a payment by card at the Box Office. The customer is entirely in control of how much they want to pay.

To take a look at our PWYD performances coming up this season click here