CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Reimagining the Seating Chart

Selling Out: You’ve probably had this experience: You’re about to buy tickets to a show, and you’re debating between, say, front balcony and rear orchestra. The rear orchestra costs more, but it’s worth it if the view is better. Only … will the view be better? How well can you see the stage from the rear orchestra at this particular venue? Would you have a better view from the front balcony, since you’d be raised above the crowd?

12 comments:

Jason Cohen said...

I would argue that a seating part is one of the most important things that are often forgot about. Why is this you might ask, well this because what good is any of the work we do if nobody can see it. So, why is this always forgotten about? Well I think this is because we are too focused about what is on stage, and not about the audience experience. Their experience starts from the moment they go to buy their tickets. If they have to go through a lot of hassles just to purchase a ticket to see your art they are going to be in a crabby mood when they come to see your art. If you are doing your show in an abnormal configuration (which I would consider anything but proscenium) you must have a seating chart for the audience because then they have an understanding about the space that they are going to sit for a few hours.

Jacob Wesson said...

This is a clever initiative to help audiences prior to buying tickets that could run them quite a bit of money. Say you decide to pay 20$ less for a Loge seat, but pay all the travel fess and hotel fees that come with going to Broadway only to find that you would have given your left leg to have paid the little bit more if it meant having that much better of a view. I think that equipping theatres with drones for the sake of showing ticket buyers their potential views is a clever, 21st century way to alleviate this problem. Aside from it being a problem, it's also helpful to get acquainted with the seat you'll have before you walk in. When I saw Spongebob in Chicago, I had gotten free tickets for mediocre seats, and had spent more time than I would have liked looking at seating charts trying to determine what my view was going to be, and something like the FlyBy would have saved me time and some (unwarranted) anxiety about how I would be experiencing the show. I agree with Jason, the audience experience starts the second you have put money down, because you have chosen a seat and you know that seat will be yours, so there is a vague level of entitlement to know what your seat will be like prior.

Mark Ivachtchenko said...

I've had many experiences where I've gone to see a Broadway show and I've gotten great deals on tickets only to realize that they're only great because you will miss whole chunks of the show because of faulty sight lines. Luckily, as of recently, most ticket websites will have photos of the venues for you to look at so you can judge the visibility from your seats you're about to pay for. Now, this is a great big step into the right direction. Now, especially with the up and coming 360 view photo/video technology, you can see your venue, your show from your seat in a complete 360 degree axis. A great statement mentioned by Jason is that, "the audience experience starts the moment you buy our tickets." This is extremely true and any production company that fails to acknowledge this will have decreased sales and feedback. If anything, companies can take this a step further and point out where there are faulty sight lines (which I have seen on certain occasions on certain websites).

Evan Schild said...

I have to say that where you sit in a show change the experience immensely. Having to decide where to sit is so hard. First cost comes into play but also which would have the best view. I prefer to either be up close in the orchestra or front of the mezzanine. Both have such great advantages. With front of orchestra I feel apart of the show. While front of mezzanine I get to see the whole picture and a better angle of the set. But a plus of the orchestra is that if they break the 4th wall you are apart of that. I prefer not to be in the middle/ back of the orchestra since its just as expensive and I feel you lose part of the experience. One bad experience I had was seeing legally Blonde on broadway, I was sitting upper balcony on the side and when one of the girls slides down a pole a second girl ends up sliding down the other side to give the illusion of a quick change. Sadly I saw the two different girls which partly ruined the experience of the scene for me and brought me out of the moment. Seating is extremely important.

Katie Pyne said...

On principle, I believe that every seat in the house should be a good seat. Some will always be better than others, but if you have multiple seats that have major obstructions, why don't you kill the seats? Are those 4 seats in the corner going to make or break your budget line? As a theater maker, I don't want to see backstage. At all. I know what goes on, and I don't want to break the magic, like Evan was talking about. I also don't see why theaters haven't started doing this already? Even Facebook has 360 degree pictures. If you're really interested in seating charts, I would suggest you look at the seating chart for Great Comet. They don't have the drone views, but honestly, I am really glad they don't. Walking into that space for the first time, seeing the audience members on stage took my breath away. I could also see how this kind of seating chart (with the stage shots) would slow your website down considerably.

Julian Goldman said...

This seems like a really good idea, and you wouldn’t even need a drone to do it. All a theater would really need to do is have someone stand in the middle of each of the sections of the theater and take a photo of the stage from that location. It would only take someone in the company having a decent camera, and someone taking an hour to grab some photos. To be fair, the video panning across the section is nice, and this video overall could work as good promotional materials for the theater, but the idea of showing the audience what the view from a given seat would actually be wouldn’t be difficult to implement. I know I’d love to be able see what the stage looks like from different seats when I’m getting tickets for a show, and I think it is important for audience members to be able to make an informed decision when they are picking how they want to experience a show.

Benjamin King said...

It’s important to note that this is being implemented in a traditional theatrical setting. I say that because this summer when we were buying tickets to see a Cirque du Soleil show, the ticketing agent was able to identify which seats had an obstructed view clearly and how where you would be seating would affect what you would see. This totally makes sense because you have so many people who have never stepped inside a theatre in their life trying to buy moderately expensive tickets.

I don’t think this is as revolutionary as the article makes it seems, I know I’ve taken 360 tours of theatres up to 5-10 years ago. Now, you don’t always get to see inside the theatre, but more and more often there is a photo that is the view from your seat. I do however think the drone tour is actually a great way to get a feel of the facility if you are applying for a job there or looking to buy a subscription for the theatre.

Rachel said...

As an audience member, I love this idea, though I agree with Ben, the drones are a novelty, but I’m not sure the concept is particularly new or revolutionary.

It’s a great service, but I wonder whether this has an impact on ticket sales, positively or negatively. I’m not sure being able to see your seat would bring more people in the door (if I’m looking at seats, I’m already pretty committed to attending,) but it *could* potentially deter people from purchasing tickets to events that only have less desirable tickets available. There’s a big difference between having a vague understanding, from a map, that your seat won’t be great and actually seeing the less-than-great view. I have purchased tickets to events and upon arriving thought, “if I’d known, I wouldn’t have paid what I did for these seats.” If your venue has a lot of distant or poorly angled seats, this could hurt your sales.

Monica Skrzypczak said...

Seriously, knowing how good a seat will be before you buy it would be so amazing. I remember trying to decide where to sit for the Lion King last year and the amount of time I spent google searching for images of the theatre from the stage and from various seats and analyzed how good a seat would be. It took me hours. Having this would've been nice, but this still doesn't tell you everything. What would be ideal is to see what that seat looks like when the whole house is full from average head height. Then you really get a really good idea of what that seat will be like. As Ben says though, it would be great for someone who is applying for a job at a theatre to get a feel for the facilities. It’d be really cool if theatres (or really any place) would do full building drone tours to let future employees get a look at their buildings.

Sophie Chen said...

This is definitely a useful idea. Just last week when I was on work study in the box office, an audience who wanted to buy tickets to Playboy had a lot of trouble deciding which seat she wanted to purchase even after listening to the pros and cons of different seatings. After a good while of contemplating and still having no idea which seat to choose, she eventually ended up going into the Chosky and looked at the actual seating in order to make her decision. Although it's not that hard for us to pick a seat because we're so familiar with theater, it's important to keep in mind that a lot of audiences are very new to theater and have no idea what they want when it comes to seating. Videos like the one in this article are definitely helpful for those audiences who are ordering tickets online or through the phone and can't physically check out the venue.

Alex Kaplan said...

This is such a great idea! Especially as someone who is rather short, this would be a great help in many theatrical spaces. From the video they included, I would probably choose seats up in the balcony as I wouldn’t have as much of a problem seeing over people's heads as there is a steeper rake than the orchestra. I have all too often sat in the so called “good” seats, only to have my view blocked by the people sitting in front of me. The physical theatre space, including the house, is a very important aspect to a show. It can change the audience's perception of the show, and thereby the show itself. We already see this when looking at the configuration of seats, asking ourselves what the show could mean if set in a thrust or arena style. I hope that more theaters implement showing the view from the seats idea. They can use drones, or they can just use people with cameras. Whichever, it will help all audience member decrease anxiety and time when buying tickets.

Daniel Silverman said...

The use of drones (or other camera equipment) to give people a better picture of where they will be sitting and the view of the stage they will have is a great idea. Ticket prices for some shows can cost about a week’s salary for some people. With patrons spending this kind of money, one would want to make sure they know exactly what kind of experience they are going to get. That being said, I’m not sure how practical this is for some shows. While mostly consistent, the view that one might get from each seat could change with each show that comes into the venue. Would one have to create a new FlyBy seating chart for each show that visits a venue? I can see this technology or feature being useful for sporting events where no matter which teams are playing, the view from each seat will be the same. This a great idea, but what’s next? Sight is just one of the senses. Are people going to put up samples of what shows will sound like from different sections of the house?