Craving the warm applause of your audience? Satisfy that desire! Start filling those cold empty seats before the show even begins. How? Get great exposure with a great website. Your theater is unique and your needs are unique, so you have to offer your audience unique opportunities. Your job is entertainment! Turn up the heat with these four must-have features for your theater’s website!

1. Online Performance Calendar- It’s the single most important aspect of your website. Your patrons should be able to look up the date and time of your performances, and the information should be simple to find and access. Calendar links must be prominently displayed on the front page, and the schedule must be easy to read. There are several online calendar applications that can easily be integrated onto your website. Google and Yahoo offer free calendars. Trumba calendars are not free, but offer many valuable features: they let visitors send automatic email reminders of upcoming events, forward event details to a friend, download event information, or sign up for an event.
Google Calendar
Source: Google Calendar

2. Online Box Office- Save time, money, and hassles by letting your audience buy their own tickets online, day or night. No staff required! Just choose a method that allows your website to receive payments. You can either set up your own merchant account, or use a third party service provider such as Paypal or Google Checkout. Third party providers make it simple to set up these applications, but they charge you a fee for each sale. Paypal for instance, gets 1.9%-2.9% + $.30 per transaction. If you anticipate generating more than a thousand dollars per month in online revenue, create your own merchant account. It may cost more up front, but you’ll realize savings over the long term.

Once you‘re comfortable processing orders, consider how customers will receive their admission tickets. Many event hosting services allow you to create and send eTickets, which can be checked at the door using a bar code scanner. Other theaters may choose to send an actual printed ticket in the mail to each customer. Small theaters may be able to get away with emailing receipts and asking customers to present a printed copy of their receipt, along with their photo ID, at will call.

3. Get Feedback on Your Shows- Duck, swerve, and dodge those flying tomatoes on stage by creating a positive channel for your audience members to discuss the show online. Don’t be shy! Audience feedback is not only valuable to you, it also helps bring new people into the theater by making your audience active participants in your shows. Provide incentives by making performance reviews a competition, as Amazon does with their Top Reviewers page. Encourage more responses by offering prizes such as free tickets or merchandise to your top reviewers.

4. Blog Like a Celebrity- You’re a star on stage. Why not enjoy your celebrity status when nobody is looking? Get your best actors involved by letting them add posts and respond to fans through your website’s blog. Flatter your fans by encouraging your big stars to respond to their comment! You can’t buy that kind of publicity, but you can create it for free by opening up the lines of communication. It’s a great way to increase traffic to your website and generate interest about your company.

Blogs enrich your theater’s website by allowing you to connect with your fans in a media-rich, interactive way. Add pictures, music, and commentary on past and future performances to create buzz. Search engines like Google often favor websites with fresh new content. The more often you update, the more likely you are to make it to the top of a page of search results. There are tons of free and paid blog services such as WordPress (recommended), Typepad, and Blogger to help you get you started. For more information on service providers and their features, visit Top 10 Reviews.

You’re ready to hit the big time. Let the world know that you’ve arrived by making the most of your theater’s website!

By Lance Trebesch and Taylor Robinson