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Topic: Upscale Magic Theaters - How are they doing?
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Aug 30, 2019 02:25PM)
There have been several upscale magic theaters pop up recently. There are the "originals" like Magic Castle and Steve Cohen's Chamber Magic but now we also have -
Dennis Watkins Magic Parlor in Chicago
Chicago's Magic Lounge
Chicago's Magic Penthouse

Hose of Cards in Nashville

I'm sure there are others as well... wondering if anyone knows of others and also if anyone knows how any of these are doing? I mean they are all still in business so that's a good sign.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Aug 31, 2019 03:52PM)
Interesting no one has responded to this post. I figured some magicians would likely chime in with more info that I may have. I know several of those mentioned seem to be struggling as I am sure some news will hit the streets in the next few months.

I know another theater, the Smoke & Mirrors theater in Philly can be added to your list, although I'm not sure I'd consider it to be "upscale" depending on your definition.

Also "how they're doing" depends on your definition as well. Steve Cohen will likely be the first to tell you he makes his money/success on VIP, elite private, and corporate booking that come as a result of his own venue shows. He is not necessarily looking to profit hugely from his venue show, it is the residuals that are where he makes his nice income. I think this is the key to understand. I'm not sure how many venues are "doing very well" just on their in-house shows alone, it is usually, like in most properly designed 2/4 wall endeavors, having multiple sources of income or profit centers that ends up making it more lucrative.

If you looked behind the curtain, I think you'd be surprised what you will see.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Aug 31, 2019 04:02PM)
Iím sure I would be surprised! Iím kinda surprised how many have popped up lately.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Aug 31, 2019 04:41PM)
I think for some the economy has led them to take a chance, and of course, some would like to just have their own resident venue that could host other performers as well. Steve Spill's Magicoloplis seems to be another one that is an inspiration to others to try the same or similar in their area.

It's not hard opening or launching one, it is the maintaining and sustaining that proves the most challenging to these endeavors. I will tell you this has been one of the top topics for those approaching me for consulting or coaching over the past two years, so your observations seem quite in line with what I've been experiencing as well.
Message: Posted by: Alan M (Aug 31, 2019 07:18PM)
Since Magicopolis was mentioned, Iíll add that Steve recently sold it to Randy Sinnott, a past president of the AMA.
Steve posted about it here:

https://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=699170&forum=218

-Alan
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 1, 2019 11:09AM)
"Steve Cohen will likely be the first to tell you he makes his money/success on VIP, elite private, and corporate booking that come as a result of his own venue shows. He is not necessarily looking to profit hugely from his venue show, it is the residuals that are where he makes his nice income. I think this is the key to understand."

I'm not sure if this is currently the case... that does line up with what he has said his initial goal was... but he's selling out 5 shows a week with tickets starting at $125. Pretty sure he's seeing a profit on those shows. But as he has said.. it took him years to not lose money on that show.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 1, 2019 11:51AM)
I'm fairly certain he is doing fine now.
Message: Posted by: Christian & Katalina (Sep 2, 2019 08:12PM)
There are many "magic venues" that have been in operation for a few years, Katalina and I have had ours for 10 years.

Katalina and I have worked the Magic Castle, House of Cards, and The Chicago Magic Lounge. Even they are uniquely different from one another. Length of show, number of shows, and pay vary for each one. Additionally, there are the following shows: Steve Cohen, Dennis Watkins, Maxwell Blade, Marrakesh Magic Theater, Theater of Dreams, Wizardz Eric Olsen, Dickens Parlor Theater, P.T. Murphy Magic Theater, Wonderground, Cantori's Theater of Magic, Rick Wilcox, Tristan Magic Theater, and on and on. We have had long conversations with many people that are currently running their own show. We always learn something new.

Most are doing fine. Keep in mind, there are a variety of business models for these theaters. Not every theater is operating with the same goal. I would also point out that there have been quite a few magic venues that have failed. (for various reasons)

At least once a month someone contacts me, hoping to get information on opening their own venue. I very seldom meet/talk with them for the following reaons:

1. They want my time and knowledge for free.

2. 80% of the people don't have enough flight time to start a public show. I've lost track of the number of people who only have 30 minutes but think they can quickly add another 30 in the next month or so as they start their theater. My wife and I have a joke about how many amazing shows are in people's heads. You know, as soon as they buy the props...it'll be amazing!

3. I've had people set aside a whole 30 minutes for me to give them all the secrets about running a public show. Apparently, they think I will tell them 3 secrets and then they will have all the knowledge they need.

4. People are not prepared for the amount of "Business" they will be doing. Their belief tends to be, I just hang a "Magic Show Tonight" sign up and people will find me. As I talk about the business side, they're only repeated question is...but what's that one secret for filling the seats???

5. People are stunned to learn that they will need more than $500 to start this business.

6. I've had people get angry with me because they feel that I didn't give them the real secrets (for free). Case in point, One guy opened a theater venue and did not follow a single thing I told him to do. I explained to him, I don't think it will work based on the model he had assembled. It failed. He got angry with me because . . . it didn't work... I guess.

Having watched a few magic venues fail, I would give the following reasons:

A. The show was not ready for prime time. In today's world everyone can be a critic. Trip Advisor, Yelp, Google my Business are just a few of the places people will rate you. I have seen many, many shows eviscerated by the public. Once the bad reviews start showing up, the people will stop showing up. The extra punch is that even after you close your show, those reviews will remain for years.

B. People are not prepared and do not want to put the time in to learning the business side of this endeavor. I put far more time and money into the business side of my theater than I do the magic side. You better WANT to do the business otherwise you will not make it. People want easy, but nothing easy is good. I have watched people fail at getting into the Cruise Ships, College Market, Corporate, etc, so they say, "Well, I'll just start my own venue." That is the worst idea, because they think it will be easier . . . it is not. If you haven't gotten success in other places, I would not try and run your own venue.

C. Finally, I would say insufficient funding for their project. I have lost count of the amount of people who think that they are going to start this business with less than a thousand. That is not realistic. You will fail. You will need several thousands of dollars to make this work.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 2, 2019 08:20PM)
Wow. So much great info. Thanks for adding to the list.... Iím familiar with some of those listed but had forgotten about them. Youíre right itís tricky because each one has its own branding and goals.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 2, 2019 08:34PM)
That about says it all!

You hit on a few great aspects though that can not be stressed enough (all of them really) especially that most of the examples the OP mentions have some very different business models. Understanding this is more significant than most realize. A great deal of research, due diligence, then thought and effort need to be put into understanding this one aspect alone.

Then, you said, "People are not prepared and do not want to put the time into learning the business side of this endeavor." This couldn't be more truthful. I see it every day, even by top name pros, which never ceases to amaze me.

I also agree that most do not have a true proper market-ready show (as they believe they do.) A headlining feature show should be 75-90 minutes of top-notch, polished and rehearsed to death, tried and ready performance material (not just tricks and effects). All of the dynamics of a headlining performance in a theater or venue must also be firmly in place. You had also better be able to deliver on the value expected and projected in your venue and ticket price. All as part of your show.

I also agree that this knowledge and information is coveted and has a significant value and shouldn't be given away cheaply or heaven forbid free. We could teach a week-long, 8 hour a day workshop on this topic and still only scratch the surface as far as what they need to know that they don't.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 3, 2019 07:28PM)
"I also agree that most do not have a true proper market-ready show (as they believe they do.) A headlining feature show should be 75-90 minutes of top-notch, polished and rehearsed to death, tried and ready performance material (not just tricks and effects)."

Mindpro... how do you think this relates to some of the operations like House of Cards, Chicago Magic Lounge, and even the Magic Castle to some extent. They hire a mix of local magicians and top level entertainers but what you get from week to week varies in quality big time. I haven't visited any of these locations, so I don't know the quality that is actually being presented.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 3, 2019 07:37PM)
Budget determines quality. Often after a big splash, quality simply drops.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 5, 2019 10:16AM)
[quote]On Sep 3, 2019, thomasR wrote:
"I also agree that most do not have a true proper market-ready show (as they believe they do.) A headlining feature show should be 75-90 minutes of top-notch, polished and rehearsed to death, tried and ready performance material (not just tricks and effects)."

Mindpro... how do you think this relates to some of the operations like House of Cards, Chicago Magic Lounge, and even the Magic Castle to some extent. They hire a mix of local magicians and top level entertainers but what you get from week to week varies in quality big time. I haven't visited any of these locations, so I don't know the quality that is actually being presented. [/quote]

Again, this varies and depends based on their specific business models. Many of these places operate from either a lineup model of performers or a featured performer accompanied by a supporting performer or acts, such as a feature performer and a couple of opening or secondary acts. Even then, it may depend on how the featured act is.

For example, when I am on the road during my tour I may accept some pickup dates from time to time on an off night at a comedy club. Years ago I headlined comedy clubs and it is still fun to do them once in a while. Now, most comedy clubs operate on a three comic model - an opener or MC/opening act, a "middle" or feature performer will do 30 minutes, and then the headliner will do 45 minutes. The opener may do 10 minutes up from to start the show, a few minutes between the feature and headliner and then come on again at the end to close the show.

However, when I come in as a special attraction I usually do my full 90-minute show so they will often eliminate the feature and just have an MC to open the show quickly and then bring me on for the duration. So even then they may break their format for special feature attractions or events.

Even though lineup show requires less stage time, I still think any pro performer should have a full 75-minute performance-ready and polished at all times.

Magic has slots that are 30, 30 and 40 minutes, but often other work comes out of such performances and venues where they require a full-length show. Same for comics and magicians on television shows. A comic may get a 6-minute sport on The Tonight Show, and if they do well that could lead to some feature or headlining bookings at comedy clubs or theater venues, where they better have a full-length performance-ready and in place.

As for quality that is another good point. Just because you may have an earlier spot in a lineup or multi-performer venue in no way should mean it is acceptable for a sub-par performance. It needs to be the best 20 or 30 minutes you can do and be on par and quality with the caliber of acts the venue requires and is known for. Of course, the obvious exception would be open mics, new talent nights, etc.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 5, 2019 12:00PM)
Very good points!

I had actually been thinking about it from the producers experience more than the performers. If your business is relying on outside performers, and you have rotating performers, some more talented than others.... thatís got to be tricky.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 5, 2019 12:22PM)
Having a rotating cast is one of the labors of Hercules. We have 4 at a time 52 weeks a year. ALL need to be of the same quality, yet each from a different genre. Working every night sometimes thing happen and the show doesn't go well. (Yes no matter what the books say shows go badly at times.) Now you get to sit and figure out if it is the show, the environment, or just the way things happen occasionally.

Different acts have different tech needs. They all relate differently to the tech crew differently. So the interpersonal relationships can and DO affect the show.

It is not long before you have to move out of the idea of using only those you have seen or know and move to finding people who fit your specific needs for the show. This is where most magicians in particular simply do not get the point. NOT ALL magic shows, or even any magic show, fit every environment. I have had to tell more people than I can count that while your act might be great, and I am not passing judgement on that, it is not right for THIS client at THIS particular time. Everyone thinks they can adapt to anything and in most cases it simply is not the case.

Then it is EASY to fall into a booking rut where a guy who has worked in the past gets used too often. You hot shot him and burn him out for the place so he ends up not right because he is over exposed.

My point is often it is not about "talented" as much as suited for the spot. When Herb Brooks put together the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team he was criticized for not using the most "talented" guys. He said he didn't want the most "talented" guys, he was interested in the "right" guys. Same thing here. A show good enough to entertain the audience is essential and it is the ticket to the dance. The rest of it is how you get a gal to dance with you once you are in the door. Again it is the part of the business that nobody writes books about unfortunately. It goes even deeper than being "easy to work with".
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 5, 2019 01:19PM)
Yes Danny!!! So many good points.

Especially....

- not everyone will be a good fit for every venue.

- you can overuse good talent.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 5, 2019 08:31PM)
[quote]On Sep 5, 2019, thomasR wrote:
Very good points!

I had actually been thinking about it from the producers experience more than the performers. If your business is relying on outside performers, and you have rotating performers, some more talented than others.... thatís got to be tricky. [/quote]

Yes, it can be tricky, but there is much more to it than most magicians and performers will ever consider. Producing and booking talent is
both an art and a science. It involves much more than just the talent's performance. There are so many dynamics that come into play (the science) than most performers ever realize.

Danny points out many excellent points about a performer's technical requirements and how they work with our staff and crew, how they cooperate during the transportation and lodging aspects, their off stage personality, and sooo much more.

In reality, and most times when I say this it is taken wrong or out of context - but great talented performers are a dime a dozen. They are the easy part to get. It is the client's and venue's that is the most difficult.

The other thing that is very true that many will take out of context is it is not about how talented you are or how good your show is - yes, that is importnat but I woud say only about 30-40% of importance in the overall picture. There are so many additional aspects that we must take into consideration before deciding who we book on our shows, venues, clients, or tours. Also, the booking situation itself comes into play. And one artist or act can excel and be ideal in one and not be the preferred choice in another. for example there is a top magician that some here would likely know. He is an excellent headliner that audiences love whenever we use him on a single performer show. However, I will no longer use him as a headliner in a lineup show due to his egocentricities and lack of ability to let's say "work well with others (performers)."

You need to book acts that enhance each other, progress the flow of the show, and compliment each other. They must jive well together.

To me one of the most important aspects of representing or booking talent is their personality and professionalism. This is the most telling for me. I have probably had maybe 50 or 60 members here from the Cafť, many who's posts and views I enjoy quite well, but because of their personality, I would never have them work with us because they would be a good fit for our crew, client, or with other performers.

Danny uses the hockey analogy and I often think of it somewhat like the movie Moneyball in some aspects of selecting, recruiting and ultimately using and combining the right talent based on many specific needs and requirements of the gig, client, venue, or production.

I think many of these aspects and others come into play with the venues you referred to above. Combining different talent, styles of magic, drawing power, price, staging, local vs. national, abilities to do press and media, and other things I'm sure comes into play.

There is so much more that could be said on this topic and I love talking about these advance topics, strategies and discussions, but I know most here feel this is beyond their level and not of interest to them. I think of it differently. Any time you can catch more advanced-level professionals taking or discussing anything industry-related or business-related, they should be all ears and consider how the things being discussed can relate to them on their current level.

Good discussion.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 9, 2019 09:36AM)
[quote]On Sep 5, 2019, Mindpro wrote:

In reality, and most times when I say this it is taken wrong or out of context - but great talented performers are a dime a dozen. They are the easy part to get. It is the client's and venue's that is the most difficult.

The other thing that is very true that many will take out of context is it is not about how talented you are or how good your show is - yes, that is importnat but I woud say only about 30-40% of importance in the overall picture. There are so many additional aspects that we must take into consideration before deciding who we book on our shows, venues, clients, or tours. Also, the booking situation itself comes into play. And one artist or act can excel and be ideal in one and not be the preferred choice in another. for example there is a top magician that some here would likely know. He is an excellent headliner that audiences love whenever we use him on a single performer show. However, I will no longer use him as a headliner in a lineup show due to his egocentricities and lack of ability to let's say "work well with others (performers)."

You need to book acts that enhance each other, progress the flow of the show, and compliment each other. They must jive well together.

[/quote]

Agreed. When I book variety performers for events I think about how the performers appear and act both on and off stage. Just this year I hired a performer that I didn't need specifically because I knew he would be a good fit with the rest of the cast and would create a "feel good" vibe offstage and work well with the other cast on stage. And I was right... he turned a negative of the event into a positive!
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 10, 2019 09:19AM)
Yeah, it is really an art and a science with so many factors involved. There are really many dynamics to consider beyond just their skills or performance. It is a great feeling when you can select talent that works best on several different levels, and yes one person can change or impact an entire production or event.

This is one of the benefits that being an agent/having agencies, or being a producer allows you to experience that many performers never will. We hear many things from clients that individual performers never do. They simply hear "no" or "sorry, we're not interested", whereas we actually hear why and their entire true feelings as to why. Most performers would be shocked to hear much of these conversations.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 10, 2019 10:13AM)
So here's another topic regarding these types of venues. Again.. it will vary depending on how the show is set up... rotating performers vs. a Cohen like show. But still... the big Marketing word.

Something that most of these shows have in common (C&K's show is an exception.. and that in itself would be an interesting topic) they promote the venue itself as a special experience. Magic Castle, House of Cards and Chicago Magic Lounge (and some others too I'm sure) are stand alone venues that create the vibe by how they were designed... and then Dennis Watkins / Steve Cohen both use the upscale hotels to create the experience. The point of what I am saying is it's not just "come see a magic show" the venue itself is often part of the appeal.

Now C&K's show isn't marketed as an upscale magic show... and that's not a bad thing. They have developed their own brand that is totally unique to them.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 10, 2019 10:15AM)
As a side note regarding marketing..... after I posted the above post where I typed "House of Cards" - I went to facebook and saw an ad for House of Cards. Facebook is watching.... always watching.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Sep 16, 2019 02:30PM)
I think we may be going back in time to Vaudeville days. With the Internet and electronics keeping people at home, they want to get out for an evening and be around people and enjoy a different kinds of entertainment. Anything that does not involve a screen.

We have five or six old movie theaters in our city. Three were Vaudeville theaters. So far 3 have been renovated, the latest is popular band groups of all mixes of music. Why not be ready for people wanting to get out of the house for an evening.

History does repeat it itself, and those that recognize it will profit.

Much of the cost of renovation can be covered if the theater is marked as an historical building. It is a lot of work, but so many cities old theaters are being opened up again, that it is possible to meet the demand.

It may be time to get a stage act together, and set the close-up magic aside.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 16, 2019 02:46PM)
Yea no. The screens are here to stay. You are looking with wishful eyes at best.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 16, 2019 07:40PM)
[quote]On Sep 16, 2019, Dannydoyle wrote:
Yea no. The screens are here to stay. You are looking with wishful eyes at best. [/quote]

Agreed that the screens are here to stay. However Bill is right that I've noticed quite a few old theaters being restored in the last few years as historic landmarks.
Some of these theaters show vintage movies.

Now how to make a vintage magic / variety show that is super marketable and sells out performances... that's the secret I want to know! ha.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 16, 2019 08:21PM)
Yes but not enough of them to make a tour.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 16, 2019 08:36PM)
Could be a short tour!? Haha.

I think the trickier part about touring small theaters like that is they typically rent out to non-traditional renters like churches so thatís every wednesay, Sunday and maybe Saturday night rented to them. Or they rent out to community groups that build a set for a play so the theatre is basically in use by them for a month at a time.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 16, 2019 09:06PM)
Yea the tour thing is tough because they are not looking to pay, they are looking to rent.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 16, 2019 09:19PM)
Yes exactly. And they Are more of a community center than a theatre in how they operate usually.

But still... A great venue for a magic show if you can make it happen. Old theaters have a really neat charm to them.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 16, 2019 10:54PM)
Yea. I have a sure fire formula to end up with a small fortune after doing a tour like that.

First start with a large fortune.

Yes most once they are restored make great venues. I have done many of them throughout the mid-west and boy they are just great. But often as you said they operate like a community center. They have a committee, budgets and usually a "theory" on how they run. They do a "summer series" and so forth. To build a show specifically for that might be tough.

Mind you there IS money in it and if you can get to the right conventions (Every year in New York in January.) and make the right connections it IS good work. I am not saying it can't be done. Not by any means. It just can't be done the way most think it should be done.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 17, 2019 09:59AM)
The types of theaters I'm thinking of probably don't even attend those conventions... if they have a season it's like an elvis impersonator and a bluegrass band. ha.

When you toured those theaters were you doing a 1 man show? Magic or more mentalism? And did you go through an agent or attend the conventions yourself? (feel free to ignore any questions you don't want to answer... )
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 17, 2019 10:12AM)
It was the hypnosis show. I book them on my own. It never was a tour of only those but rather I'd be doing comedy clubs, when they still existed, and did this in conjunction.

So I was in lots of small places like you're referring to.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 17, 2019 11:51AM)
While I disagree with some of the perceptions and understanding offered here, I will say there is a business model that allows for decent profitability in the types of venues thomasR is referring to.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 17, 2019 12:05PM)
[quote]On Sep 17, 2019, Mindpro wrote:
While I disagree with some of the perceptions and understanding offered here, I will say there is a business model that allows for decent profitability in the types of venues thomasR is referring to. [/quote]

Well..... Iím all ears!!!! Ha.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 17, 2019 01:10PM)
[quote]On Sep 17, 2019, Mindpro wrote:
While I disagree with some of the perceptions and understanding offered here, I will say there is a business model that allows for decent profitability in the types of venues thomasR is referring to. [/quote]

One way to be profitable was to do it as a hypnotist with NO overhead to speak of. This is a TREMENDOUS advantage when costs are kept very low. Being there anyhow with other work is another way it was profitable. Having the convention to go to in January to be able to a route that allows for these things was another advantage.

The key to this, and I hope Mindpro agrees is to educate yourself PRIOR to jumping into the market. There are nuances to this market that are way different from other markets, and even WITHIN this market there are differences in the way to approach every venue. Knowing this going in, and LEARNING as opposed to trying to impose your will on the market will be a great help to anyone trying to make a go of it.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 17, 2019 03:51PM)
Back to what Bill was talking about... do you think a "vaudeville style" magic and/or variety show would sell to those theaters? How easy was it to sell the hypnosis show to them?

And if not the vaudeville style... what style would most interest them?
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 17, 2019 05:28PM)
I think it is the quality of the show that sells. The problem with a "Vaudeville" style show is you are essentially speaking of a variety show. IF you want decent variety performers you are going to pay for them. Then you are going to pay to get them there, you are going to pay to house them and then a per diem. All this GUARANTEED prior to even doing a single show because you need a show to be able to sell in the first place. If you are an upstart show with little history performers are going to want guarantees and advances. (All this from a guy who produces variety shows mind you.)

Keep in mind you have yet to sell a ticket or for that matter market the show in any way OR paid for the venue. All of this is BEFORE you even CONSIDER if a show of any style will sell in that venue. If you want to tour a show like that then there is your task times however many shows you think you want to work out. While yes there are other ways to make the show profitable, BEFORE you get to ANY of that you have to be in possession of a show that is worthy of it. None of this takes into account costuming or what it costs to rehearse and write and mount the show.

What I'm saying is that it is not that the venues have little interest. It is that the task of putting a show that will sell tickets on the stage is monumental! It is so much more than the "style" of show. It is all that goes into getting it even close to being ready. It is very expensive to do that sort of thing.

As far as a "vaudeville style magic show" I have no idea what that really is. I mean most guys who did magic then did it in 12 minute segments. So obviously it needs to be WAY more than that. A good show will sell. But again to get a magic show to the point where it is ready is not easy.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 17, 2019 05:59PM)
Danny..... I know all too well..... ha. (Speaking of the costs and logistics to mount a variety show).

Lots to think about!
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 17, 2019 07:06PM)
Talking about having a good show and bringing this back to the Upscale Magic Theaters... how do you get a good show?
For example.. Steve Cohen... how did he get a show good enough to open Chamber Magic. Sure he was doing private parties and such.. but that's not a show like Chamber Magic. At some point he had to decide for himself that the show was ready.

Since your not Steve Cohen... how did you get your Hypnosis show good enough that you were confident that it was worth going to NYC and selling it to theaters?
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 17, 2019 09:16PM)
My personal story?

OK you asked for it!

When I learned the hypnosis show basics and mechanics I then did 2 shows. I invited a bunch of my "friends, friends". People I did not personally know. Now I know I can do it. OK I am STILL HORRIBLE at the timing, the routines, the flow and all the things that make a good show worth watching. All the things you NEVER SEE, but if they are not there you KNOW they are gone. What to do? It happened to coincide with the post prom season and quite frankly even a bad hypnotist can find work doing that. (No offense to anyone but those shows are playing tennis with the net down.)

The next thing I did was to work a deal with a resort company in the Caribbean. (Not the one I work with now.) It was not much money but it was 6 nights a week. Now mind you prior to doing this I had spent a LOT of time studying theater and performance. As I did the 6 months I taped every show. (Which was not as easy back then.) I not only did the show, but then I watched the show every night, twice. Once with video, once without video. Concentrate on the sound, then on the stage pictures. I take notes on each day. This was the first 6 months without fail. I am in Jamaica and this is what I am doing. So you end up doing better just by doing the show that many times. BUT when you study it then it is even better.

To this day I still watch every show I perform. Once a week I do it without video as well. After this I started working in comedy clubs. It was different in the early 90's. You could make a really great living touring comedy clubs. SO much of marketing back then was not much more than word of mouth. I met the right people at the Funny Bone and Improv. It was that simple. I lived in Chicago. So working South Bend, Green Bay and Davenport was EASY. When they got calls for parties for magicians, comedians or hypnotists it was me they called. I worked a LOT. So when you study your show AND work it a LOT then it isn't long before you get to the 10,000 hour rule that Malcom Gladwell proposed. Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years. I spent 10 years doing about 10 shows a week. PLUS watching the shows. Again not long before you become pretty proficient at something doing it that often. Not always in major clubs, sometimes in places like Alaska and rural towns.

The entire time I was working on bringing the shows to a more theatrical presentation as opposed to club style. I was pretty certain comedy clubs were going away fairly soon and didn't like the idea of having to travel 50 weeks a year. I worked with a director to help write the show.

Even now I work with a director and writer to help.

I have no idea what process Steve went through. I have no idea what process anyone goes through. This was indeed my process and it works great for me. This is the reason I tell people to be part time performers. It is a full time job plus to compete on a high level. That is for a ONE MAN SHOW! I can tell you how bad it is for a variety show, but just multiply it by 5 or so and you get the idea.

That is the short version, but suffice to say that it was a LOT of work. Accepting the idea that I have a lot to learn, and that is a constant state. Being willing to be away for extended periods of time was a huge part of it. Right place right time never hurts either.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 17, 2019 11:07PM)
Thanks Danny. That's great information and reminds me a lot of Mac King talking about him and Lance performing so much when they were younger and then how he performed at comedy clubs etc.

That's a huge pro-tip.. tape each performance. Watch it and listen to it. Be critical and listen for umm's and awkward moments. Yeah it will happen but notice it when it happens and polish it up..... That right there is SUCH important advice.
Same with watching the video. Oh did I turn my back to the audience there? Oh does that look strange when I do that? etc.


I can tell you... Putting together a variety show is easy... paying the bills is the hard part!!!! ha.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Sep 18, 2019 08:15AM)
Boy, stretching what I said. Yes, computers are here to stay, I never said they would go away. That is our communication with others, and connection to current entertainment.

As for traveling, that I see as coming later. Right now, just get the theaters in shape for live entertainment. Some great salesman/agent will at some point see the growth and make the old traveling entertainer again. Gee, we don't have a great rail system any longer. So transportation has to figured out. That will be on down the road.

When I say Vaudeville, I mean live entertainment, one man shows as well as variety of acts. That was Vaudeville, a number of acts all doing approximately 20 minutes each in a theater with real people sitting in those seats.

I was around at the birth of television, my parents met at the movie theater, before television. I have lived all the changes in entertainment. It never stops changing. The computer for total entertainment will step aside for something new at some point. People do not like total isolation they have to experience the world and people for themselves. So for the next 10 to 20 years, we may replay going to the theater with live entertainers.

That theater that is only two blocks away from me, I see huge groups of young adults standing outside waiting to get in to see their favorite live band group. The theater is not open every night, like a movie theater.

Take a look:

https://clydetheatre.com/

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/4519

We are just at the start, and those that recognize it, should get on the band wagon. Don't be a "Johnny come lately". Get involved.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 18, 2019 08:30AM)
Yea again wishful thinking at best. How do you get in on it when it takes SO MUCH to even be involved Bill? What are the economics of the business approach to get involved exactly? They are daunting!
Message: Posted by: WitchDocChris (Sep 18, 2019 09:45AM)
In interviews, articles, and "Evergreen" Steve Cohen talks about how he got to start Chamber Magic. IIRC before he took the dive to do the show, he was performing a lot of close up and parlor shows for a lot of people all over the world. There's a great interview with him on Magic News Wire if that's still up and running.

In Evergreen he talks about how for the first three years he was losing money on the show. Then a couple well timed TV appearances that he leveraged effectively turned it around and he started doing quite well.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 18, 2019 10:39AM)
Yeah I bought Evergreen... was a pretty quick read with not a lot of depth but still it was the first time he had written anything on the subject and can't blame the guy for not wanting to give away the formula. Still got my money's worth of course... some really good thoughts.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 18, 2019 10:42AM)
Bill... I went to the site... looks like Leon Etienne beat us to it... he's going to be do his magic show there in October.

That theatre is doing the concert thing... not really the ideal venue for an old time variety show. But there are theaters that would be a good match for such a show.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Sep 18, 2019 11:35AM)
Yes, they just announced the appearance on the local news, the act is billed as Magic Rocks, and is scheduled for October 10, 2019. They announced they were on the Penn and Teller show.

So if you are near Fort Wayne, Indiana then get your ticket. The airport is just 8 miles or so down Bluffton Road. So came take a look.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 18, 2019 12:11PM)
Heís been around for a while. I did lighting design on a cruise ship he had been on like 3 or 4 years ago. He was the higher paid summer act that had been replaced by a fly-on Magic act. The ships lighting tech. Had nothing but good things to say about him.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 19, 2019 01:29AM)
[quote]On Sep 17, 2019, Dannydoyle wrote:
The key to this, and I hope Mindpro agrees is to educate yourself PRIOR to jumping into the market. There are nuances to this market that are way different from other markets, and even WITHIN this market there are differences in the way to approach every venue. [/quote]

Now here you go, this is an area that I regularly see many not get. So many only see the surface appearance of a market, venue or deal, which is often not anywhere near the true reality of it. Sooooo many today turn only to Google and what they can find there. Then they take that information as gospel or complete. Then they attempt to approach that market thinking they have the proper insight and knowledge and it leads to all kinds of problems or roadblocks or even worse. So yes, I agree a much deeper education that most realize on a market is essential.

People must take the time and learn a market on its industry or operating level, not just as it seems to appear. I see this very much in many markets. I do a great deal in the school market and I can honestly say less than 5% of the people who attempt to work this market actually truly have the proper knowledge and understanding of the market. That means 95-97% THINK they do but really don't have a clue.

Same for the theater market. Especially the subset of the smaller type of community theaters thomasR is talking about. There are many nuances and intricacies that are unknown to most and only seen and known from within. But once you get to this deeper and proper level of understanding then you can see any true possibilities and potential of that market.

I have been very fortunate to identify and recognize this long ago and have created a business model specifically for these types of venues that has been quite successful. There are many mindsets and limitations within these types of venues that once known can allow you to play to these as strengths working for you rather than obstacles working against you.

Danny said they are likely looking to rent not to pay for acts. This is part of that understanding. Again, as often the answer, getting and having the right education is crucial or it likely won't work or you'll lose money.


thomasR said: "I think the trickier part about touring small theaters like that is they typically rent out to non-traditional renters like churches so thatís every Wednesday, Sunday and maybe Saturday night rented to them. Or they rent out to community groups that build a set for a play so the theatre is basically in use by them for a month at a time."

This is exactly the surface appearance of this market. I is how it appears, but what appears isn't always as it appears.

You also need to understand the dynamics and nuances of the historical building or renovation classification. This dictates greatly how they are allowed to operate.

Because of costs and overhead a variety or Vaudeville show would be tough in such venues as often they are only 80-150 seaters. As Danny said hypnosis shows or one-person shows are often your best bet of they can be a draw.

The magic show Bill had referred to specializes in performing in and touring small market venues. It is a small act that plays big which likely keeps the costs manageable. This is also a much larger venue than what thomasR is speaking of as I'm guessing it is likely between 1000-2000 capacity depending on arrangement.

Nice conversation on a great topic without derailment.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 19, 2019 01:24PM)
ďthomasr said: "I think the trickier part about touring small theaters like that is they typically rent out to non-traditional renters like churches so thatís every Wednesday, Sunday and maybe Saturday night rented to them. Or they rent out to community groups that build a set for a play so the theatre is basically in use by them for a month at a time."

This is exactly the surface appearance of this market. I is how it appears, but what appears isn't always as it appears.Ē

Well I didnít just make that up, itís the type of thing Iíve run into. Now if you can plan around the schedule, they are still good venues. But trying to plan a tour with good routing can be difficult.

Mindpro... have you published any work on that business model?
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Sep 19, 2019 01:55PM)
Fort Wayne, Indiana also has the Embassy Theater originally built in 1928 as a movie theater. The Jefferson Theater was built across the street from the Embassy, I believe it was older then the Embassy, but was torn down in the 1970's for large office buildings.

The Embassy was refurbished many years ago, and has been seen David Copperfield at least 3 times appearing there. It constantly has famous entertainers and road shows, and stage plays regularly.

There are already set business agencies that book many of these theaters and tours.

The Embassy is connected to an old time hotel, when many people lived in hotels. They have tried to refurbished it several times, but it has always been put off. The main problem as I hear it, is that hotel only has one bathroom per floor. It is a shared bathroom as they were back in the old days. They cannot tear down the hotel, because believe me they have tore them old hotels all down, because of the way it structurally supports the Embassy Theater. It only seats about 1200 seats with balcony. It has a beautiful gold decor inside.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 19, 2019 02:28PM)
[quote]On Sep 19, 2019, thomasR wrote:
Well I didnít just make that up, itís the type of thing Iíve run into. Now if you can plan around the schedule, they are still good venues. But trying to plan a tour with good routing can be difficult.

Mindpro... have you published any work on that business model? [/quote]

Well, of course, you didn't, but what I'm saying is they are not all as they appear. Many small theaters turn to, as you said, local theater groups, churches, and other sources of revenue, some by choice others by requirement. However, they are not all the same. While you could take 15 of these theaters and they may all have a local theater/drama group in there, upon looking closer and having a better (or deeper) understanding of the reasons they are there and their specific deals with the venue, you will begin to see some great differences and understandings. The real understanding is often different than the perception (surface view). Once understood you can then utilize this greatly to your advantage (much of what my model is based upon) and even more so it can create the proper picture and true opportunities that may exist and be available to you, or definitely identify if opportunities to a producer, promoter, or performers are really available at all.

The other problem with many of these is the management or operational structure. This too plays hugely into the overall picture and greater understanding. Many have very minimal if any experience, some times it is outsourced, others even different still.

It all plays into what is truly possible in these venues, and even when talking personally with these operators, what they say and will tell you may not truly be the actuality of reality. For example, in some of these the renting theater group often is offered to handle operations. When contacting them they will tell you they are the main residency and that they have a production with sets and lighting already set for rehearsals and their performance dates, so outside acts can not be brought in during these times. More times than not that is not truly the case. It is what they'd like to believe, it is what they would prefer, this is what they want you to believe, but not true when understanding their management deal in reality. They will tell you this because they don't want to have to share the theater, or strike their sets for other productions and so forth. They will sternly tell you this, but that isn't the truth in reality at all. This tends to pit them against other outside possibilities as they get a rather possessive and proprietary nature towards the venue. My model deals with this in specific ways again beyond this surface perception, acceptance, or appearance.

There is actually much more to it all, but this should give you the jest or a glimpse of what I meant by of some of the greater picture.

No, I really haven't published anything on this area of the industry as it is a small niche. It is a greatly misunderstood area, but not enough for the time and effort it would require vs. the potential return (much for the same reason my 2/4 release was shelved for the time being). I do get into it a bit at my live training events and of course with coaching and consulting clients. I have actually consulted with about 15 of these types of venues/theaters in just this exact issue. While I don't speak of it much here, I also coach, consult, and train entertainment venues, agencies, and promoters (not just entertainers) on the business, management, and operations side of live entertainment and how to properly and successfully operate and utilize live entertainment in their venues and business.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 19, 2019 02:44PM)
Yes it seemed as if you were implying that with the right business model woo indeed would be worth the effort.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 19, 2019 02:46PM)
Bill, Copperfield sold his own tickets. Oh and he has the advantage of selling tickets his show with his name and budget. It is apples and hand grenades.

It in no way answers if someone who is a non big name performer can get it done in scale. Sorry
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Sep 19, 2019 02:57PM)
My post was just that the theater is thriving and have constant attractions all year long. It is working for that theater, who has a whole team that make it work. it has been running now for 30 years or more. And yes, they do let local talent that want to rent the place have a shot, or did, now I am sure it is all about huge profits. Jay Leno was there and other night time hosts, as well.

I do remember a few years ago a children's magician was on the list of performers around Christmas time, and his show was cancelled. The guy even had a promo commercial that ran on local television, but I guess that did not help ticket sales.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 19, 2019 03:25PM)
Thanks for the info and thoughts mindpro. Yes I see what you mean.

And like you said they donít all work that way... if you go to the trouble to see which ones work good and which ones donít.... it can pay off!
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 19, 2019 05:58PM)
And even more importantly once you know they work that way you can then still work that to your advantage
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 19, 2019 10:17PM)
[quote]On Sep 19, 2019, Bill Hegbli wrote:
My post was just that the theater is thriving and have constant attractions all year long. It is working for that theater, who has a whole team that make it work. it has been running now for 30 years or more. And yes, they do let local talent that want to rent the place have a shot, or did, now I am sure it is all about huge profits. Jay Leno was there and other night time hosts, as well.

I do remember a few years ago a children's magician was on the list of performers around Christmas time, and his show was cancelled. The guy even had a promo commercial that ran on local television, but I guess that did not help ticket sales. [/quote]

You just proved my point.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Sep 19, 2019 10:34PM)
Well, the last time Copperfield was here, he did not fill the theater, and has not been back. I think it is his fault, as he does not do any promo or even says this is a new show.

Danny we will see what the next 10 years brings. I probably will not be around, but I have written it here.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Sep 19, 2019 11:21PM)
Copperfield doesn't currently tour.. that's his and Chris Kenner's choice. Chris Kenner talks about that decision in the podcast trio that he and Homer and Copperfield did. The decision was about family life.

But shows on Copperfield's level are totally different. Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Criss Angel, and David Blaine are legit celebrities. Anyone else needs to be selling something other than their name.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 20, 2019 12:43AM)
Exactly the point I'm making thank you.

But Bill you held that up as some sort of an example of these things on the upswing, and somehow arguably the most recognizable magician of our era, certainly the richest, DID NOT SELL THE THEATER OUT. Are you trying to make my point for me?
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Sep 20, 2019 08:03AM)
Not really, that was just before the computer revolution, and the heavy smart phone. I was establishing that there are theaters that can handle being a center to give them live entertainment.

A famous magician said that the time between Christmas and New Years was the best time put on a show, and you will fill the house. In the above example of the kids show entertainer, that was not the case, but that was also the time of the last depression the government put us in, and all the products went to Mexico and China, and Taiwan. We are now in a booming economy, and that is when growth happens.

If you follow history, every growth only last ten years. Then drastic change happens. Those rich elite people control the world very well. So if you want to get on the "band wagon" then you have to recognize it.

With the Clyde Theater, a man bought the building and kept trying to get money to refurbish it, I think it was about 20 years, he held onto it. Then the music company got involved and it has taken off. And it competes with the down town Convention Center and the Memorial Coliseum.

And yes, the computer will die as the smart house will become living inside a computer. I think the old movie Fahrenheit 451 gave an example of the way technology is going.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 20, 2019 10:30AM)
Oh my lord are you out of touch. The computer will evolve into other things MAKING YOUR POINT INVALID. The band wagon will not send us back in time and suddenly cause this to happen. It is easy to make ridiculous projections about the fat future and say "just wait and see". How silly. Those with real indignation have proof. Facts and evidence and such is usually preferable.

There have been dozens of ups and downs in entertainment since the depression.