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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Upscale Magic Theaters - How are they doing? (5 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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thomasR
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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.
Mindpro
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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.
thomasR
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I’m sure I would be surprised! I’m kinda surprised how many have popped up lately.
Mindpro
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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.
Alan M
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Since Magicopolis was mentioned, I’ll 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/view......orum=218

-Alan
thomasR
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"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.
Dannydoyle
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I'm fairly certain he is doing fine now.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Christian & Katalina
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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.
Milbourne Christopher Award for Mentalism 2011
The Annemann Award for Menatalism 2016
Author of "Protoplasm" Close-up Mentalism
thomasR
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Wow. So much great info. Thanks for adding to the list.... I’m familiar with some of those listed but had forgotten about them. You’re right it’s tricky because each one has its own branding and goals.
Mindpro
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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.
thomasR
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"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.
Dannydoyle
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Budget determines quality. Often after a big splash, quality simply drops.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Mindpro
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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.


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.
thomasR
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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.... that’s got to be tricky.
Dannydoyle
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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".
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
thomasR
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Yes Danny!!! So many good points.

Especially....

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

- you can overuse good talent.
Mindpro
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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.... that’s got to be tricky.


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 Café, 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.
thomasR
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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.



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!
Mindpro
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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.
thomasR
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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.
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