We asked Richard Robertson of TheatreGrams.com to introduce us to the ins and outs of this new project for theatre fans.
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TheatreGrams

As an account executive in a theatrical advertising agency, I have often heard producers lament that no one was coming to their websites. Other than print their web address in a few ads, they weren't really doing much to promote their shows' sites. It was a sad realization for each of them that the entire world hadn't been sitting at their computers, mouse at the ready, just waiting to visit their sites as soon as they launched. As the ad agency, were we supposed to drive people into the theatres or drive traffic to their websites?

Eventually, I came to realize they have it backwards. If people weren't coming to the websites, maybe we needed to take the websites to the people. With the growing popularity of html email, this was quickly becoming a possibility. And with streaming media, the possibilities were greater than ever.

So in March 2000, Carl Lee and I started TheatreGrams.com. Our motto is "We Bring the Show to You!" TheatreGrams are rich media previews of Broadway and off-Broadway shows sent by email. TheatreGrams let you watch previews of shows before deciding whether or not to buy tickets. If you have html email, you can watch the preview right in the body of the email message. If you have text only email (including AOL), there's a link that takes you to where the preview is posted on the web.

The previews are similar to movie trailers, only they're created in Flash, using a combination of still photographs and music, usually with a voice-over. We decided not to use real video because, in this day and age, it's too limited; it has to be relatively short, shown in a tiny window, and it's extremely unreliable. After getting one "net congestion" message too many, we swore it off completely.

There are 4 things we want you to know about TheatreGrams.

  1. To receive TheatreGrams, you just go to the website (www.TheatreGrams.com) and register your email address. That's it. It's free, and you'll never need to go back to the website again.
  2. Each TheatreGram email comes with a discount offer and a special discount code. You still buy tickets through Telecharge or Ticketmaster, or you can print out the discount info and buy directly at the box office (saving on all those service charges). The discounts generally range from 25-50% off full ticket prices.
  3. Part of the proceeds from tickets sold through TheatreGrams is donated to nonprofit organizations. Each show has a designated beneficiary, sometimes tied in with the theme of the show. For Waiting in the Wings, which is set in a retirement home for actors, we donated part of the profits to The Actors Fund, who actually fund a retirement home for actors in New Jersey. For The Laramie Project part of the proceeds is being donated to The Matthew Shepard Foundation, established by Shepard's' family.
  4. Most TheatreGrams come with the opportunity to win something, such as CDs or theatre tickets. To enter the contest, you're instructed to look for a clue hidden within the video preview, and then send the answer in an email. Winners are chosen randomly. Our next TheatreGram email will have a list of recent prize winners, including the winners of a year's worth of free Broadway tickets, a pair of opera glasses, and several CDs. We have several drawings throughout the year for a year's worth of free Broadway tickets (the winner gets one pair of tickets each month for a year —to the shows they choose!). All current subscribers are automatically entered for these drawings.


So that's TheatreGrams in a nutshell. We hope you'll stop by TheatreGrams.com, register and give us a try. Maybe one of our previews will tempt you to try a show you wouldn't normally have given a second thought. And you just might win something along the way!


-- Richard Robertson

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