Free Night of Theater Archive

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Free Night of Theatre 2011


In 2011 Free Night of Theater over 400 participating organizations offered more than 55,000 tickets to over 1,800 performances in 19 states. The total value of tickets offer is estimated at 1.75 million dollars.



Over the past seven years the Free Night of Theater program has introduced almost 300,000 new theatergoers to the thrill of live performance. The patron demographics continue to show that Free Night tickets holders are young, ethnically diverse and going to theatres they have never been to before.
You can read the full 2011 Free Night of Theater report here.



Free Night of Theatre 2010


In 2010 Free Night of Theater over 600 theatres offered more than 55,000 tickets to over 1,800 performances in 21 states.

Free Night of Theater 2010 Audience Demographics



  • Age: 67% 18 to 44 years old
  • Gender: 32 % Male/ 68% Female
  • Education: 43% College Graduate/ 28% Graduate or Professional Degree
  • Ethnicity: 52% White, not Hispanic/ 48% People of Color
  • Income: 57% less than $75,000


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Free Night of Theatre 2009


Free Night of Theater celebrated its 5th anniversary in over 120 cities from coast to coast on Thursday, October 15. This year 714 theatres offered over 65,000 tickets to more than 2,000 performances. TCG continued to work closely with APASO organizations along with city and state arts councils to produce Free Night.


Over the past five years the Free Night of Theater program has, under the leadership of Phillip Matthews, introduced almost 200,000 new theatergoers to the thrill of live performance.


Free Night of Theater 2009 Audience Demographics



  • Age: 59% 18 to 44 years old
  • Gender: 31 % Male/ 69% Female
  • Education: 42% College Graduate/ 27% Graduate or Professional Degree
  • Ethnicity: 65% White, not Hispanic/ 35% People of Color
  • Income: 55% less than $75,000


Free Night 2009 participants included Ashland, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Bangor, Charleston, Chicago (metro-area), Cincinnati, Cleveland, the state of Connecticut, Dallas, Eugene, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Lexington, Los Angeles, the state of New Jersey, Northwest Indiana, Orange County, Portland (metro-area), Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco (Bay Area and Sacramento), Seattle/Greater Puget Sound, South Florida, St. Louis, Twin Cities, Washington, DC, White River Junction, and the state of Wisconsin.


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Free Night of Theatre 2008


In 2008, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, St. Louis and several smaller communities across the country, joined the 2008 program making it a truly national initiative.


Free Night 2008 participants included Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Bangor (ME), Charleston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, the state of Connecticut, Dallas, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Lexington (KY), Los Angeles, the state of New Jersey, the state of North Carolina, New York (NYC and statewide), Oregon ( Ashland, Eugene and Portland), Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle/Greater Puget Sound, South Florida, St. Louis, Utah, Washington D.C. and the state of Wisconsin.


TCG continued to work closely with APASO organizations along with city and state arts councils to produce Free Night. 2008 also introduced a city council as the first govenment organization to manage the local program. Free Night 2008 was presented by 650 theatres in more than 120 cities from coast to coast and offered more than 65,000 free tickets to 1,700 performances.


Ticket Reservations


650 participating theatre companies offered more than 65,000 tickets to 1,700 performances.


Shugoll Research Highlights



  • Of those trying a new theatre during Free Night 2008, 33% returned to that theatre and purchased tickets, including 2% who purchased a subscription, showing the benefit of the program to the participating theatres
  • Of the 33% who returned and purchased a ticket, 39% bought a full price ticket
  • 77% of those attending Free Night have gone to a theatre since the program, including 33% of those who only attend the theatre infrequently (two or fewer times or less). Further, 34% say they go to the theater more now than before the program and 86% of them attribute additional attendance to the Free Night program
  • According to the online survey of the 2008 Free Night patrons, required when they made their ticket reservation, the program continues to attract a significant number of people who fall into non-traditional theatre participant categories, including infrequent theatregoers, young people, less educated, non-white and those with lower household incomes. Specifically, 24% of those at Free Night attended the theatre two or fewer times in the last year, 33% are under age 35, 21% have less than a college degree, 26% are non-white, and 36% have incomes under $50,000.


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Free Night of Theatre 2007


In 2007, the program expanded through a process of targeted growth to include new regions, cities and theatres; participation was not available to open enrollment. TCG's focus was to selectively introduce Free Night into regions of the country that were previously not represented in the program; specifically communities in the Midwest, mountain states and the Southeast.


Free Night 2007 participants included Atlanta, Austin, Boise, Cincinnati, Cleveland, the state of Connecticut, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Lexington (KY), Los Angeles, the state of New Jersey, the state of North Carolina, Oregon (in Ashland and Eugene), Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle/Greater Puget Sound, South Carolina/Charleston, several states represented by Southeastern Theatre Conference, Utah, Washington D.C. and the state of Wisconsin.


In 2007, TCG continued to work closely with APASO organizations to produce Free Night and also introduced arts councils as management partners. Free Night 2007 offered more than 30,000 free tickets to over 600 performances presented by 398 participating theatre companies from coast to coast.


Ticket Reservations



  • 398 participating theatre companies presented more than 600 performances offering more than 30,000 tickets


Shugoll Research Highlights



  • Of those trying a new theatre during Free Night 2007, 41% returned to that theatre and purchased tickets, including 4% who purchased a subscription, showing the benefit of the program to the participating theatres
  • Of the 41% who returned and purchased a ticket, 52% bought a full price ticket
  • Eighty percent of those attending Free Night have gone to a theatre since the program, including 38% of those who only attend the theatre infrequently (two or fewer times or less). Further, 33% say they go to the theater more now than before the program and 85% of them attribute additional attendance to the Free Night program


According to the online survey of the 2007 Free Night patrons, required when they made their ticket reservation, the program attracted a significant number of people who fall into non-traditional theatre participant categories, including infrequent theatregoers, young people, less educated, non-white and those with lower household incomes. Specifically, 25% of those at Free Night attended the theatre two or fewer times in the last year, 28% are under age 35, 21% have less than a college degree, 28% are non-white, and 35% have incomes under $50,000.


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Free Night of Theatre 2006


Building on the success of the pilot program, Free Night expanded to include the pilot partners plus thirteen additional communities: the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Lexington, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, DC; and the states of Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Launched nationally on October 19, the 2006 campaign offered 35,627 free tickets to 522 performances presented by 387 participating theatre companies from coast to coast.


In order to provide assistance to our partners that did not have the funds or staff to manage ticketing internally, TCG created a national interactive website, www.freenightoftheater.net, which allowed visitors to learn about events in their areas and reserve tickets online. Nine of the larger Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations (APASO) groups chose to use existing websites to handle ticket reservations, while the seven organizations in Austin, Connecticut, DC, New Jersey, North Carolina, Philadelphia and Wisconsin utilized the national website.

National Website Overview


The national website was initially created to provide basic information about the Free Night of Theater program and allow visitors to browse listings of participating theatres in the various regions. Since some regions did not have a "ticketing partner" in place, TCG began developing a simple reservation utility that theatres could use for the 2006 Free Night program. As the utility developed, it became apparent that a centralized ticketing system would be indispensable as the program expands in 2007 to areas of the country that do not have a strong regional partner/organization in place.


The national site experienced an unprecedented run on tickets, receiving 450,000 hits on the first day, with 2,800 tickets reserved in the first 5 minutes. Philadelphia, Washington DC and Connecticut distributed their entire initial ticket allotments within 15 minutes. A total of 10,000 tickets were reserved through the national website with almost every region and performance "sold out."


Ticket Reservations



  • 387 participating theatre companies presented 522 performances offering 35,627 tickets (actual attendance figures are not yet available)
  • 27,517 tickets offered in first round
  • Tickets in several regions were completely gone within hours (DC, CT, Philadelphia)
  • 8,110 additional tickets were added to the initial program allotment


Shugoll Research Highlights



  • Of those trying a new theatre during Free Night 2006, 32% returned to that theatre and purchased tickets, including 3% who purchased a subscription, showing the benefit of the program to the participating theatres
  • Of the 32% who returned and purchased a ticket, 49% bought a full price ticket
  • Eighty-one percent of those attending Free Night have gone to a theatre since the program, including 38% of those who only attend the theatre infrequently (two or fewer times or less). Further, 33% say they go to the theater more now than before the program and 86% of them attribute additional attendance to the Free Night program
  • The program attracted a significant number of people who fall into non-traditional theatre participant categories, including infrequent theatregoers, young people, less educated, non-white and those with lower household incomes. Specifically, 24% of those at Free Night attended the theatre two or fewer times in the last year, 31% are under age 35, 18% have less than a college degree, 26% are non-white, and 33% have incomes under $50,000.


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Free Night of Theatre 2005


Free Night of Theater - The Plan


At the 2003 TCG National Conference held in Milwaukee, a conversation began to discuss how the national theater community might better work together - not one theater at a time, but as an entire theater community - to reach new audiences. The goal was to put aside the inevitable competitions and work together to overcome the perceived barriers of price and time that discourage many potential patrons from attending the theater.


A call for partners to participate in a pilot program was issued to local and regional service organizations across the country. TCG planned to target three cities that represented geographic diversity, offered a wide variety of theaters and clearly reflected a high standard of theatrical quality. It was also extremely important that the cities chosen have strong local service organizations, with a proven infrastructure and a dedication to local community building and cooperation. After reviewing more than 30 potential partner cities, TCG officially announced the participation of Austin Circle of Theaters, (Austin, TX), Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA) and Theatre Bay Area (San Francisco, CA).


The concept of this new audience development pilot program was simple. On Thursday, October 20, 2005, theaters in our local markets would offer an extraordinary opportunity. Anyone could visit a participating theater they had never attended before FOR FREE. The program would provide non-theatergoers the opportunity to attend any of the participating theaters, while at the same time, enable theaters to embrace not only true "first timers," but encourage existing audiences to broaden their theater experience. That was the genesis of the audience development campaign.


Free Night of Theater - I'm Free, Are You? - The 2005 Campaign


In the spring of 2005, TCG began work with the Austin-based advertising agency SWG&M Advertising, an award-winning multicultural agency, known recently for its "Art. Ask for More" campaign. Working closely with our partners in Austin, Philadelphia and San Francisco, the public awareness and advertising campaign was created and successfully launched in July 2005.


Free Night of Theater, October 20, 2005 - The Event


On Thursday, October 20, 2005, over 150 theater companies -- large and small -- in Austin, Philadelphia and San Francisco joined together to present Free Night of Theater "I'm Free, Are You?" Reports from all three cities revealed that nearly 8,000 theatergoers attended over 120 performances on October 20. Also, as an unexpected result of the early success of the program, an additional 30 theater companies added post-October 20 performances to the Free Night of Theater event creating additional buzz that ultimately increased the image of the event as a hot ticket.


Ticket Reservations



  • In Austin, 25 theater companies offered over 1,000 tickets to performances that were scheduled on October 20 and continued beyond that day.
  • In Philadelphia, theaters reported that close to 2,000 patrons attended 15 performances on Free Night of Theater, with an additional 18 theater companies planning to participate over the following weeks.
  • San Francisco's 93 participating theater companies offered 112 performances and reported over 5,000 attendees of which 81% had never been to the theater where the show was performed.


Shugoll Research Highlights



  • Of those trying a new theatre on Free Night 2005, 29% returned to that theatre and purchased tickets, including 3% who purchased a subscription, showing the benefit of the program to the participating theatres
  • Eighty-five percent of those attending Free Night have gone to a theatre since the program, including 50% of those who only attend the theatre infrequently. Further, 35% say they go to the theater more now than before the program and 81% of them attribute additional attendance to the Free Night program
  • The program attracted a significant number of people who fall into non-traditional theatre participant categories, specifically, 27% of those at Free Night attended the theatre two or fewer times in the last year, 26% are under age 35, 19% have less than a college degree, 44% are non-white, and 28% have incomes under $50,000.


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