“We started TheaterMania because it was needed at that time,” says Darren Sussman, the Co-Founder and President of TheaterMania.com, during our interview. “We didn’t feel like there was a centralized place where people could go to get the things that we currently offer, and the inspiration really came about from trying to market other theater productions at that time.” It was the early days of the Internet, and Sussman, along with Co-Founder Joe Corcoran, began marketing several theater productions online, including; Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Corcoran’s long running show Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. And while they found some websites for shows and some brokers selling tickets, there wasn’t a website or community where they could easily market the shows they were promoting. There was no website for consumers to find comprehensive information, listings, engaging content, and special offers to all the shows in New York and in regional theaters around the country. In other words, there was no TheaterMania.
“There were some theater websites out there,” he says, “but there wasn’t necessarily a portal. So a light bulb went off in our heads, and we saw an opportunity and a need there.” And out of that need, TheaterMania.com was born. And while Joe Corcoran, a theater producer in his own right, eventually migrated back to producing theater, Sussman stayed on board as president of the organization.
Gretchen Shugart, then President of the investment bank advisory firm eMediaCapital, served as TheaterMania’s Investment Banker and officially joined the company in 2001 as CEO. “It was a very good move at the right time,” Sussman comments. “Gretchen is a highly effective CEO. Our company culture is positive, the business model is sound, our consumers and clients are happy, and we continue to grow. I am very grateful for all Gretchen has done and continues to do for the company.”
Growth as an Experience
Because the individuals running TheaterMania.com are not brokers or theater producers, but objective partners to the consumers and the arts organizations alike, their mission has been to service both groups equally. And by fulfilling on their commitment to grow the business of theater companies and arts organizations, they’ve subsequently increased their own business as well because the more venues and arts organizations they partner with, the more access they have to what’s going on in the market place that they can then dispense to the consumers. And it’s this access that allows the TheaterMania staff to write reviews on a plethora of productions, produce video content, provide the latest news, serve the most comprehensive listings, and get the best pricing on tickets.
“Often times when you buy from other sites, you never really know who the ticketing companies are,” he says. “And you may wind up having paid too much, or not getting the seat you wanted once it’s all said and done. So people have come to trust us over the years, and they know that when they buy from us, we’re sending them in the right direction with the right information to get the best ticket at the best price.”
Another reason why arts organizations everywhere might applaud TheaterMania.com with a thunderous roar is due to their web-based software OvationTix, a service TheaterMania.com offers to any arts organization, theater company or ticketed event. “It’s a flexible and affordable multi-use software that offers ticketing, CRM, fundraising, subscriber & patron management. The key is that it’s one database so that clients can do everything from one place and therefore manage their business more efficiently and effectively,” Sussman comments. “It’s web-based, and we have hundreds of clients across the country using it, a lot of them in Los Angeles.”
Still, They Rise
When you look at TheaterMania’s growth, it may seem like their success was a straight shot to the top, absent of any breakdowns or obstacles. But their journey was anything but, with their surge in popularity taking time and creativity in response to limited funds early on for advertising and marketing. The first and most obvious strategy they employed to attract an audience was putting together the most accurate, useful and comprehensive website possible. Then they went the route of guerilla marketing, search engine promotions, PR, and word-of-mouth promotion that came with every happy customer.
“It’s a chicken and egg scenario because you have to grow your audience and you have to grow your revenue, and those things cost money,” he says. “So we had to balance growing our staff and our audience with delivering on the products and services we were selling, and eventually, the revenue came.” Indeed the money did come and TheaterMania.com remains a profitable and growing business. And this comes as no surprise when you realize how much of a stand the TheaterMania.com team takes for their consumers and their clients.
While the TheaterMania.com team may be experiencing obstacles, they certainly haven’t been stopped. In fact, they’re already hard at work expanding their company over seas, having recently purchased WhatsOnStage.com, the United Kingdom’s version of TheaterMania.com. “We are fortunate in that WhatsOnStage is already a well known and respected brand. Our plan is to grow and further develop that business. We’ll listen to the market and the consumers because that is what has served us so far.”
And in expanding their reach to an international market, TheaterMania is also optimistic about expanding their reach to include individuals who might not necessarily be fans of live theater. “We want to reach people who may not necessarily know they can see a great show in Los Angeles for less than the price of a movie, or people who may not realize that making it to a Broadway show with their family from the suburbs may not be as difficult or expensive as they think. There really is a lot of great theater across the country that many people have yet to discover.”
So it’s true, TheaterMania.com is the leading, all-encompassing destination for consumers of theater as well as for theater companies and arts organizations around the world. And they continue to make good on their commitment to bringing the most entertaining content, accurate information, and best deals and discounts on theater tickets to their subscribers, while also servicing arts organizations around the world with their premier, web-based software OvationTix. And while to civilians this may seem like a big gorilla to domesticate, the TheaterMania team takes it on daily with alacrity.
For more information, please visit TheaterMania.com.