Getting adults to come to your show.

Post topics about the business side of magic.

Postby Guest » 03/05/04 06:49 PM

Throwing out a new topic to those who have produced their own shows (or someone else's)in theaters . How can you position a magic show so that it appeals to adults, not just to parents wanted to find a babysitting alternative.

Observations. Penn & Teller don't even try. Ricky Jay strictly enforced a no kids rule, however he played small theaters in major urban areas. Are there any advantages to this (practical not theoretical) and is it feasable to even try?

Lets get those creative juices flowing!

Postby Jeff Eline » 03/05/04 07:03 PM

I think that's a great question. Unfortunately, I think you have to explicitly state that the show is for adults and not rely on insinuation to get that message across. "Magic Show" in America means kid's show.

I wonder how the guys at the WEDNESDAY WIZARDRY in Gaithersburg Maryland are doing? They've tried to position their show as an adult program. However, I don't know how successful it's been.
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Postby Guest » 03/05/04 08:52 PM

You should come to our show and see! :D

Postby Jeff Eline » 03/06/04 08:11 AM

Hey... who are you?! :D

To be honest, I've tried twice now. First time I got so damned lost I didn't arrive at the barn until 8:20pm. The lady at the desk insisted on full price and the people I was with didn't want to pay.

I was also planning on attending this past Wednesday, but I was rushed to the hospital with chest pains.

Back to your question, because I think it's a VERY important point that isn't discussed much - how are you guys doing? I take it from the post that you've having some difficulty in filling the house? I would think it extraordinarily difficult to sustain a weekly show - especially on a Wednesday.

Is there anyone else out there doing weekly/biweekly/monthly shows in a theater that consistently draws an adult crowd? I think David Groves does one in the LA area?
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Postby Guest » 03/06/04 10:35 AM

Just updated my profile. Now there's a picture and everything!

The truth is sometimes we have full houses and sometimes we have less than half full houses and we aren't sure what is causing either one. We were able to make lots of live appearances at city events (and on local TV) during the first run of the show. That was not possible during the winter, but now that the weather is getting nicer we'll be doing that again. Aside from that, we have ads in all the local papers, support from the city that owns the theater, and weekly e-mailings to our local followings and anyone who signs up. Nice website now too,

We thought the weekday thing would work both for and against us. For us by discouraging folks from bringing kids but against us in that it is tough to get people to go out during the week.

So, any thoughts from anyone else? After some other people get involved, I'll toss out my latest ideas to see what people think.


Postby Guest » 03/06/04 10:36 AM

Meant to add a PS to wish you well. Hope the pains weren't anything serious.

Postby Guest » 03/06/04 10:40 AM

What a dope I am. Must be the Nyquil, have a nasty cold. Website is In addition to David Groves, who I hope will get involved in this discussion, there is Monday Night Magic in NYC and the Magic Lounge in Boston. David's thing and the Magic Lounge are in places that serve alcohol, so that cuts out the kids right there I would think.


Postby Bob Farmer » 03/06/04 12:20 PM

To they don't send the kiddies, make sure the show's title has one of the following phrases under it:

Things You Didn't Know Were Legal In This State

Satanic Rituals On Stage

They Eat Razor Blades

Leave the kids at home (unless you never want to see them again)

Madonna blushed.
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Postby Steve Cohen » 03/06/04 08:54 PM

Hi, Mark. One way to reduce the number of children in the audience is to charge a higher ticket price. Parents won't think that your show is a babysitting alternative when the ticket price is significantly more expensive.

Also, I've found that enforcing a dress code helps to suggest that the show is intended for an adult audience. At my show Chamber Magic in New York, we request that all guests wear cocktail attire, or at least dressy casual clothes. Very few children come to the show, but when they do, they are accompanied by one or both parents. They are usually well-dressed, and also extremely well behaved.

Hope this helps.
Best regards,
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Postby Brian Marks » 03/06/04 11:41 PM

I like Bob's Idea. I am against calling it a "magic show" Give the show an interesting title. Keep in mind Chamber Magic is taken.

Steve is able to keep adults out of it for the reasons he mentioned plus its location. I think the Waldorf Astoria has a few rules about unattended kids. Thinair, you should put up your show up at the Plaza hotel
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Postby Nicholas Carifo » 03/07/04 08:12 PM

I echo the suggestions that the dress code and higher cover price would keep things to a more mature crowd... in age anyway.

But, curiously, why do you want to keep out children completely? You are purposely keeping out a contigent of very interested paying audience members that can be the difference between a profit and a loss.

If you don't want a show to be considered a "kidshow", then don't present a kidshow. David Copperfield is not a "kidshow" and he sells out world wide, with PLENTY of kids in those audiences. So does Lance Burton and Mac King. The list goes on and on.

For some reason, we magicians collectively struggle with so much unnecessary anxiety stemming from the outside world not taking the art of magic as seriously as we do. We get lumped together with clowns, jugglers, ventriloquists, and balloon twisters - not that there's anything wrong with that:) We seem to collectively scream "respect us dammit!".

Remember as Bob McCallister used to say..."Kid's are people too".

That said, raise the cover, serve alcohol, and insitute a dress code and that should keep the kiddies at home. If all else fails, add some strippers as the opening act, hehe... that'll do it. :)

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Postby Brian Marks » 03/07/04 08:16 PM

would it be out of line if I said I liked the stripper idea? The strippers are good misdirection during the act.
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Postby Nicholas Carifo » 03/07/04 08:25 PM

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Postby Guest » 03/08/04 10:31 PM

It is quite a chore coming up with publicity and ads in this PC society where the word "adult" with the word "entertainment" does not mean sexy, dirty, or other similar connotation.

It is also difficult to change the public's concept of the word magic. Think of magic -- and your hobbyist children's performer usually comes to mind. With the $$$ recent worth to the adult working public, top professional children's performers either have to work only for the wealthy or take too many bookings to make a decent living --and let their "show" suffer. Often the part timers use only overdone purchased magic and perform because they need extra income in the minds of the public. This leaves "magic" on the par with face painting, clowns, and only slightly better than street mimies and jugglers.

Extreme Christian groups place other words (even Harry Potter's "wizardry" ) in league with the devil, and try to reserve the word "miracles" for themselves.

Conjuring seems to bring up the Scottish Play's three witches, but "sorcerer" (and the sexist sorceres) might work -- but is not a widely familiar word.

My latest thrust for my non-family shows is the indicate the work is a very thought provoking theatrical experience not recommended for children under 16 years of age.

I also clearly indicate that at my family shows children should be accompanied by an adult as we are going to cut off a local celebrity's head, not something you want the kids trying at home.

After all, what, after we get through the goat sacrifice, is so differant about magic for adults?

Postby Nicholas Carifo » 03/19/04 02:02 PM

Jeff and Mark mentioned David Grove's "Magic in the Burb's" earlier in this thread. I just attended last nights show at the new venue. He moved it from a San Dimas Coffeehouse to The Santa Anita Inn, near the race track, in Arcadia, CA, which is also closer to Pasadena and Los Angeles.

Although this was only the 4th show at this new venue, I have noticed that the change in venue alone resulted in a more adult audience over the past couple dates. The coffeehouse had advantages also, with a bigger flow of traffic to buy show tickets, many of which were kids and kids groups. However, the change in venue, that brought it to a much more "upscale" room at a hotel/inn seems to, in and of itself, be attracting adults and less kids.

"Magic in the Burb's" has been garnering some good local press lately, so it will be interesting to see if the publicity of a "magic night" attracts more adults or kids.

Hopefully David will see this thread and join in.
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Postby Guest » 03/19/04 02:37 PM

Just saw this thread. Unfortunately, I have very little time today (rushing to a restaurant gig) and will be leaving on a weeklong cruise tomorrow, so this will have to be brief.

I second many of the things that people have said here about raising the ticket price (so parents will find it prohibitive), serving alcohol (creating an adult atmosphere), and holding it in an upscale venue (somewhere that kids won't be comfortable in).

However, I also second Nick's point that it's not necessary to totally prohibit kids in order to perform your adult show (unless it's blue).

I nearly always perform my adult show at Magic in the 'Burbs, even if there are a few kids in the audience. I just ignore the kids. When they raise their hands, I almost never choose them. Sometimes, when they raise their hands as if their life depended on it, I say, "I have to choose an adult, I'm sorry." It ends up being an adult show.

Our current venue has requested that we not allow kids in, so we've cut out the $2 kiddie discount and have that 2-drink minimum. Still, I sometimes allow kids in.

"Are kids allowed in?" I'm sometimes asked.

"As long as they have a couple Scotch and sodas," I say with a grin.

Last night, we had one kid. Jim Skaggs used him for two tricks, that's it. The rest of the evening was completely adult magic, including my own 40-minute mentalism show, which is decidedly not kiddie in tone.

Also guys, you should be aware that there's a bucketful of money to be made at these venues in late May and early June. Think about this: Every time a Harry Potter product comes out, the media goes ass-up crazy, and so do kids. They gotta have Potter stuff for about three weeks. Then it almost immediately calms down.

If you have a regular venue, you can get lots of press if you hold a Wizards Magic Night for kids. Last year when the fifth HP book was published, we sold out on that basis--without advertising, without special promotion. If we had had press, we could've had three or four of those nights.

Hey, is it so painful for you guys to dress up in wizards' costumes and do your kids' show for a couple nights, if you get a bucketful of money in return? If the press covers you, the kids are gonna come.

Just make sure you contact the press at least four weeks before the event. And make sure the date of the first event is a couple weeks before the movie comes out. You can even have it on a night that your normal venue isn't held on. Then you can promote your adult magic night from stage:

"Parents take note! We have a magic night specifically for adults--you know, with alcohol and without screaming kids--every Thursday night in this location. So get a babysitter some night and check us out...."

Anyway, gotta run. I talked for longer than I wanted to, and the traffic is undoubtedly getting heavier by the minute. I'll check into this discussion when I return from my cruise.

[P.S. Another secret is to never not be marketing. If you're interested in coming to Magic in the 'Burbs, information is below:]


Thursday, April 1

Featured performers:
Jon Armstrong
Dave Cox
David Groves

6:30 7:30 pm: casual closeup magic at the bar
7:30 8:30 pm: main stage magic show
8:30 10 pm: hang with the magicians

Note: We are no longer holding Magic in the 'Burbs every week. It will instead be held on the first and third Thursdays of each month.

Santa Anita Inn
130 W. Huntington Dr.
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 446-5211

Directions: Its directly across from the Santa Anita racetrack. Its off the 210 freeway, just west of the 605 freeway. Whether coming from the west or the east, exit at Santa Anita Ave., turn south onto Santa Anita Ave., R onto Huntington Dr., its on the left at the fork.

Reservations: To make sure you get a seat, you can make reservations by phone or e-mail at (310) 450-6850 or However, reservations are not required unless we sell out.

Postby NCMarsh » 03/23/04 05:37 PM

No offense, but in all honesty I must say that Alain Nu's gesture and Bob Sheet's expression on the promo pic on the home page make it look like its geared to kids. I think that Paul Gertner does an exceptional job of projecting an image of dignity (with a hint of levity and warmth) in his promo shots...perhaps, if drawing adults is a problem, you might re-think the tone of your images

In the context of the images, the color choice (purple and gold) gives a sense of a light performance aimed at kids...

hoping to get out there soon and see you guys.

break legs,

Nathan Coe Marsh Orlando Magician
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Postby ChastainCriswell » 03/26/04 07:30 PM

Well for starters the sign that Nu is using is actually ASL (American Sign Language) for Son of a bitch. And Bob looks tore down and almost insane .... but I do agree ... it looks like a kids show.

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/26/04 11:22 PM

The fact that Alain Nu is thumbing his nose at the viewer immediately tells me that this is not a show for kids. But this is a generational thing: When I was growing up it meant kiss my ass and it was only mildly tabooflipping someone off was the really bad one (that would get you a week in your room, where thumbing was only a verbal warning)but it was still considered very adult.

However, the rest of the look on the site (particularly the font used in wizardry) does emote a slightly childlike feeling. I can understand someone from a younger generation who is not aware that what Alain is doing was of an adult nature in the olden days (or not aware of the ASL meaningthanks Chastain) confusing the issue. I think Nathan Marshs comment about Mr. Nus gesture bears this out.

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Postby Guest » 03/27/04 09:39 AM

Back again to check on the input - glad to see David Groves is jumping in. Thanks to all who have posted ideas, especially those who have produced shows and understand the challenges of getting audiences. To clarify further, WW has a mix of about 90% adults to 10% kids, so I think we are on the right track (in spite of the image concerns raised here). Having gone to many live Copperfield & Penn & Teller shows, I would say our mix was less kids than DC, slightly more than P&T. (any other opinions on this?)

Steve Cohen has some great ideas, and is in fact doing a great job with his show. I really like the attire suggestion that is brilliant. Steve has worked out a great niche for his show, though it is a very different one than ours. I'd be surprised if Steve has more than 1 or 2 kids per show. Can you confirm Steve?

Unfortunately, our venue and co-producer prevents us from: 1. serving alcohol; 2. raising prices any higher (they have to be close to Magic in the Burbs); 3. a dress code; and 4. excluding kids completely (which we wouldn't do anyway.)

As Nicholas pointed out, parents bringing their kids mean sales of at least 3 tickets (with no kiddie discount) so we are not trying to keep them out, we are just trying to set expectations for our show.

We want adults to expect that they would want to come see our show whether or not they have kids, not just because they have kids and want to/have to bring them.
makes it pretty clear that there is a big market for movies that attract both adults and older kids (e.g. Finding Nemo, Harry Potter, Lion King, ET, LOTR). There are far more of these types of movies on the top 25 than of those exclusively for adults (6th Sense, Titanic). Since there is a predisposition on the part of the vast majority of the public to think magic is for kids, in our market it would be a losing battle to market ourselves as exclusively for adults.

So, we cannot have a Nightclub/Lounge/Comedy Club/Bar atmosphere, or an exclusive, upscale appeal like Chamber Magic. Where does that leave us? Back at square one, reminding us all that ticket price doesn't affect kids attendance at either Copperfield or Penn & Teller Shows. Back also at an underlying challenge most of us face, convincing people who have not seen us that we are entertainment that is worth their time and money and not just kiddie fun.

The floor is again open for comments and suggestions.


Postby Danny Archer » 03/30/04 11:00 AM

My two cents...

I am kicking off my show in Denver on May 20th and June 24th ... we are calling the show 5280 Magic Theatre (5280 may seem goofy to readers outside the Denver market, but we recognize those numbers as standing for one mile, which makes sense as Denver is known as the Mile High City) ...

We have set a $10 ticket price and our marketing will be geared at adults, but the venue is a not for profit organization and we have to admit any paying customer...

The venue holds 375 (500 if the balcony is used) and we are trying to find a way to sell out the main floor ... marketing efforts will be key and of course the show must be good ...

We welcome any comments and/or suggestions to put some fannies in the seats ...

... I'll let you know how we progress ...
Producer of MINDvention
mentalism convention
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Postby Guest » 04/02/04 01:09 PM

Hey there hep cats & kool kittens! I'm new to this forum, so I'm coming in late on this thread. business partner hasn't chimed in (oh Nelson?).

Flip-Side Productions recently completed season one of Music City Magic at Miss Marples Dinner Theatre in Nashville, TN. It was Monday night show with a $35 ticket price. We did very well, and seldom had children in the audience. Season two is coming up soon... Between seasons we took the show on the road and filled that venue to capacity.

The key for us was in our media campaign. We did a good job of educating the media first. We did make some enemies though... To expressly communicate that this was a show for adults, we put in the press release "you will not see birthday party magicians, or some cheesy guy in an ill-fitted tux pulling rabbits out of a hat or sawing out of work actresses in half." Boy that raise the ire of the local guys. But it was true.

Use language like "cutting edge magic" or "hip, fresh, cool", or "for sophisticated adults."

Then make the media pay attention and get on TV. Of course all of this assumes that what you have to offer is these things. If you are just some cheesy guy in a tux doing the same old thing, then who really cares anyway?

Catch ya on the flip-side!
Big Daddy Cool

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