Home to approximately 500 professional and student performances, the center is a hub for entertainment for the surrounding community. But it cannot seem to catch the attention of those who pass its walls each day—SBU students.
“We are currently [around] 11 percent students, 28 percent faculty and staff, 61 percent community,” Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center, said of show attendance. Inkles said the Staller Center markets to students differently than the outside community because it is harder to get the students’ attention to draw them in for a show.
“There’s so many distractions now,” Inkles said. “It’s a generation that also didn’t grow up going to the theater. Why would they come see a show when they could go to a party with their friends? It’s not something on the top of their list.”
Because of this disparity between what students find to be entertaining and the type of entertainment the Staller Center offers, the center has created marketing programs to help increase student attendance.
“First On Us” is a program that gives students their first ticket to a show at the Staller Center for free. Marketed toward freshmen and transfer students, promotions are sent to the new incoming students via flyers in orientation materials and in the daily planners handed out at the orientation ceremony.
“Early Student Rush” is one month during the year during which student tickets for all shows are priced at $7. Students can always purchase rush tickets the night of a show, however the month of “Early Student Rush” tickets can be purchased at all times. “Early Student Rush” is currently this month at Staller.
Both programs started a few years ago when the Staller Center put more focus on marketing to students. Since then, there has been a rise in student attendance according to Outreach Coordinator Paul Newman.
According to Newman, the marquee that was installed on the front of the building last fall has also helped attract students. The marquee, which advertises a variety of the available shows and movies, faces a popular hangout spot on campus—the Staller Steps. In the warm weather, students flock to the grassy area to hang out with friends between classes.
While the effort to bring in more students has been working, many students still have yet to attend a show, and others remain unaware of the program.
“It’s just so close and right there,” Syed Hossain, a sophomore business major who has not attended a show at the Staller Center, said. “It’s so easy to access that you just think you can always go and then never do. But it is something that I definitely want to do.” Hossain said he was not aware about “First On Us” or “Early Student Rush,” but that he has seen advertisements and promotions for the shows around campus.
Michelle Hong, a senior applied math statistics major, said she hass attended shows in which her friends have performed, but nothing else. She was also unaware of the programs the center implemented to attract students.
It is this disconnect that has inspired the Staller Center to grow its social media presence in the hopes of reaching out to more students.
“We’re hoping to do more with Twitter and we’re trying to make our Facebook more dynamic,” Julie Greene, the director of marketing at the Staller Center, said. “We’ll keep adding things as we go, Instagram if we need to. We’d really like the Staller Center Facebook and Twitter be something that students really want to check.”
For Inkles, getting students into the shows is a priority.
“I want the number [of student attendance] up to 20 percent in the next two years,” Inkles said. That will be accomplished with programming geared more for students and more campus outreach and marketing.”
Having a student in attendance is more important for Inkles than the possible profit from selling a ticket to the community.
“I would rather have a student sitting in one of the seats for free,” Inkles said, “than have an empty $35 seat that night.”
Maybe Inkles’ enthusiasm can make the Staller Center a hub of entertainment for the students, as well as the surrounding community.