Situated in the heart of Christchurch, The Isaac Theatre Royal opened in 1908. A 106 year old Historic Edwardian Heritage Theatre with up to 1292 seats, the ‘ITR’ is the chosen home for Royal NZ Ballet, NZ Opera, Showbiz Christchurch, Christchurch Arts Festival, The Imperial Russian Ballet, and numerous international touring productions.
Following the devastating earthquakes of 2011, a huge restoration project was undertaken and the entire auditorium and foyer areas of the Theatre were spectacularly rebuilt and restored. Many important heritage features were retained including the magnificent original 1908 painted ceiling dome, the façade and the 1928 marble staircase. Following restoration to its superb original Edwardian-style, the Theatre went on to win two prestigious property awards at the 2015 Property Council New Zealand and Rider Levett Bucknall Awards held in Auckland. More recently the theatre was recognised by the Champion Canterbury Business Awards 2016 winning ‘Retail/Hospitality Small Enterprise’ for ‘dynamic professionals providing a phenomenal customer experience’ as well as The Press Champion Canterbury Supreme Small Enterprise Award and the Entertainment Venues Association of NZ Supreme Venue of the Year Award and Medium Sized Venue of the Year Award at the annual 2016 EVANZ conference.
The Isaac Theatre Royal, with its stunning interiors, flexible catering options and full bar facilities provides guests with unique and versatile entertainment spaces, and is a premier venue for a broad range of functions from performing arts through to hospitality events and also wedding receptions.
Opening of newly built theatre required modern system to manage increasing number of venue spaces and events
Event Delivery & Client Relations Manager at Isaac Theatre Royal, Freya Alexander, explains why they needed to invest in new technology, “Before the re-building of the theatre after the earthquakes the small management team used to be reliant on a very basic Microsoft Word/Excel system for booking and managing events. It was impossible to access easily or share knowledge across the events team and all the information was stored locally on a hard drive. Luckily that hard drive was recovered after the quakes. Prior to re-opening of the main theatre auditorium in late 2014, and with additional venue spaces such as The Gloucester Rooms, we had already received a large number of bookings. This was already around 50% higher than previously, so it was obvious we needed a more modern venue and events management solution to support this growth.”
“We can eliminate the possibility of double bookings and have more accountability over who is responsible for what. Tasks can easily be assigned and you can see clearly what you have left to do on any event at any one time.”
Event Delivery & Client Relations Manager
Isaac Theatre Royal
A cloud-based solution that provides easy to access real-time information stored securely off-site
According to Freya, back in 2010, before the earthquake hit, the concept of a cloud-based solution did not exist, but by 2015 the new team were aware that such a system could enable all event booking information to be stored externally and also address the issue of providing controlled and easy access by the events team, senior management and external partners.
Freya comments on the decision to select Priava, “We were impressed by both the company and the product’s capabilities. As one of the first theatrical performance venues in NZ to use the software, and with a brand new venue, the ITR wanted to be on the cusp of engaging the most innovative technology available and felt that it could support the team to manage a higher number of bookings and at the same time deliver an exceptional service to our clients, from touring companies through to corporates or members of the public.”
“Everyone got on board quickly” – system enables multi-tasking
Once Priava was selected the team began to migrate all the necessary spreadsheets and word documents on to the new system including all the bookings for 2015, 2016 and beyond. The original 4 (and now 8-strong) events management team were given some basic face-to-face training on the core functionality such as managing the calendaring and setting up events sheets.
“The training was really good and we liked the fact that Priava pre-tailored those sessions towards theatres and demonstrated how the system would work with a real life show or event, putting it more into context” says Freya, “Members of the team that had been with the theatre prior to the rebuild and were used to the old methods, found the system really intuitive and easy to pick up, so everyone got on board quickly. As many of the ITR team have multiple roles we need to maximise our resources and have the ability to switch easily from one activity to another, something that Priava allows us to do effortlessly. With the reduction in administration it saves us a significant amount of time. And as the old adage says ‘Time is money’, so we are more financially effective and resourceful as well”
According to Freya all the staff agree that the system really caters to the particular needs of the theatre. “We used to run an ‘industrymode’ pencil system to handle bookings where we would have ‘first pencil’ and ‘second pencil’ etc, but this now seems redundant with Priava and we’ve been able to introduce a much more practical solution of Expressions of Interest with colour coding to determine a final confirmation. We recognised early on that Priava is a very sophisticated system with plenty of functionality, but at the same time we find it simple to use.”
Increased bookings, increased revenues and award-winning service
The introduction of Priava has transformed how the theatre books and manages its events. “The events sheet is brilliant” says Freya, “We have all the information we need in one place, showing us a rundown of what’s happening and we simply click a button and we can email a report to everyone involved. The whole team has real-time access to up-todate information from any location and they can see at a glance what is going on across all the spaces in the theatre from the grand circle foyer right through to main stage. So whether it is a performance, a small fringe theatre production, a corporate function, wedding, party or gig, everything is recorded in one system.”
Stronger internal communications
“With everyone being fully informed, this makes our internal communications much stronger as the team is now acting collectively and because we know who has logged which events, we can eliminate the possibility of double bookings and have more accountability over who is responsible for what. Tasks can easily be assigned and you can see clearly what you have left to do on any event at any one time.”
Nurturing client relationships –“service starts before they walk in the door”
With less time spent on administration the new system frees up more time to nurture client relationships. Freya explains, “Whether we are talking with promoters, corporates or members of the public, the service they receive starts before they walk in the door. As an example, for touring companies that are booking dates across the whole country, we can see clearly on Priava what spaces or dates are available and then make the necessary provisional or confirmed bookings.
This makes life easier both for us and prospective clients. The feedback from performance teams when they arrive is that they feel they already know us, so they are simply left to enjoy what they enjoy doing. With access to all the necessary information such as technical details, venue inventory, hospitality, timings, merchandising and what’s on the artist and crew rider, we can always be one step ahead, so clients are assured we have already attended to everything.”
In 2016, the theatre was recognised by the Champion Canterbury Business Awards 2016 winning ‘Retail/Hospitality Small Enterprise’ Supreme Award for ‘dynamic professionals providing a phenomenal customer experience’ and also took the ‘Supreme Venue of the Year’ at the 2016 Entertainment Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) Awards.
Remote working and checking availability of spaces
The fact that Priava is cloud-based means that the management users can access the system when they are not in the office, or travelling overseas. “You don’t realise how reliant you are on instant access to data, and Priava fully supports this need” adds Freya.
The system also helps us to give additional hand-holding for those that may not have had experience of events too, with the function sheet acting as checklist for all parties. So if the venue is staging a wedding or corporate function they can share the timetable of the event with the bride and groom/ CEO and if necessary make any last-minute tweaks, such as when the speeches take place.
Freya says, “With Priava you follow a clearly defined and structured process, from logging an initial interest or opportunity through to a slick delivery of the event itself. The team has the resources to work together, as well as autonomously, as they have everything they need to run their own event.”
Maximising revenues and occupancy levels
Now that the re-built theatre has been open for over 2 years, it can begin to measure how the venue’s occupancy and events bookings have grown and build up historical data that can be used to encourage repeat bookings. As Freya explains, “We are privileged in that we are the only theatre venue of this size in the area so we find that much of our business comes to us. But as more venues open in the city the biggest challenge is to ensure we make best use of the timeslots and spaces we have available so we can sell any spare days. Whilst we can’t alter what is on stage, we have found that by using Priava the system can identify spaces that have spare capacity.”
Overall number of booked performance days has risen from 180 to 320
Making the most of ‘dark days’
With better scrutiny and analysis of when the theatre’s different facilities are free, it has been possible to spot new opportunities. Freya says, “We’ve realised that we have more opportunities than we realised, especially if we think creatively. For example, during ‘dark days’ when the cast is having a rest period or on ‘pack-in/out days’ when the stage is being prepared or the show is being dismantled, these days still represent opportunities for hiring out spaces, either in front of the curtain or in other adjoining areas. So with the theatre curtain pulled down there is still the ability to hire out the space for say a business seminar, public tours or even school workshops, which allows us to engage our community as well.
Extra income from booking advertising space
With more visibility of spare capacity, not only is the theatre able to optimise and maximise use of their venue spaces more effectively, they are also using Priava to boost the revenue from its advertising vehicles such as window display spaces and poster boxes. “Using Priava’s unique functionality we can also maximise additional income from spaces for promotion, so a touring company might want to reserve a decal for the front of the theatre for a number of weeks. So essentially we use Priava to book this, quote this and can store all the associated details such as imagery, costs, mark-ups and so on. And then ultimately bill it…!”
Detailed analysis aids planning
The reporting capabilities of Priava are also used to produce in-depth analysis for senior management so they can review the type of clients and where business is coming from. “We use Priava for overall business intelligence as well as specifics. For instance, we have a flexible fringe theatre space that is linked with sponsorship for local community groups, so we can see which performances are successful, who attended and which ones are subsidised with grants from the sponsorship. We can also report on what technical equipment is being hired for different spaces.
All this information is essential towards the future planning, investment and overall strategy for the theatre.” The theatre also uses reporting to measure how third party contractors have helped to refer business, the number of enquiries that have completed and the number that have cancelled.
Spotlight on the future – Being more proactive and integration with Xero
With the help of Priava, the theatre has linked its online enquiries with the ‘opportunities tab’ within the system, so in the future the team will closely analyse those that didn’t go on to confirm and will contact them to see what happened. The theatre also plans to become more proactive too, by looking at other trends such as Christmas party and school holiday bookings and making contact with those companies and organisations that perhaps had made an enquiry previously.
The theatre is also excited about taking advantage of the planned integration between Priava and their accounting solution, Xero. Freya says, “The integration will be fantastic as it will link all the specific event invoices up and make it even easier for the team to split between performance and non performance revenue streams.”
The benefits that the Isaac Theatre Royal has achieved through the use of the Priava cloud-based venue management solution so far include:
- Supports creation of new venue spaces and increased number of bookings;
- Access to real-time information on a centralised platform;
- Saves significant time on administration;
- Event sheets keep staff and clients better informed and organised;
- Enhanced customer service and satisfaction encourages repeat business;
- Differentiation from other venues;
- Better internal communication between staff across the whole team;
- Eliminates possibility of double bookings;
- Extensive and easy reporting measures occupancy and other key metrics;
- Enables remote/mobile working;
- Integrates with existing applications (e.g.finance system);
- Easy management of equipment hire;
- Analysis and identification of underused spaces leads to higher occupancy and revenues;
- External partners can quickly check availability of spaces;
- Maximise revenues through booking of advertising/decal spaces for set days e.g. window spaces, poster boxes etc;
- Greater accountability and ownership of events internally.
Final comment from Freya
“We get in and log in… Priava acts as the consistent ‘bible’ for the ITR events team and ensures we manage it, and that it ensures everything runs smoothly and everyone is in the same cloud!”