We Mostly Love, and Sometimes Hate Shows. But WHY?

Show-Score | By Tom Melcher, Show-Score CEO | Aug 1, 2016

We just hit 110,000 member reviews (!) and thought it would be fun to analyze the words we all use when we love (or hate) a show. The answers are fascinating!

By Show-Score

We just hit 110,000 member reviews! To put that in perspective, in the 10 months since we launched, our members have written 6 times more reviews of NYC theater than consumers have written for the same shows on Facebook, Yelp and TripAdvisor combined during the same time period.

So, what patterns emerge about why we collectively love and hate shows?

To really highlight the differences, we divided our member reviews into 2 groups: reviews with a score of 49 or lower (meaning you REALLY didn’t like the show), and reviews with a score of 90 or higher (meaning you loved it). In the process, we learned four surprising things.

The first surprise was how positive we are as a community: only 2% of our member reviews have a score of 49 or lower, while 58% are a 90 or higher:

Of course, every artist and producer remembers the negative reviews on Show-Score, but the statistics prove that (guess what?) we are a community of FANS!

For the purposes of this article, we then focused only member opinions at each end of the spectrum (loved and hated). For each review, we analyzed the five adjectives our community is using to describe shows (we didn’t look at the “See it if…/Don’t see it if..” words, yet).

The second surprise was that we’re using many more unique adjectives to describe why we love something than why we don’t.

In fact, we’re using almost THREE TIMES as many adjectives to describe what we love than what we don’t:

I found this heartening — when we see a show that really moves us, we want to find nuance and precision to describe exactly why. It’s like that famous sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…”

That said, the third surprise was that a very small number of adjectives account for 80% of all usage, whether we loved the show or not. Let’s start with the words we use when we love a show.  These top 16 words account for 80% of all adjectives selected:

  • “Entertaining” is first by a lot.  No matter what, the shows we love entertain us.

  • “Great acting” is used almost 3 times more than “great writing”.  I would have thought it should be the reverse, but then remembered that a great actor can make reading the phone book compelling.

  • “Clever”, “Original”, “Ambitious” and “Intelligent” are all on this list.  We always knew that active theater goers are smarter and more innovative than the hoi polloi -- now we have proof!  :)

We then looked at the adjectives we used when we didn’t like a show.  Once again, a very small number of adjectives (in this case, only 15) accounted for 80% of the usage:

This led to the fourth surprise -- just two negative adjectives account for a whopping 25% of the usage, and they are saying very similar things: “disappointing” and “overrated” both speak to the let down we feel when the experience we had during the show didn’t match our expectations going in.

This is a key point.  When theater marketers ask me how they can more successfully market their shows, I always have the same response: “clearly explain what the show truly is, so that the audience who loves whatever that is can find you fast”.  If the show is predictable and safe, say so.  If it’s really edgy or obtuse, say that.  In other words, make sure that your audience knows what they are going to experience.

Look at how it works with movies.  When I was a kid, we often went to movies without knowing anything about them.  That’s no longer the case.  Thanks to lots of movie trailers and sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, you only go out to the movies to see something you already know you are going to like.

If you’re a theater professional, I hope you’re emboldened by this analysis.  Fans love your work for all the right reasons!  When they don’t, it’s mostly about managing expectations.  So just tell them what to expect.

If you’re a theater fan, I hope you’re fascinated by all these stats, and energized to score even more shows.  Our community is not even a year old, but we’re already finding new theater-lovers we trust to help us discover shows we’ll love.