“Papering” and “Dressing the House”

For theater-lovers, learning some industry jargon couldn’t hurt. “Papering the house,” for example, is a common producers’ practice to fill unsold seats. It’s done during previews — to start buzz about a new play, and assure a full house when critics are in attendance — or when a show is past its prime and ticket sales dip. “We used to invite staff from fellow theater offices, sort of as a professional courtesy,” says one theatrical company manager. “Now, no one wants to admit they’re papering, so we’re turning to sources outside the theatrical community.”

Organizations such as Audience Extras (AE), Play by Play and Theatermania.com’s Gold Club collect lists of interested theatergoers. In exchange for an annual fee of $85 to $99, those individuals receive offers to Broadway, Off- and off Off-Broadway shows (sometimes on opening night) costing just $3 to $4.50 a ticket. Seeing a play for such a ridiculously small amount of money, however, is viewed as a privilege; in return, producers expect proper business attire, etiquette (no skipping out at intermission), and discretion (don’t brag at the box office about the great deal you got, while others pick up their full-price tickets). You are, in a sense, working the show, providing the actors with a full and attentive audience, often as they try to iron out kinks in a new production.

Now That’s (Cheap) Entertainment,” by Joseph V. Amodio, Newsday, January 15, 2004

Audience Extras distributes complimentary tickets to it’s subscribers when a show is in previews, under publicized, expecting a reviewer or celebrity to attend, or would like the benefit of a full house.

As an Audience Extras subscriber you get to choose from over 1000 different events a year! You can attend as many shows as you like for only $3.00 reservation service charge per ticket! A portion of the service charge goes directly to The Memorial Foundation for the Arts to aid non-profit theaters.
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Audience Extras (AE) is a “papering” system (i.e. provide additional audience to shows when needed) that was established by Mr. Peter Copani and his son John-Vincent to benefit the Performing Arts in three innovative ways. First, by screening for responsible, dependable and discreet people to put in an empty seat when a producer needs extra audience. Second, by distributing “paper” complimentary tickets in a way that could develop future audiences, that is, on a “free sample” introductory basis. The third benefit is to use the AE “papering” program as an ongoing funding source for non-profit theatre. The cost of the AE communication system is covered by the ticket recipients making it free for theatre companies and producers who use the service to “paper” or “Dress The House”.

Audience Extras, 212-686-1966

Theater Extras is a “seat-filling audience development organization” only. We do not sell tickets. Theater Extras arranges COMPLIMENTARY tickets for its members when a performance or event is in previews, under publicized, expecting the attendance of reviewers or celebrities, or would like the benefits of a full house. Performances range from previews to opening nights to performances throughout a show’s run.

Theater Extras, 212-802-7277 or 914-304-4093

Play by Play, a unique organization called upon by theatre producers to fill unsold seats to their Broadway and Off Broadway shows.

Performances range from previews and opening nights to performances throughout a show’s run. Corporate attire is required for Broadway shows.

Play by Play, 212-868-7052

TheaterMania [Gold Club] works directly with producers, theaters, and venues to make tickets available for our members who discreetly fill the house and help build buzz and word of mouth for shows.

Members log into the Gold Club, select shows and events from our exciting and diverse list of offerings, print a voucher, and present it to the box office. It’s that simple! The membership pays for itself with one or two shows!

TheaterMania Gold Club, 212-352-0255