Case Study: A Workshop + VIP Event At A 1920’s Movie Palace

Taylor Gmahling - Marketing Representative

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Two years ago, the Hattiesburg Tourism Convention in Mississippi called us to help them implement new audience engagement techniques that would bring new life to their diverse collection through experience-based programming at their local zoo (read more). Our previous partnership and workshop were so successful that they asked our audience development team back in 2018 to help boost engagement at another local site, the Saenger Theatre.

The Saenger Theatre is a 997-seat movie palace that was built at the end of the Roaring 20s. It is an impressive combination of Neoclassical and Art Deco architecture located in the heart of historic downtown Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In 1979 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, many believe it to be haunted!

Our team saw this magnificent building’s potential right away and were excited to work with the staff to share its story and help others in the community (and beyond) see it too.

Dustin and Kelly on site

Here’s What Went Down

Museum Hack’s Dustin Growick and Kelly Reidy traveled to Mississippi to assist the Hattiesburg Convention Commission staff with three main objectives:

  • Teach the staff how to engage more young people in cultural experiences that take advantage of the awesome sites they have.
  • Guide the staff in best practices and give them tools (like awesome storytelling skills) to use when engaging guests within cultural spaces.
  • Advise and offer a better understanding of how to market and ticket events in cultural spaces to younger audiences.

The first thing Dustin and Kelly did was gather everyone for a workshop. Staff from all of the Hattiesburg cultural spaces, including the zoo, museums, and of course, the theater, came together to participate in a day-long workshop. During the session, our team taught storytelling and framing techniques, brainstormed custom games and photo challenges and, most importantly, showed the group exactly how these skills can be implemented into future tours and events.

But, we didn’t stop there!

We wanted this group to have a chance to take action and see the results of their new methods on the public right away.

So, they put their new skills into practice the very next day by throwing a ticketed event at the Saenger Theater!

Dustin and Kelly assisted the Saenger staff in putting on an epic VIP event that would bring in new audiences by showcasing the unseen parts and unknown stories of the fabulous historic theater.

Our team guided the staff through each step of planning the event, including; theme, marketing, social media, custom games, photo challenges, and how to share the theater’s awesome history through engaging storytelling to keep guests coming back (and bringing their friends too!).

“Secret Saenger”

The event drew a large crowd of 100 excited and intrigued guests.

The evening started with onstage group trivia to warm up the audience and share interesting background on the theater.

Then the guests split up into teams, got a “passport” and set out throughout the theater with a mission: create your very own event.

Theater staff from the previous day’s workshop were stationed around the theater to each give a different “stamp on a passport.” Each staff member had prepared and practiced a short and engaging story, a fun game and a photo challenge to help guide guests on their quest.

The coolest part about these tour stops was that they weren’t limited to the main public areas. Instead, they invited guests to explore the behind-the-scenes bowels of backstage and beyond, places they would never normally see or be allowed in.

By the end of the night, guests had a full passport, had planned their own event, heard many awesome stories about the Saenger Theatre, and had great photos to share!

Of course we couldn’t leave without saying “Hi” to our friends at the Zoo, including a very special sloth named Chewy!

The Saenger Theater staff loved this new type of engagement. They were also thrilled to learn that they now have to skills and ability to quickly pull an event like this off. We can’t wait to see what events they create in the future!

Learn more about our consulting work with museums, or email us to find out more about how we can help your institution develop fun activities and new audience engagement strategies.

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