Family-Show Manager Jonathan Shank Reflects On 2018, Talks The Future
February 13, 2019
(CelebrityAccess) Jonathan Shank, senior manager at Red Light Management, has led the company’s family entertainment division from the time it had one show – the massively popular live performance of the Fresh Beat Band that moved about 700,000 tickets – to a roster that includes Peppa Pig Live!, Power Rangers, Octonauts, and the recent Disney Junior Dance Party.
Tonight, two of the shows he produces, Peppa Pig’s Surprise and Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour Presented By Pull-Ups, are nominated for Pollstar’s Best Non-Music Tour of the Year, up against tours like Becoming: An Intimate Conversation With Michelle Obama, Pod Save America and WWE Monday Night Raw.
We talked briefly with Shank about today’s climate for family shows and what’s in store for 2019. Shank spoke in depth for the CelebrityAccess feature “In The Host Seat With Larry LeBlanc” in 2017, prior to the launch of the Disney Junior Dance Party that was accurately predicted by LeBlanc as the premier family show of 2018.
What are your goals for family-friendly entertainment, as far as Red Light is concerned?
One of my objectives is to educate people that Red Light does things other than manage amazing bands and we’re diversified.
This whole division kind of grew out of the success we had with the Fresh Beat Band and the idea that we could have success with other properties in the space, and I felt like there was a big void in the family entertainment world. Not that many people were executing it properly in theaters, so we really had a great lane and a great opportunity to explore that space.
For me, the biggest thing is making people aware that not only are we doing this but we’ve sold almost 2 million tickets on our family entertainment shows.
As far as building up the space, what has changed or been improved?
The biggest thing is identifying at an early stage that there are certain similarities to music. I’m trying to identify at a very early time what is going to be successful in the content space. We’ve been really lucky to work with properties like Fresh Beat Band and Peppa Pig and now Disney Junior, which are first-class, blue-chip brands.
I think that’s really our goal: to continue to work with only A-list properties and projects. I think that’s really what’s led to the success and growth of this division.
Why do you think the Disney property was nominated for a Pollstar Award?
First and foremost, it’s unique because it’s a brand-new show that combines all the new Disney Junior properties, like Mickey and the Roadster Racers and Vampirna and Doc McStuffins, etc. What’s really amazing about being nominated is it’s the first year that show existed and we did 120 theatres, most of which sold out, and we sold 250,000 tickets. It was a massive success, especially for something that nobody had heard of a year ago.
It’s kind of like creating something from scratch even though you have this access to these amazing characters, It’s really branding a new show.
What should facility managers know to make their days a little easier when bringing in family shows?
I would say, certainly, it’s different for every show. The Peppa Pig production is slightly simpler than the Disney Junior production. There are a ton of bells and whistles that come with the Disney show.
I would just say expect some kind of stroller parking area and obviously some kind of good access to vending and bathrooms. And, of course, to expect a lot of very young children and to have staff on hand that understands how to deal with families and young children. Just remember that the family has chosen to bring their kids there and they’re looking to have a great family experience and core memories.
Anything that both front of house and back of house can be provided to ensure a family-friendly experience is probably the best advice I can give to any facility manager.
Do you see a great divide between the people who know about these shows and those who don’t? Between, say, a parent and a single person who never heard of a Peppa Pig?
Absolutely! One-hundred percent. It’s funny you said that. When we were doing Fresh Beat Band, Dave Grohl brought his kids to the show and, I’ll never forget, he pulled us aside and said, “For my kids, this is like seeing Hendrix!”
To answer your question, I think that people that are aware and have kids, or nieces, or nephews, or grand-kids, and they spend time with them and are consuming this content, these acts are like rock stars to these people. For people who are outside of those demos, it definitely flies way under the radar and is not nearly as glamorous as things that are on the radio despite the fact that some of these family shows might be selling more tickets.
It’s the power of TV marketing. It requires the child seeing on TV that there might be a concert experience to go to and then telling the parent about it. The other way would be the reverse, which would be the parent finding out about it on Facebook, or through word of mouth.
The “Frozen 2” teaser trailer came out today. Do any productions, like a “Frozen On Ice,” consume the marketplace entirely?
I think there is space for a handful of these shows to be successful at any given time.
Part of that is due to the fact that children and families can consume content in different ways than they have in the past. To use your example of “Frozen on Ice,” it may be huge during that cycle, but it wouldn’t necessarily inhibit ticket sales for Peppa Pig or Disney Junior Dance Party. Part of the reason is because “Frozen 2” will probably have a big, girl demo and Peppa and Disney shows are a little more split. Also, the Disney show that we do has a very young, preschool audience that is age 2 to 6, and generally the ice show will draw something a little bit slightly older than preschool.
Just the same way there are intricacies within genres of music, there are intricacies within the family entertainment space. Our goal has been to work on what we consider to be the best projects in the space and the ones we feel are going to be successful, the ones that will be superstars.
Speaking of superstar projects, what’s coming down the pike?
We have a new holiday show that’s in development with Disney that we’re very excited about. Beyond that we have a new Peppa production called Peppa Pig’s Adventure that’s debuting this fall. We have another Disney Junior Dance Party tour that will be going to Canada and North America. We’re having some experiential things we’re developing that we should be able to announce in the near future.
Congratulations on 2018.
I appreciate you supporting this. We kind of have become a positive disrupter in the space, helping move these shows from arenas to theaters and providing a bit of a different take on the model. It’s been pretty amazing to watch it grow from one project organically.