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'I Didn't Enjoy it One Bit': Causes and Effects of 'Terrible' Visitor Experiences at Performing Arts Venues

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If performing arts venues are to attract and retain larger and more diverse audiences they need to understand the factors that cause visitors to have good or bad experiences during performances. This paper explores the antecedents and effects of one particular type of encounter, namely those associated with 'terrible' experiences endured at theatres. Five hundred and five members of the theatre-going public in Greater London participated in a survey designed to establish the various types of bad experience that performing arts audiences might suffer. Possible linkages between each form of terrible experience and the characteristics of the respondents who reported them were then explored. Three major genres of bad experience emerged, respectively concerning technically bad performances, unintelligible productions, and physical problems within a venue. The tendency to specify a particular type of terrible experience was associated with variables such as prior knowledge of a production, expectations, and general attitudes towards and affective commitment to the performing arts. Potential consequences of bad experiences (negative word-of-mouth, lower intention to revisit a venue) were examined; together with the roles of misleading advertisements for productions, critics' reviews, attempts at service recovery, attributions of blame for incidents, and 'need for social approval' (i.e., the phenomenon of people visiting 'high-brow' events more to be seen attending than from genuine interest in the performances themselves).


Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1362/147539206777036986

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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