Case Study: Out of the Box in Bunbury
With a history spanning almost 25 years, Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre underwent a huge $12.5 million transformation in 2014 which included the addition of a 242-seat “Black Box” theatre name The Cube, conferencing facilities and a Sky Bar which takes advantage of stunning views over the Leschenault Inlet. With this physical transformation came the opportunity to introduce new programming to appeal to those audiences who may have previously felt BREC was slightly “old-fashioned” or lacking entertainment options for certain demographics.
Soon after the expansion project was complete, Out of the Box + Into the Cube was born. “With the opening of the Cube Theatre and Sky Bar at BREC, we embarked on a journey to break down barriers in attendance and to appeal to the 18-35yo demographic, to tap into the ‘social-drivers’ in attending live performance and just to make it damn fun to come to the new centre,” General Manager at the time Joel McGuinness says.
“The objective was to create an affordable social experience for our audience with a clear point of difference from their usual nights out. Our priority was really to make them feel comfortable within the new space and have great entertainment, fun and frivolity that contradicted people’s view of ‘going to the theatre’ and of what live performance was all about.”
With its primary focus on live music, Out of the Box + Into the Cube also featured comedy nights, cabaret, DJs, pizza, jam jar cocktails, giant Jenga, ping-pong and other fun activities to add something more to the average night out. “We also ran with ‘value add propositions’ – or ‘Free Cool Stuff’ – which included free pizza, giveaways and activities such as workshops or the addition of wine and nibbles to a ladies’ night,” Joel says.
The final Out of the Box + Into the Cube concept came about when it became evident to Joel and his staff that young adults were simply not coming into BREC. “There are so many younger adults in Bunbury and surrounds (over 6000 as at 2011, according to Census information) that were not attending BREC, and we wanted to find ways to change people’s perception of what BREC was all about. We wanted to challenge the ‘stuffy’ notion of BREC and utilise the physical changes of new buildings, fresh beginnings and a great bar to take people on a journey and increase attendance in this age group.”
However the seed of the idea was planted in Joel’s mind before the expansion was complete. “The early idea sprung from my study tour to the USA in 2013, seeing over 20 arts centres across America and being inspired by work of Allan Browne (http://wolfbrown.com/people/alan-brown ) and Dianne Paulus (http://www.dianepaulus.net/) who have subverted and challenged the notion of attending live theatre in the usual ways and assert that people are often put off by the intimidation of the building itself and that we need to reimagine the ways that people engage with live performance.”
With this fantastic range of events, BREC also received a huge amount of positive feedback from the local community. “Feedback from patrons was amazing. We had young crew in Bunbury thanking us and the whole program was amazing. We were holding an event monthly, with live music acts, bands and DJs and there was a great response from the City,” Joel says.
During its year-long run, Out of the Box + Into the Cube drew 2413 attendees over 13 events to BREC. A patron survey conducted after a year showed that of those 2413 people, 64% had never attended an event at BREC before. 82% of those surveyed said that they would come to future events at BREC because of Out of the Box. When asked if they thought Out of the Box provided a unique alternative to existing nightlife and entertainment in Bunbury, 100% of survey respondents agreed.
As with most arts programs, Out of the Box + Into the Cube relied on funding and sponsorship which unfortunately did not continue past the first year. “While we stopped the program after the funding was exhausted, it was also a huge amount of effort to hold the events monthly and not sustainable as an ongoing event. The Out of the Box branding is really strong and after the funding was finished, the Centre is still using the Out of the Box Presents brand for shows and events that appeal to the 18-35yo demographic.”