AMS Planning & Research Corp.
Maine State Music Theatre
Client / Maine State Music Theatre
Services / Planning, Strategy, Audience/Market Research

In January of 2012, AMS was engaged by the Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) to conduct a new theater feasibility study, which focused on the following goals:

  • To assess market potential and user need for a new theater in Brunswick
  • To determine a facility concept and assess potential sites
  • To prepare a business plan for the determined facility concept, including a multi‐year operating projection
  • To explore the fundraising potential of the Trustees in support of the defined facility use concept and business plan

Our proposed four-stage approach centered on (1) defining success for the theater; (2) understanding the market MSMT serves; (3) developing a vision for MSMT and a potential facility and (4) creating a business model and implementation plan.  The process was designed to be iterative with prior research tasks informing subsequent work and the later tasks from time to time suggesting that earlier findings be revisited.

In stage one, AMS reviewed previous planning reports, organizational strategic plans and other materials that helped contribute context to the study and allowed us to achieve a detailed understanding of organizational objectives, as well as the local and regional arts and entertainment marketplace.  AMS then led a one‐half day workshop with Board and staff to define the goals of not just the feasibility study, but to understand the desired outcomes for the institution.  Finally, in order to obtain a wide perspective regarding future success for the MSMT, AMS conducted a series of 20 structured in‐person and phone interviews with MSMT’s professional leadership, artists and key Board and community members.  At the end of stage one, it was recommended to continue on with the stage two market research tasks in order to further understand demand.

During this market research phase, AMS conducted a Customer File Analysis of MSMT’s current patrons in order to gain insight into current and prospective audiences and inform planning questions with respect to likely audience reach and market potential.  AMS then undertook a competitive analysis of theater and performing arts venues in the Brunswick – Portland region to understand the ‘niche’ served by MSMT and also examined similar developments in four other cities to gain an understanding of how other markets have addressed the development of new arts facilities in their community.  Finally, AMS administered a survey to MSMT attendees and non-attendees to better understand the entire market, likely arts and cultural attenders and current buyers.

At the end of stage two, it was suggested that though interest in expanded programming was favorable, the organization might want to pilot a few programs before committing to further research for a new facility.