Locked in Shakespearean Rivalry, Israeli Theater Offers Botox to Boost Ticket Sales

This Israeli theater has a creative take on drawing a younger crowd

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A Botox treatment.
A Botox treatment.Credit: Getty Images

The Theater of the North, which was dedicated in 1994 in a complex that previously served as the old Kiryat Haim community center, was and still is the only private cultural center in Israel. The developer and contractor Gabi Ben Galim initiated it with his two partners, and for 15 years it was a dominant cultural center in the north of the country.

That was until 2009, when the mayor of Kiryat Motzkin, Haim Zuri, dedicated his city’s new Motzkin Theater as a public institution, like other such centers on Israel’s periphery. The repertory of plays offered by both centers was similar at first, and was based on the major hits of theaters in the center of the country. This started a serious rivalry between the two theaters, which over the years has become well known on the local theater scene. But now, in an attempt to promote early renewal of subscriptions for the 2018-19 season, a new gimmick is being used in the competition for the hearts and pockets of theatergoers in Haifa and the Krayot, the small towns on the outskirts of the city. The Motzkin Theater is not placing its bets only on an interesting repertory program or on discounts; it’s offering an unusual gift to those who renew their subscriptions early, by the end of this month: one Botox treatment and two anti-aging skin treatments in a Haifa clinic.

So at a time when repertory theater directors in central Israel are worried about the aging theater audience and attempting to reach a younger crowd, in the north they seem to have understood the message somewhat differently: They’ve decided to make the audience younger in the physical-aesthetic sense. If the spectators are old, at least let them look more youthful.

The Motzkin Theater is offering this cosmetic bonus to both men and women aged 35 and above, and is also raffling off five vacation packages for two in London, including a stay at a three-star hotel and tickets for the musical “The Phantom of the Opera.”

For women, mostly

Not to be outdone, the rival from Kiryat Haim is also offering a cosmetic treat to anyone who hastens to renew their subscription: a 200-shekel coupon for a purchase in a cosmetics chain store or a makeup application for a special event, valued at 300 shekels. Although the two theaters are awarding prizes that are not usually given in Tel Aviv theaters, they seem to be clearly signaling the fact that most of their audience is composed of women. “Yes, there are many women and it interests them,” says Dafna Zuri, general manager of the theater in Kiryat Motzkin. “One company that is interested in promoting something has approached me, and if they give my customers a gift – that’s great for me, it doesn’t cost me a cent.”

Zuri admits that she hasn’t seriously considered the significance of the prize she is offering to fast-acting subscribers. “I don’t tell them to have Botox treatments, and besides, I personally am against them and don’t have them, but there are people who are showing an interest,” she adds.

“We don’t stand with syringes in the theater and administer [Botox] to the spectators. Since the audience is composed mainly of women – and of course men have these treatments too – they get the gift. I can’t spend a lot of money on such things and I wouldn’t buy such a thing, and therefore it’s a situation where everyone comes out ahead.”

Last summer the Kiryat Motzkin theater – which as opposed to its competition in Kiryat Haim is a public institution rather than a private one – raffled off five vacation packages in Zanzibar that it purchased, and Zuri doesn’t see anything wrong with that either. “It’s a matter of marketing,” she sums up. “If we can do something nice, why not?”