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Winner of Cannes Mobile Lions
Comedy Theater Saved By “Pay-Per-Laugh”
Mobile App

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Every once in awhile we see a mobile-based application that is just so innovative we have to write about it.

And the “Pay-per-Laugh” application from TeatreNeu certainly fits this category.

See how a struggling theater in Spain used iPads and facial (smile) recognition to save their business!


In 2013, the Spanish government greatly raised the taxes on theater tickets, from 8% to over 20%. This of course resulted in a massive decrease in theater attendance, the biggest drop in many years.

One theatre, TeatreNeu, decided the best way to survive was to use technology to allow them to change their pricing structure. Rather than charging a fixed amount per seat, they became the first comedy show that would actually charge per smile!

Entrance to the shows was free, and if you didn’t laugh you didn’t pay. But if you laughed, they would charge €0.30 per smile.

Here’s how it worked:

  • First, iPads were installed on the back of each seat in the theater, positioned so that the iPad camera could see the face of the person sitting behind.
  • A special “smile recognition” app was written by Xavi’s Lab, a division of Glassworks. This application would recognized each time the person smiled, and it would send a photo of the smile to a central server.
  • During the show, each member of the audience would be able to see in realtime how many times they had smiled during the show.
  • Finally, at the end of the show, each person was charged €0.30 per actual smile during the show. And just to be sure no one felt taken advantage of, TeatreNeu would only charge for a maximum of 80 smiles, €24. All smiles above the 80-smile limit were free of charge!
  • And of course it was setup so that everyone could share their smiling experience with their friends over social networks

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The results from this new smile-based system were impressive.

The uniqueness of this approach generated a lot of media coverage, and overall attendance rose by 35%. In addition, the average price per ticket rose by €6, resulting in almost €3,000 extra revenue per show!

The company has also now launched a “season ticket”. But now the season ticket is based on a total number of smiles, not simply the total number of shows.

Here is a video of the new “pay-per-laugh” system in action. (The first 30 seconds is in Spanish with subtitles, then it switches to English.)


18.09.2014    Tags: , , ,
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