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The Citadel Theatre is becoming a little more like Broadway, from its shows to its cups.
That’s right: the Citadel launched its “magic sippy cup” in 2018 to immediate acclaim. It marked the first time that theatregoers could enjoy drinks during the performance — just like on Broadway.
“It felt very uncivilized to have people chugging glasses of red wine at the doors before they go inside,” says Chantell Ghosh, executive director of the Citadel Theatre. “I think it had become an urban theatre legend that we weren’t allowed to bring drinks into the theatre.”
Improving patron experience was one of Ghosh’s highest priorities when she joined the Citadel in January 2018. Ghosh has a personal collection of sippy cups from various Broadway shows — many of the big New York shows have their own branded drink cups. Making this happen here was a no-brainer.
“Our patrons are coming for a theatre experience and part of that is bringing your drink into the theatre and having a bit of that Broadway touch here in Edmonton,” Ghosh says. “Considering that we’ve got two shows that are going to be on Broadway by spring 2020, I feel like we can claim that.”
The Citadel sippy is a solution to the various reasons why drinks weren’t previously allowed in the theatre. They are safer, as broken glass is no longer a concern, plus the lid minimizes any spills on the carpet. They are also quiet, muting the sound of ice clinking or soda fizzing that could disrupt particularly poignant theatrical moments.
The cups are also sustainable because they are washed and reused, either by the theatre or patrons who take them home and bring them back to the next show. “I’ve seen many women pull their sippy cups out of their bag as they get up to the bar,” Ghosh says.
Patrons get $1 off each drink for refilling a sippy cup. The theatre also introduced a thermal version in 2019 for hot beverages, which can be refilled at the bar or the Second Cup location in the theatre.
The Citadel went through 15,000 sippy cups in 2018. Given that up to 10,000 people can attend a single run of one show, Ghosh estimates the reuse rate is about 50 per cent. Many people have told her they love using the cups outside the theatre, too — especially for things like kids’ soccer games or camping trips. The cups became so popular that the Citadel now sells them at their merchandise table. “People are even doing Instagram shots and selfies with their sippy cups,” Ghosh says.
Ghosh would love to see the Citadel expand their cups, potentially doing special editions like a Christmas-themed cup for its annual staging of A Christmas Carol.
“They’re like my baby,” she says. “This is a civilized place, so we had to have civilized cups!”