Reserved Seating and Seat Maps

A seat map is a diagram that shows the location of every seat in the house and a label or number associated with each seat. Each seat belongs to a seating zone. All seats in the same seating zone share the same availability characteristics and pricing. If you wish to make some seats available only to subscribers or offer different seats at different price points (such as premium, balcony, obstructed view), then you will need multiple seating zones.

To set up performances with reserved seating, you must first set up one or more seat maps and possibly multiple seating zones as well. You can create as many of each as you wish, allowing for different configurations for different productions or even performances within a production.

Creating Seating Zones

The system starts out with one predefined seating zone called “Regular”. If all seats in the venue have the same price points and anyone may reserve any seat, then there is no need to create additional seating zones.

However, you will need to create multiple seating zones if you want different seats to have different pricing or if you want some seats to only be available to subscribers or their friends.

To add or edit seating zones, click on the Vouchers tab and click the “New Voucher Type” button at the bottom of the page. (You only do this to get to the Seating Zones page; you do not need to add a new voucher type at this time.) Click the “Add/Edit Seating Zones” button next to the “Restrict to seating zone” field. This takes you to the seating zones page.

On the seating zones page you will see a list of all existing seating zones, along with a list of seat maps that use each seating zone. Patrons will only see the full name of a seating zone, while the short name will be used internally on the seat maps you create. You can also set the sort order for your seating zones to control the order in which staff will see the zones listed in dropdown menus.

To add a new seating zone, enter a sort, full name, and short name. Click the Create button and the seating zone will be added to the system.

You may edit the full name or sort order of a seating zone any time you wish. You may also edit the short name or delete an existing seating zone altogether, but only if the seating zone is not used in any existing seat maps. Typically you would only edit or delete a seating zone if you made a mistake when initially creating it.

Creating Seat Maps From Scratch Using a Spreadsheet

Use your favorite spreadsheet application, such as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, to create a seat map from scratch. The format is simple:

  • Each spreadsheet row is a row of seats. It’s conventional, although not required, to orient the seat map so the stage is at the top.
  • Each cell provides the seating zone, seat label, and optional accessibility flag for one seat. The cell value “reg:A22”, for example, indicates a seat labelled “A22” and belonging to the seating zone whose short name is “reg”. The cell value “prem:B101+”, meanwhile, indicates that seat B101 is in the seating zone whose short name is “prem” and the seat is accessible (indicated by the plus sign). Patrons will see the seat labels when they make reservations. Seat labels can contain uppercase letters and numbers. (Lowercase letters in the spreadsheet cells will simply be converted to uppercase.) Accessible seats will be visually distinguished on the seat map, and the patron will see a reminder that they are booking an accessible seat.
  • Leave cells blank to indicate no seat in that location. This allows representing aisles and irregular seat layouts where the seats don’t necessarily create a perfect rectangular grid.

For some example seat maps, see this public Google folder.

When you have finished creating the seat map in your spreadsheet application, save it as a CSV file on your computer. All spreadsheet programs have a way to save this common format. (If your spreadsheet program offers a choice that specifically says “MS-DOS comma-separated values”, use that choice.)

You are now ready to create a seat map in Audience1st using the spreadsheet file you have saved on your computer. Get to the seat maps page by clicking the Season tab, clicking on any show, clicking the Add Performances button, and then clicking the “Add/Edit Seat Maps” button. (We are just using the Add Performances button to get to the seat maps page; there is no need to add a new performance at this time.)

On the seat maps page, click on the Choose File button and select the file that you saved from your spreadsheet application. Then enter a name for your seat map in the “Name for new seat map” field. Only theater staff, and not patrons, will be able to see the names of seat maps. You should choose a name that is descriptive so that it will be easy to differentiate seat maps from each other by name. Click the Upload button to create the seat map in Audience1st.

Each seat in the seat map must have a valid seating zone short name and a unique label. For example, your seat map cannot have two seats with the same label “A101”, and a seat cannot be in seating zone “balc” if no such seating zone has already been created in Audience1st.

When a patron is choosing seats, the seat map will be overlaid on top of an optional background image which can label the aisles, show where the stage is, or include other decorative or informative background elements. Each seat map has its own background image, though you can certainly use the same image for multiple seat maps.

The background image for a seat map can be created in any drawing program and saved in PNG format. SVG format may also be used, although PNG is preferred. GIF and JPG formats may also work but are not recommended.

The image’s aspect ratio (height compared to width) must match that of the seat map as determined by counting rows and columns in the spreadsheet. For example, if your seat map has 20 rows (counting the topmost and bottommost spreadsheet rows that have any number of seats) and the longest row has 10 seats (counting the leftmost and rightmost spreadsheet columns that have labels in any row), your seat map’s aspect ratio is 20/10 or 2.0. So the background image should be exactly twice as tall as it is wide. The actual number of pixels doesn’t matter, as Audience1st will scale it to fit behind the seat map. Here is an example of a seat map background image with instructions on how to adapt it for your own use.

To associate a background image with a seat map, you will need to publish the image file on the internet. This can be done by placing the image file in the images folder for your theater’s website. Once the background image is accessible on the internet, you can edit the existing seat map (see next section) to add in the URL of the background image.

Editing, Previewing, and Duplicating Seat Maps

On the seat maps page, you can edit the name or background image of an existing seat map by clicking the Edit button next to the particular seat map. You can also delete the seat map altogether if it has not yet been used in any performances. In addition, you can see what the seat map will look like by clicking the Preview button.

Often a theater will have multiple seat maps for the same venue, one each for the different seating configurations used at different times during the season. All of these seat maps will be similar because the venue is the same, but at the same time just a little bit different from each other. For example, one production may require the removal of a few seats to create an additional aisle for actors to use, while another production may have some patrons actually sitting on the stage.

You need to create your first seat map in Audience1st from scratch using the method described above. If you will be adding additional seat maps, however, you may choose to duplicate an existing seat map instead of starting from scratch.

To add a new seat map that will be similar to an existing one already in the system, you can click the Download CSV button next to the existing seat map. You can then load this CSV file into your spreadsheet software, edit as desired, save a new CSV file, and upload this file into Audience1st as a new seat map. Be sure to give the new seat map a descriptive name so that it will be easy for theater staff to tell down the road how the two seat maps differ without having to compare the seating layouts.

Note that Audience1st does not provide a way to edit the seat layout of an existing seat map; only the name of the seat map and its background image can be changed after initially creating the seat map. If you discover an error in your seat map, then duplicate the seat map as described above and fix the error in the new copy. If the seat map has already been used for one or more performances, then edit the performances to use the new revised seat map. Once no performances are using the erroneous seat map, you can delete it.

You can change the seat map specified on a performance even after tickets have been sold to that performance, so long as the new seat map includes all of the seats that had already been reserved under the old seat map. If you try to change the seat map for a performance but some patrons had reserved seats that do not exist in the new configuration, the system will identify the patrons and seats in question. You can then work with those patrons to move them to new seats and subsequently change the seating map for the performance.

Note that you cannot change a performance from general admission to reserved seating or vice versa once tickets have been sold to the performance.

Restricting Tickets to Specific Seating Zones

By default, any valid voucher for a performance can be used to reserve any available seat in the house. If your seat map has multiple seating zones, you probably do not want seat reservations to work this way. Use the “Restrict to seating zone” field on voucher types to limit vouchers of this type to one zone only.

Suppose your theater has Premium and Regular seating zones. You might create a single ticket voucher type called “Premium adult” that allows the buyer to reserve any seat in the house. On this voucher type you would leave the “Restrict to seating zone” field set to its default value of “No restriction”. You might also create a single ticket voucher type called “Regular adult” that has a lower price but only allows the buyer to reserve seats in the “Regular” seating zone. On this voucher type you would set the “Restrict to seating zone” field to “Regular”.

Seating zone restrictions can be placed on single tickets, comps, and items in a subscription or bundle. This allows you, for example, to sell single tickets at different price points as seen in the example above, as well as offer comps that are only good for certain seats and also offer differently priced subscriptions based on what seats can be reserved by the subscriber.

When a patron reserves a seat using a voucher that has a seating zone restriction, the seat map will show all seats in other zones as unavailable. Theater staff can override zone restrictions and reserve any seat in the house for a patron regardless of the ticket type. This allows staff to upgrade a patron’s seats–either as a complimentary gesture or by charging an upgrade fee in the form of a nonticket voucher.

Reserved Seating During Sales Flows

When a performance uses reserved seating, every flow that involves allocating seats introduces an additional seat-selection step. These flows are:

  1. The general patron-facing sales flow. Once the patron has selected ticket types and quantities, they must select the correct number of seats before continuing to checkout.
  2. A patron making reservations against their subscriber vouchers or open comps.
  3. A box office agent adding comps, if the comp is to be reserved immediately for a particular performance.
  4. A box office agent selling tickets to walk-up customers without reservations.
  5. A box office agent importing a will-call list from a third-party vendor such as Goldstar or TodayTix.

During seat selection, hovering over any seat shows its seating zone and label, and clicking on a seat selects or un-selects it. If the patron selects an accessible seat, a pop-up appears asking them to ensure they really need the accommodation. You can change the wording of this pop-up on the Options tab.

Note that if all seats in a seat map belong to the same seating zone, then the seating zone’s name will not appear when hovering over seats during seat selection. The whole concept of seating zones will be completely invisible to patrons buying tickets or reserving seats for a performance where all seats belong to the same zone.