Magicians cast their spell on local audiences – and reap the rewards | Business Observer

A journey that began with a toy magic trick fished out of a cereal box set Chris and Ryan Zubrick on a career path that took them around the world.

They’ve grown from humble beginnings in their home state of Michigan to Guam, Saipan and now St. Petersburg, where they own and operate the Zubrick Magic Theater, a 90-seat venue that offers style magic shows Las Vegas and family friendly. a unique and vibrant addition to the city’s thriving downtown.

Chris, 39, and Ryan, 36, have spent 13 years abroad, perfecting their magic act during more than 7,000 shows. In Guam, they performed at a theater that seats 500 – a far cry from the privacy of their current venue – but it closed due to pandemic restrictions, prompting the couple to reassess their career path .

After returning to the United States, the Zubricks and their young son, Oliver – who is now five years old and occasionally appears in their number – bought an RV and traveled the country in search of their “forever home”, starting in Santa Monica, California. , and visiting 26 states, ending up in the Florida Keys. On their way to northern Michigan to visit family, they stopped in St. Petersburg.

“We crossed the Skyway Bridge and came to St. Pete, which we had never heard of before,” Chris explains. “He ticked all of our boxes. It was very artsy, and we wanted a place that had year-round tourism, no competition, no snow, good weather, and was LGBT-friendly for our family. So we moved to St. Pete, and I’m glad we did, because we love it.

They say there’s no business like show business, but it’s also one of the riskiest and most demanding forms of business, requiring constant reinvention to attract and hold attention. of a fickle audience, who now more than ever have nearly limitless entertainment options. How will the Zubricks, as they approach their first anniversary of rooting at St. Pete, keep their act fresh and people coming back for more magic?

Presto change-o

Effectively updating show content can be a big challenge for illusionists like the Zubricks. While part of their act relies on tried-and-true sleight of hand involving birds, top hats, playing cards and even their assistant Marlana LaCivita being ‘sawed’ in half, music , jokes, predictions and stories also play a big role. Chris and Ryan also update the act based on the holidays, such as when they bring up “snow” at the theater at Christmas.

“We won’t change the whole show all at once,” Ryan says, “but we will add new routines here and there.”

Chris says they also enjoy changing the game for themselves, for the sake of professional growth. But they’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many repeat customers their performances have generated so far.

“We’re still working on something, new routines that aren’t on the show yet,” he says. “One of the most frequently asked questions after someone has seen the show is, ‘How often does it change? “, because people want to come back and see something new. But we also found that a lot of people not only come back, but they bring someone else with them because they like to see their reaction to what happening on stage.

Another selling point of the Zubrick Magic Theater is its ticket price – $40 per person for a 70-minute show. Although more expensive than, say, going to the movies, it’s on par or maybe less, depending on the act, than what you could pay to see a show at St. Pete’s Mahaffey Theater or Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts. The Zubricks put a lot of thought into pricing.

“We have a more expensive ticket,” says Chris, “and it’s not by mistake. Lots of people say we charge too little, but we looked at what’s in the area. We want to provide a superior experience, and I think the price reflects that.

In addition to the standard $40 ticket, the Zubrick Magic Theater is offering a VIP experience for $147 that includes reserved seating for two, two free drinks, a free popcorn order, and a special gift from the magic shop at the place, which offers a magic set with a collection of basic tricks, a deck of cards and a practical guide to card tricks, t-shirts and gift certificates.

The Zubricks seem to have found a middle ground when it comes to pricing, as VIP tickets, they say, sell out the fastest. As for gross revenue, “Let’s put it this way,” Chris says, declining to divulge specific numbers, “we’re selling. We’re adding additional shows because the demand is there. We started with shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and now we do Thursday, Friday, Saturday and a Sunday matinee We have selected additional shows throughout the year during the holidays, in November and December, and starting in January we will be performing five days a week.

Take possession

For the Zubricks, playing is the easy part.

The business side is where they have to work the hardest. The Zubrick Magic Theater is somewhat unusual, they say, in that it is owned and operated by its performers, and unlike other small theaters they do not bring guests – it’s just the two of them, day after day.

Ryan and Chris Zubrick spent the first 13 years of their careers performing magic shows in Guam and Saipan. (Photo by Mark Wemple)

“Ryan is doing all the graphic design work, all the Photoshop stuff,” Chris says, “and I’m going to hit the streets and do some marketing work. We take care of all ticket reservations.

To generate additional revenue, the Zubricks rent out their theater, at 1211 1st Ave N., Suite 101, St. Petersburg, for private events that may include a performance of their show.

“We like to have our part in the business as much as possible,” says Chris. “We are illusionists first and foremost, but we learn all the business aspects of it as we go along.”

The Zubricks learned a lot in their first year, including how to succeed in a market heavily reliant on seasonal tourism.

“We did a lot of research,” says Ryan, “but we didn’t have a good understanding of high season versus low season. So after this first year, I feel like we understand each other a lot better.

Marketing is another area where the duo allocates a significant amount of their time and energy. Because there’s nothing else like Zubrick Magic Theater in the area, they didn’t have much of a playbook to follow when it came to promotion.

“We try all kinds of marketing channels,” says Chris, “but I would say the best has been word of mouth. It exceeded our expectations.

This is reflected in Zubrick Magic Theater online reviews, which told Chris and Ryan the TripAdvisor Travelers Awards 2022. Social media marketing and good old fashioned maps and brochures displayed at other local businesses have also been effective.

In addition to LaCivita, the Zubricks employ a handful of front staff who work mostly during the shows, but overall the illusionists run most facets of the business. “It’s unique that we wear so many different hats,” says Chris. “When you look at the term ‘show business’, what is the most important word? ‘Business.’ Because that’s what takes the most effort and time. The show is the easy part, the reward that makes the commercial aspect more palatable.

Having paid their dues overseas, often performing two shows a night, six days a week, Chris and Ryan say they are content to operate the Zubrick Magic Theater as a “lifestyle” business that allows them to spending time with Oliver and enjoying St Pete’s many cultural and recreational activities.

Looking ahead, the couple say they’ll likely bring in other performers to wow audiences, generating even more work-life balance. “It’s sort of a retirement plan for us,” says Chris. “We’re going to be bringing in other acts and producing the shows that will be performing here.”

Brian L. Hartfield