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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 12:20 GMT
Great Court faces night closure
British Museum
The Great Court circles the magnificent reading room
The much-heralded Great Court at the British Museum is being forced to cut its opening hours after failing to attract visitors at night.

The 100m Norman Foster-designed space was opened 11 months ago by the Queen.

But as the museum attempts to tackle last year's 3m shortfall in income it has decided to reduce opening hours to the court, a spokewoman told BBC News Online.

British Museum
The museum has around 5.5 million people visiting annually
The Great Court, which houses cafes, a restaurant and reading room, had been open until 2300 (GMT) on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.

Part of the building costs for it were met by the Millennium Commission, which pledged 30m on condition of late night openings.

The space had previously been used as an out-of-sight storage area before it was transformed into a magnificent piazza to provide a focus for the museum.

Success

Now a decision between the museum and the Millennium Commission needs to be finalised on how early to close the doors of the Great Court.

But the museum has stressed the attraction itself has been a success, enticing large crowds during the day.

But as day turns to night the numbers radically drop off.

For now the hours will stay the same and will probably remain so until next year.

Great Court
The Museum's glass roof is made from 3,000 panels
The British Museum itself opens until 2030 (GMT) on Thursday and Friday and 1730 the rest of the week.

Drastic measures

Recently the museum announced it would be forced to undergo a series of cuts to help tackle a 3m shortfall.

Drastic measures included halting plans for a 80m study centre and a recruitment freeze.

The income drop was blamed on a lack of government funding and a downturn in tourism because of foot-and-mouth and the US attacks.

The museum has sought funding from corporate companies and Barclays Bank has signed up to a two-year sponsorship deal.

Financial support was offered to help stage an exhibition on the Queen of Sheba, beginning in June 2002.


In DepthIN DEPTH
BBC News Online looks at how the arts are funded in the UKArts funding
How the UK's cash for the arts is spent
See also:

20 Sep 01 | Arts
Funding the British Museum
04 Dec 00 | Entertainment
British Museum opens to controversy
19 Feb 01 | Entertainment
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17 Jan 01 | Entertainment
British Museum reputation 'damaged'
11 Apr 01 | Reviews
Cleopatra still a mystery
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