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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 15:56 GMT
Theatres welcome London ticket offer
Road at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Photo: Paul Miller
Theatres across London are taking part in the scheme

Theatres have largely welcomed a 350,000 scheme to provide cut-price tickets at their venues, but they said it will not solve all of their financial problems.

Introduced by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Get Into London Theatre is aimed at wooing young people into the West End and other venues such as the Hackney Empire.

Just one third of the 12 million people who pay to see plays, musicals, dance and operas in London's theatreland actually live in London.

The tickets, which can cost up to 40, are being offered at reduced prices of 10, 15 and 20 between 15 January and 29 March.

The offer is a joint scheme with the Society of London Theatre, and includes small independent theatres as well as larger ones from the West End.

The Bridewell Theatre
The Bridewell Theatre is in an old swimming pool and laundry
The Bridewell theatre - a former Victorian swimming pool - is one of the smaller venues taking part and its managers broadly welcomed the scheme.

"It's certainly not going to revolutionise our box office, but it's not going to do us any harm either and it will bring us some benefits," marketing manager Kathryn Stewart told BBC News Online.

Producers of more than 50 London shows - from Les Miserables to the English National Opera's Rigoletto - have also signed up to the scheme.

Most see it as a way to reach new audiences in the wake of the prolonged post-11 September slump.

"We have seen the same slight drop over the last year as the rest of the West End, so any initiative to get more people in is welcome," Ms Stewart said.

Reunion at the Greenwich Theatre
Theatregoing can be perceived as a special event, a major investment, and we want to try to get people to think of it as a regular thing

Hilary Strong
Greenwich Theatre
"We are always looking for ways to develop our audience, to get new people in who may not have been here before or not even known that we were here."

On average, 40% of their seats are empty for every performance, with Stephen Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle currently running with full-price tickets costing 18.50.

Ms Stewart said they broke even on some nights, but not on others.

The ticket subsidies are split between the mayor's London Development Agency and the producers, and Ms Stewart said it made long-term economic sense for producers to take part.

'Big increase'

The Lyric in Hammersmith, west London, is another venue taking part, and has been running a similar initiative that lets under-21s into some shows for 5 for several months.

Their scheme has seen a "big increase" in young faces in the audience as a result, according to marketing manager Louise Richards.

"The aim with this scheme is to broaden audiences," she said.

The Lyric is not in the heart of the West End, and does not rely on tourists from other parts of the UK and around the world - which has meant they have mostly avoided the downturn.

Their audiences fill between 85-90% of the auditorium, Ms Richards said.

"We are not taking part in this scheme because we need financial help," she said. "We want to widen our audiences."

Excitement

At Greenwich Theatre, executive director Hilary Strong said ticket prices needed to come down if theatres wanted more people to go regularly.

The mayor's initiative and similar schemes were good starting points, she said.

"There's a problem in that theatregoing can be perceived as a special event, a major investment, and we want to try to get people to think of it as a regular thing, like going to the cinema," she said.

The Greenwich Theatre is especially trying to attract more young black theatregoers from south London, with members of the public invited to audition for a new musical that will be staged in June.

"It's a very, very good scheme because it's simple. You can say to people 'good seats - reduced'. End of story.

"It also generates excitement. You can't underestimate how excitement is good for the arts."


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See also:

15 Jan 03 | England
10 Jan 03 | Entertainment
03 Sep 01 | Entertainment
19 Jul 01 | Entertainment
28 Feb 01 | Entertainment
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