Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 12:32 UK

Opera House hit by credit crunch

Opera House
Three Opera House staff have been made redundant

Belfast's best-known theatre has said dwindling ticket sales caused by the credit crunch has forced it to lay off three of its 30 permanent staff.

The number of people visiting the Grand Opera House fell by 30% in May.

Opera House director John Botteley said the number of visitors to the theatre in May had dropped by 30% as people tightened their purse strings.

"Last year was our most successful year in the history of the Opera House," he said.

"We averaged 78% attendance and things were going very well.

"Then the credit crunch hit us in May and we had a very poor set of ticket sales.

"All entertainment and leisure pursuits are being affected.

Good weather

"What we found was that there was very good weather in May.

"So if it was between going to a barbeque or going to the theatre, people made the choice of going to the barbeque.

"In June it has been better because the weather has been poorer, so we have done very well and bookings ahead are looking quite good, but May was an appalling month and we had to make some difficult choices."

Mr Botteley said that he hoped there would be no need for further cuts.

"It is difficult because we are a charity and our only source of income is ticket sales and ticket revenue. We also get a set grant from the arts council.

"At the end of the day we have to make our books balance and if we have a bad month we have to make a tough decision."

Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the arts council, said the drop in ticket sales was an unfortunate consequence of the current financial climate.

"As a core funder of the Grand Opera House, the arts council is confident that the organisation is doing everything it can to minimise the impact of this shortfall," she said.

"The Opera House remains positive that the dip in audience numbers is temporary and that they will rise again."

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