Are there too many musicals in the West End?
(I am writing in support of Michael Billington’s article, ‘ This West End Theatre boom is not all good news’ However throughout my article I will analyze the benefits and draw back for the current state of the west end and where it could go in the future.)
Throughout this year 2012 the West End has comprised of 42 commercial theatres 32 of these have put on musical productions as opposed to traditional plays (1). Compared to a year ago when the article in question, ‘The West End theatre boom is not all good news’ was written there were 20 musicals in the West End. Many critics are asking why such a high percentage of musicals are showing as opposed to traditional plays, is it due to financial reason? Such as higher profit margins for musicals even though investment is larger, or the ease of producing a spin-off as opposed to the creativity of a new play where there is no current defined market? Increasing the risk of the investment.
Looking at the West End from a quantitative viewpoint it is hard to see why there is speculation over its future, total revenues rose from 512m in 2010 to 528m(2) in 2011 a 4% increase. It was stated in the article in question that, “Audiences, in spite of recession and the cold snap, also held steady at 14.1 million”(4) Which the Society of London Theatre Box office data report shows us this is the first in 4 years where a record high has not been set (5). Indicating that although fallen slightly demand is still high, which provides a logical reason for the theatre owners such as Cameron Macintosh and others to put on musical productions as they can have a long life in the West End such as Le Miserable that is in its 27th year of running (6) Another in its 10th year at the Dominion Theatre is ‘We Will Rock You’ which I went to see the other night and was surprised at the theatres 90% approx. capacity on a Monday night, perhaps show this owes its longevity and success to its versatility, appealing to your typical theatre goer and to other fans of Queen and the music especially as the story line is a bit weak for a West End production. This demonstrates well how putting on these modern spin-off can attract people from various markets who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre which must be positive for the West End as it will attract a varied audience and be more inclusive as opposed to exclusive.
It is not just the theatres that benefit as well a thriving West End is a major contributor to our economy contributes approximately £200m in tax each year, and causes roughly £400m in ancillary spending (3) for secondary businesses such as hotels and restaurants. In this way musicals can have more to offer than plays from an economical viewpoint, it provides more jobs, up to about 200 staff on and back stage in each theatre far more than plays, there is typically more scenes with differing sets that all need to be made, costumes, all providing more jobs to secondary industries. The marketers and all the contributors such as the authors and creators also the sale of intellectual property writes. Making theatre one of the biggest parts of our leisure industry, which in itself is one of the top contributors to our exchequer.
So financially the commercial West End looks stable however what is happening in the subsidized sector regarding the 20-30% cuts in funding that are a worry to both sectors
To better asses the effect this will have we much look much deeper and into the long and short term effects of the different current trends such as rising ticket prices, the influx of musicals as opposed to plays in the West End and what is happening to the subsidized sector it terms of creativity and content of production.
However the proposed subside cuts in the subsidized theatre sector are forcing critics to think that the boom will be short lived as most of the creativity comes from this sector. Cutting this talent pool will reduce...
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