Despite Global Arts Sector Struggles, Royal Ballet and Opera Income Climbs Nearly 33%

The Extension of the Government Theatre Tax Relief Provides Crucial Post-Pandemic Support.

By: Jun. 05, 2024
Despite Global Arts Sector Struggles, Royal Ballet and Opera Income Climbs Nearly 33%
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Civil Society reports that The Royal Ballet and Opera, formerly known as the Royal Opera House, has announced a significant increase in income, rising by nearly a third last year. According to recently published financial statements, the charity recorded a total income of £170.7m for the year ending 27 August 2023, compared to £128.9m in 2021-22.

Box office receipts, which accounted for 31% of the total income, also saw a substantial increase, rising from £39.6m to £52.6m.

Total expenditure grew by 16% to £154.8m, up from £133.1m in the previous year.

The accounts highlight that 2022-23 marked the second full season since Covid-19 and the first season without pandemic-related cancellations since March 2020. Nearly all income sources increased, with commercial and other income rising to £46m compared with £24.4m in 2021-22. However, fundraising and sponsorship income fell slightly, from £39m to £37.6m.

Box office occupancy returned to pre-Covid-19 levels at 96%, with the Royal Ballet and Opera achieving 83% financial capacity. Notably, 59% of all bookers were new to the charity. The organization maintained efforts to diversify audiences by pricing 30% of main stage tickets under £50, with 25% under £35, and selling 70,000 tickets to members aged 16-25.

The charity benefitted from the extension of higher rates of the government’s theatre tax relief, which provided "vital support to our post-pandemic recovery," amounting to £20.6m in 2022-23, up from £6.77m the previous year.

Despite the positive financial outcomes, the charity faced significant challenges. These included prolonged higher rates of inflation, a three-time increase in utility costs, and upward pressure on salaries. There was also a 20% real-term cut to public subsidy, changes in audience and consumer behavior, and the need for significant capital investment in its ageing backstage infrastructure.

The Royal Ballet and Opera received a grant from Arts Council England (ACE) of £23.6m last year, down from £24.5m in 2021-22, representing 15% of total unrestricted income. The charity estimates that it will need to invest at least £50m "over the next three years just to keep the building open and operations, part of the £200m required over the next decade."

Wages and salaries rose to £49.2m last year, compared with £41.9m in 2021-22, while the number of staff employed on a full-time basis increased from 978 to 1,055. The average salary cost per full-time equivalent employee, excluding termination costs, rose by 9% to £46,614, driven by an annual pay award of 4%, further pay increases from the London Living Wage, and an additional non-consolidated lump-sum payment to staff.

In his introduction to the accounts, Royal Ballet and Opera chair Lloyd Dorfman said: “Whilst the catastrophic closure of the house in the face of the pandemic was put behind us in the 2022-23 season, the repercussions of that period were still being felt and were exacerbated by broader economic and other challenges. The costs of running our theatres have surged in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis that has impacted our entire industry as it has the whole economy. This has come alongside a significant real-term curt to our ACE grant and the ever-more pressing need for capital investment in our ageing back-of-house infrastructure. It was a significant achievement to negotiate these challenges in the short term and the determination, resilience and creativity demonstrated by this institution will stand us in good stead as we work to secure longer-term stability.”