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The Tills Are Alive With New Ladies Toilets

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MamasDoin'Fine
Broadway Legend
joined:9/28/08
Broadway Legend
joined:
9/28/08
The Tills Are Alive With New Ladies Toilets

Thank you for the music, the tills are ringing - London theatre shows
the way to profit.

Daily Telegraph, London
18th, Apr 2010.

'I got life. I got million-dollar charm'. So sings the cast of Hair, the peace and love musical that opened in London's West End last week to rave reviews.
The exuberance displayed by 'Hair's hippies appears to be in strong supply in London's theatreland right now. Musical theatre is booming.

Its rude health would give no hint that the UK is emerging from a crippling recession.

The West End is no stranger to boom or nearly bust, but the current mood is almost euphoric. Last year box office revenues topped £500m for the first time, an increase of 7.6pc on the previous year's level.
Audience totals hit a new record of 14.2m, up 5.5pc with musicals accounting for almost £329m of the revenue stream and 8.6m customers.
Box office receipts have continued to grow at around 8pc in the first four months this year.

Further, a strong pipeline of new plays and musicals should be providing theatres with healthy returns and the opportunity to increase the pace of investment to give more of theatreland an overdue facelift.

So why is this area of the economy doing so well?
What is behind the current boom?
And what are the pitfalls for the businesses that put on such shows?

Nica Burns, president of the Society of London Theatre and head of a five-strong theatre chain, says that musical theatre is thriving thanks to a helping hand from television. A new generation of theatregoers is descending on the capital, their curiosity aroused by the way Lord Lloyd Webber, the composer, has harnessed TV to catapult unknown singers and dancers on to the West End stage. Shows like
'Strictly Come Dancing' have also encouraged people's inner Wayne Sleep.
Ms Burns is making confident noises about maintaining heady growth for
another 18 months at least.

'All these 'discovering talent' shows have caught the imagination of the public. It's helped make musicals particularly exciting. We've had a survey showing that 23pc of people who have come to the theatre and seen a musical are now in the mood to try a play'.
The Victorian settings of many West End theatres are now being done up. 'We have just restored the front of the Apollo for the first time in 40 years. I've taken a sledgehammer to the ladies lavs in the Duchess. For me it's the year of the loo', says the bubbly Burns.

It is also the year of consolidation. The £90m purchase of Live Nation's UK theatres by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) gives the combined group considerable playing and pulling power with 39 venues in the West End and 11,000 seats to rival the businesses headed by Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Lord Lloyd-Webber.
The arrival of husband and wife team Rosemary Squire and Howard Panter, joint founders of ATG, at centre stage provides three big West End players. It also means that for the first time theatreland is now in the hands of producers, rather than landlords.

'This is a massive development and we're waiting to see what the effects will be', says Nick Salmon, a veteran producer who is starting a new production company with two colleagues. There are others waiting, watching and anticipating as well.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who has seven theatres and an almost magical
business touch, likes to back winners. 'Les Misérables', 'Phantom Of The
Opera', 'Cats' and a host of other musicals have produced a steady stream of earnings and given him a fortune estimated at up to £650m.
His company, Cameron Mackintosh Ltd, achieved a near 20pc increase in turnover in the year to end March last year to £32.3m and a 65pc leap in pre-tax profits to £23.1m while keeping a handy £87.4m cash pile.

Lord Lloyd-Webber, said to be ahead in the rich stakes with a paper value of £750m, has demonstrated his marketing as well as musical ability through his auditioning programme to 'discover' unknowns over the past two years. He is at it again with a carefully staged TV extravaganza to promote next year's big musical event, an adaptation of 'The Wizard Of Oz', by 'finding' Dorothy and her dog. However, his master company, The Really Useful Group Holdings, saw pre-tax profits slide from a disposal inflated £73.1 to £9.4m.

There are pitfalls. A shortage of suitable theatres rather than playhouses limits the settings for the big musical and there is always the risk of a flop.
'Gone With The Wind' failed to take off after costing £4.75m.
'Imagine This' was another casualty, but neither has reached the £30m associated with putting Bono's 'SpiderMan -The Musical' fantasy on Broadway, a show which has been years in development but is yet to open.

Fast-forward 18 months and the scene might be less cosy. The expected cuts in Government spending on the arts will have a knock-on effect on the commercial theatre that Burns feels will be damaging. The subsidised theatre has funding to nurture costly productions before they are transferred to the commercial stage. 'Jerusalem', for example, was commissioned in 2002 at the Royal Court and made its debut a whole seven years later.
'We would be foolish not to expect cuts and everyone will have to tighten their belts', says Burns. 'We should look to cut the costs of administration. Where are the regional theatres going to get the money?'.

The Arts Council is bringing down the curtain on a £1.6bn investment programme. It has set a new support framework for the NationalTheatre, the Royal Opera House and other institutions taking £5m a year from the public purse and urging local authorities to fill the gap.
Some hope.
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devonian.t
Broadway Legend
joined:7/26/04
Broadway Legend
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How old is that photo of Shaftesbury Avenue???

PS It must be time for that 5 Guys revival now!
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Scripps2
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joined:1/19/08
Broadway Legend
joined:
1/19/08
British theatre is always at its best when British government is at its worst.
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MamasDoin'Fine
Broadway Legend
joined:9/28/08
Broadway Legend
joined:
9/28/08
19 years ago.

Took my mum to see 'Five Guys Named Mo' and that was the last time I saw her dance around a theatre like someone possessed!
Surprisingly, this is one of Cameron's biggest world wide hits and he hasn't touched it for nearly 20 years!
Updated On: 4/19/10 at 12:15 PM
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Eastwickian
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joined:5/18/04
Broadway Legend
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There was a tour a few years ago but it shut after only a couple of stops. I've never seen the show live, but love the CD and video from the London production...

"Murder is a very British thing, isn't it? I mean, it's almost like a hobby over there."
"Why do you insist you must hear the words? When you know I cannot give you words. Not the ones you need..."

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alterego
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joined:6/5/03
Broadway Legend
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It bombed in Melbourne (produced by Mcintosh).