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West End Rip Off!

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West End Rip Off! #1
Posted: 1/18/11 at 9:45pm
West End producers 'are ripping off theatre-goers'
Practice of 'premium pricing' for popular shows hides the true cost of booking the best seats

By Susie Mesure

West End producers are "ripping off" theatregoers with misleading information about top-priced seats for popular shows such as 'War Horse' and 'Yes, Prime Minister', critics claim.

Industry insiders have accused Britain's biggest theatre groups, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and Cameron Mackintosh's Delfont Mackintosh, of introducing "premium" and even "superior" priced tickets to hide the true cost of the best seats in the house.
The move risks tipping the cost of a West End theatre ticket above 100 and makes some plays more expensive to watch than musicals, even though plays are vastly cheaper to produce.

Anyone hoping to book for 'The Children's Hour', starring Keira Knightley and Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, might think that 60 would secure the best seat in the house. That was the top of the price band unveiled by the Ambassador Theatre Group, the company behind the play, when booking opened.
But irate early bookers found ATG was charging 75 for so-called "premium seats" in most of the stalls and first circle.
Last month, ATG increased the top price yet further, introducing new "superior seats" for 85.

Mark Shenton, who writes for The Stage magazine, said the play's producers were "not being transparent about the top price for seats". He added: "Premium pricing is driven by greed. How can we be as expensive as Broadway when our costs are significantly lower? It's a very short-term view because it will turn going to the theatre into a luxury."

Richard Andrews, an independent theatre consultant who monitors ticket prices for the Society of London Theatres, called it "sharp practice" to pretend the top price is 60 when the best seats are 85. "It is cheating the public," he added. "The point is to rip people off. There is no justification. It's just a price rise."

'The Children's Hour', which opens on 22 January, is not the only culprit. Premium seats for 'Yes, Prime Minister', at the Gielgud Theatre, part of the Delfont Mackintosh group, cost 95 over the Christmas period.
Although it looks as though tickets for 'War Horse' range from 49.50 to 15, the best "premium" seats are 85.

Premium-priced seats were first sold on Broadway for 'The Producers' in 2001.
The device, which has yet to extend outside the West End to regional theatres, started appearing in the UK in 2006 but has only recently become widespread. Subsidised theatres, such as the National, keep their prices much lower.

Andrew Girvan, deputy editor of What's On Stage magazine, said: "There's a limit to what the market will bear. It will be interesting to see if there's a psychological barrier." He said producers tended to charge more for shows with big stars, such as Moss and Knightley, but this wasn't necessarily to recoup a bigger wage bill. "Big-name stars attract bigger prices because producers think people will be willing to pay more to watch stars on stage, but the economics of it is not that simple," he added.

Damien Hewitt, who heads production marketing at ATG, defended premium pricing. "The West End has found there's a market for a consumer who wants to sit in the best seats in the house, which attract a premium, rather like on an aeroplane. You've only got so long to make money from a play. Tickets for 'The Children's Hour' are in line with other premium seats at plays across the West End. In the end, it comes down to supply and demand. We're seeing healthy demand for premium seats."

The Society of London Theatres, which produces an annual report that includes attendance levels and box-office revenues, said that average ticket prices in the West End hit 35.40 in 2009, up from 24.79 in 2000.
Between 2000 and 2007, total gross box-office revenue rose by 61 per cent to 470m, much faster than the 18 per cent growth in theatre attendances, which stood at 13.6 million in 2007.
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West End Rip Off! #2
Posted: 1/18/11 at 10:47pm
The practice of premium seats has been going on for ages on Broadway. If a patron is dumb enough to think that by them spending five hundred bucks on a ticket is going to get them something special, then more power to them. The producers aren't ripping anyone off in London as far as I'm concerned. The only people who are getting ripped off are the ones buying these tickets. Half the time they realized at the last moment that they could have gotten the same seat for more than half cheaper.
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West End Rip Off! #2
Posted: 1/19/11 at 3:53am
Keira Knightly in The Children's Hour for 85 pounds? She'd have to do it nude for me to pay that. And even then...
Faced with these Loreleis, what man can moralize!
West End Rip Off! #3
Posted: 1/19/11 at 5:58am
Newbie here - lurked and read for ages, but wanted to comment on this one!

The article states that Premium Seating hasn't yet reached the regions... It has - Premium Seating is there in Manchester for some of their offerings... Sister Act and Ghost at the Opera House - not to the excesses of London though!

Dirty Dancing is the worst offender though - 75 ticket at Manchester and Bristol and Milton Keynes and 74 at Glasgow!

Not that I shall ever pay those prices to see a show..!

So, in some cases Premium have reached the provinces!!
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West End Rip Off! #4
Posted: 1/19/11 at 7:39am
What is Damien Lewis talking about! "The West End has found there's a market for a consumer who wants to sit in the best seats in the house" - What a fool. Of course people want to sit in good seats. Everyone wants to sit in a good seat. There's always been a demand for it. Thats why people have sat there during the last 100years or so. But how many can afford to sit in a theatre at all nowadays. Or take risks on a 'new' & 'unknown' production at that money. And just because others are charging it doesnt mean its right.

I very much agree with the theme that the cost of these seats is over priced (I was forced to pay 85 for a one man show last year - tons extra and all I got was a free programme worth 5 for the extra money I paid). IMHO there is nothing Kira Knightly can do thats worth 85. 45 possibly. 85 - nah, it sets up the actors performances badly when you sit down demanding your 85's worth. You end up resenting them before they start. When theatre seats for 2 hours start getting near the cost of a colour TV liscence for a year something has gone wrong with our industry.

The key to combatting this - JUST DONT BOOK THEM.
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West End Rip Off! #5
Posted: 1/19/11 at 9:54am
'The key to combatting this - JUST DONT BOOK THEM.'

Exactly and they soon get reverted back to the normal price in the 48/72 hrs prior to a performance!
I know for a fact that these don't sell.

Most of the seats I sit in on Broadway are the premium seating that have been released.
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West End Rip Off! #6
Posted: 1/19/11 at 10:57am
But those of us who don't live near London have to spend around a hundred pounds just for a visit can't afford to take that gamble and wait til the last moment to know what we're going to see. The days where I could go to London and happily see any new show are gone (whether because I'm getting pickier or there are less interesting things on!) and I make the trip to see specific shows now. Which is all so much whining because it's up to the producers to charge what they like, but I'll be following the 'Don't book them' advice, not as a protest, but because I can't actually afford to unless decent advance offers are available.

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West End Rip Off! #7
Posted: 1/19/11 at 10:58am
Thats the thing that bugs about premium seats, that they are a massive price from the start, they are not seats held back to release at a premium closer to show date in order to combat ebay/touts. They sit on the shelf while theatregoers book whatever else is available.

That said its always lovely to pick up a ticket for 27 at tkts that would have been 75 had I booked in advance.

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West End Rip Off! #8
Posted: 1/19/11 at 5:06pm
Unfortunately it's a business model here to say, just as muchas low cost flights are now with Easyjet or Ryanair, simply because it works, the producers hasn't got nothing to lose by selling premium/deluxe tickets, if the show comes a hot seller happy days, if not as Mama says they just revert them back to ordinary tickets 72-48 hours before the performance at the price they would of sold them for originally.

I have included a link, if you click on price outline, next to the venue, it shows you the price bands for that theatre.

As for myself, I get panicky when I have to buy a ticket at full price, as I always say on here; I show my love for theatre by how often I attend.

Seat Prices by Venue
Updated On: 1/19/11 at 05:06 PM
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West End Rip Off! #9
Posted: 1/19/11 at 6:21pm
I find myself buying advance tickets more and more these days and it's not because I've got more money than previously - I don't. It's just that I've decided if I'm going to the theatre, I want to make the experience as good as possible which means I'm not willing to put up with anything less than the best seats - unfortunately that sometimes means I end up paying so-called premium prices. I suspect it may also have something to do with my getting old in that I feel I deserve a good view and my poor old knees can't possibly manage all those stairs up to the balcony!
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West End Rip Off! #10
Posted: 1/19/11 at 11:13pm
It is the same in NY with $5 for a small bottle of water & facility fees tacked on to the price of each ticket amongst other rip offs. Thank mel brooks for premium pricing but it probably would have come eventually. The producers are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. $ 135 US Dollars for a straight play is absolute insanity.Prices are getting out of hand & many people who used to go no longer can afford it. If not for cut rate tickets & discounts, we could not go as much as my wife & I do.
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West End Rip Off! #11
Posted: 1/20/11 at 7:15am
I was having this disscussion with my drama students this morning- indivdually they'd like to be able to go to London and see plays/musicals which would help their education but they can't-the rising cost of tickets on top of travel is just too much.

I was fortunate to study drama in London where I had the advantage of being able to get standby/student tickets and see lots of smaller (cheaper) fringe shows. Today as a 'grown up' (I use that loosely!) even 60 for 'normal' stalls seats is too much.
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