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Update for West End theatre audiences

London’s West End looks forward to welcoming audiences back into theatres as soon as performances can safely resume.

To give our customers some clarity, we have been cancelling performances across the West End on a rolling basis, in line with the latest advice from the Government.

We are now extending those cancellations until Sunday 28 June.

This does not mean theatres will reopen on 29 June; if further cancellations are necessary they will continue to be announced on a rolling basis. Different theatres and productions are likely to reopen at different times.

Ticketholders for affected performances do not need to do anything. They will be contacted by the organisation from which they bought their tickets to arrange a refund, credit note or exchange for a later date.

We are grateful to customers for the patience they are showing during this challenging time for our industry. With 300,000 people visiting West End theatres in a normal week, it’s a major undertaking to process refunds, exchanges and credit notes, particularly when many staff are working remotely. Please rest assured that we are all working as quickly as we can and we appreciate the on-going support of our audiences.

‘Theatre Means Business’ website launched to help industry prepare for post-lockdown fightback

Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre have created TheatreMeansBusiness.info, an online platform highlighting a range of live and recorded webinars to equip the theatre industry with the tools to begin rebuilding after the COVID-19 lockdown ends.

Created by SOLT, UK Theatre and partner organisations and hosted by experts in their field, the webinars will cover topics currently front-of-mind to many theatre industry professionals, including business interruption planning, audience development for recovery, and professional and personal resilience.

Sebastian Cater, Head of UK Theatre & Workforce Development, said:

‘Our members are having to take some tough decisions about their organisations at present, and we wanted to help them and the wider sector by creating this website. We’ve curated these webinars to provide the resources and support our workforce needs to plan for the future. We are extremely grateful to all the consultants and agencies we are working with on this project, many of whom have donated their time to help the industry as it rebuilds itself.’

The webinars have been designed to appeal to a range of experience levels. Most do not require SOLT or UK Theatre membership to join, as the aim is to provide advice and support to as many offstage industry professionals as possible – whether someone is working from home on business planning, furloughed and needing inspiration, or new to the industry and wanting professional development.

To make them more accessible, many of the webinars will be free of charge – with some SOLT and UK Theatre sessions giving the option to make a contribution, to be split between the two organisations and the invited speaker. Some partner webinars may have a cost attached.

TheatreMeansBusiness.info has been created by SOLT and UK Theatre’s digital team over the past three weeks as a direct response to the extraordinary events of recent times. More webinars will be programmed in the coming weeks based on feedback and suggestions from the theatre sector.

Full information about each webinar can be found on theatremeansbusiness.info on the webinar event pages.

TheatreMeansBusiness.info

 

Agreement reached between Equity and SOLT to support West End

SOLT

Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and Equity have  announced that they have come to an agreement to support actors during the current suspension of West End shows due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The new agreement provides the best possible framework for the long-term job security of performers and recovery of the West End during these unprecedented circumstances, and is strongly supported by all involved as the best way forward for the industry. It covers every eventuality and perspective, from long-running musicals to plays with limited runs, productions yet to open and shows still in rehearsal when the shutdown began.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre, said:

‘Equity and ourselves have worked tirelessly since the shutdown to protect jobs and address the needs of our West End workforce during this crisis. We all need to work together to ensure that we can get through this as an industry, and are ready to welcome audiences back into our theatres as soon as possible.’

Hilary Hadley, Head of Equity’s Live Performance Department, said:

‘It is only by our closely working together that we have managed to develop this Agreement, which provides a route map for our West End producers, performers and stage management. It is our joint hope that this new Agreement will see the West End Theatre industry through this bleakest period and enable the smooth resumption of the rehearsals and performances which were so abruptly stopped by COVID-19.’

Under the new agreement, casts currently under contract are able to continue on that contract, and have the opportunity to re-commence rehearsals or performances with revised dates once the shutdown ends. This demonstrates the industry’s commitment to ensuring actors and performers still have a job once theatres reopen.

In addition, SOLT and Equity have been lobbying DCMS and the Treasury since the shutdown began, ensuring the voice of the theatre industry is heard, and joining other organisations lobbying for support for the freelancers and self-employed who make up a significant proportion of the theatre workforce. The government’s resulting Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will provide financial protection for many actors and creatives. SOLT and Equity will continue to lobby for those who the scheme does not support.

There is currently no clear indication from government when theatres will be allowed to reopen, but it is clear that some productions will need longer than others to regain their foothold. Producers are therefore contingency planning for their individual shows.

Any reopening dates suggested by individual shows and producers at this stage are speculative, and not representative of the industry as a whole. West End performances are currently cancelled until 31 May, and will continue to be cancelled on a rolling basis while we await further guidance from government.

Theatre industry statement on government aid for self-employed

SOLT

Yesterday (Thursday 26 March), Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced government aid for self-employed workers, who can now apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over three months, made as a single payment from the beginning of June.

Commenting on behalf of the theatre industry, Julian Bird (Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre) said:

‘We welcome the financial support announced by the government for self-employed and freelance people in our industry – this is very welcome and much needed.  We remain concerned by the ability of people to access adequate funds through the welfare system until payments start to be made under the new scheme in June, and urge a rethink of whether some form of interim payment can be granted to self-employed people.  Many thousands of people who graduated last summer will also not be eligible for the scheme, and will need rapid support.’

Theatre closures – SOLT and UK Theatre press statement

Following official government advice issued today (Monday 16 March), which stipulates that people should avoid public buildings including theatres, it has been announced that SOLT and UK Theatre member venues will be closed from tonight, to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

The theatres will remain closed until further notice and will re-open as soon as possible, following government recommendations.

Audience members for a show that has been cancelled will be contacted by their ticket providers and are entitled to a refund. Ticketholders are asked to bear in mind that customer service teams are currently extremely busy.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, said:

‘We are extremely grateful to all of our audiences who have continued to support us for as long as they can, and to theatre staff across the country who have worked so hard in recent weeks to ensure the safety and enjoyment of audiences. Closing venues is not a decision that is taken lightly, and we know that this will have a severe impact on many of the 290,000 individuals working in our industry. In these uncertain times, SOLT and UK Theatre remain committed to helping provide vital support for those in need, and hope we are able to welcome audiences back to our theatres before too long.’

Many theatres that have been forced to cancel performances are charitable enterprises, and while ticketholders are all entitled to a refund for cancelled performances, those who can afford to do so are encouraged to donate the cost of their ticket to show support for the theatre industry.

Over the coming weeks, SOLT and UK Theatre will continue provide updates to the industry and the public as the situation changes, sharing current government and NHS advice.

2019 Box Office figures released by Society of London Theatre

Society of London Theatre

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) has released 2019 ticket sales data for its member venues, which include all of the commercial West End and London’s major subsidized theatres.

The figures reveal an annual London theatre audience of over 15.3 million – nearly 1 million higher than Broadway – filling a record 80.7% of available seats and generating £799m in box office revenue.

Highlights from the data:

  • Attendances of 15,315,773 (down 1.4% from 2018)
  • Gross revenue of £798,994,920 (up 4.3% from 2018)
  • Average ticket price paid £52.17 (up 5.8% from 2018)
  • VAT generated for the Treasury of £133,165,820
  • 80.7% of available seats filled (up from 77.5% in 2018)
  • 18,364 performances (down 1.8% from 2018)

Plays saw a nearly 3% rise in audience numbers, while musicals dipped by just under 2%. This reflects the fact that four of London’s largest musical houses – the Dominion Theatre, the London Palladium, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the newly renamed Sondheim Theatre – were dark for a significant proportion of the year, in some cases to carry out significant renovation projects. A total of 371 dark weeks in 2019, compared to 207 the previous year, explains the small drop in overall attendances.

Kenny Wax, President of SOLT, said:

‘These figures demonstrate the buoyancy of London’s theatre industry and the city’s status as the world’s leading theatre destination. Our major theatre owners and producers continue to present world class work, while investing in their historic venues to give audiences the best possible experience.

Audiences remain hungry for a quality live experience, evidenced by the unprecedented percentage of seats filled in 2019. The theatre industry is committed to offering a wide range of affordable tickets, alongside discount schemes, school outreach projects and SOLT audience development initiatives like Kids Week and New Year Sale. It is fantastic to see that over 5 million* tickets were available in the commercial West End at £40 and under last year, with only 1.1% at £150 and above.’

SOLT 2019 attendances and revenue by genre (with percentage comparisons to 2018):

GenreAttendanceRevenue
Musicals9,292,940 (-1.77%)

 

£522,692,585 (+3.72%)
Plays4,291,734 (+2.73%)£179,762,530 (+7.47%)

 

Other (opera, dance, performance, entertainment)1,731,099 (-8.43%)£96,539,805 (+2.08%)

Theatre Helpline running throughout Christmas period to support industry workers

As Christmas approaches, the Theatre Helpline will be running throughout the festive period, providing support and advice for everyone working in the theatre industry, whether in-house or freelance.

Launched in 2018 by Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre and run by Connect Assist, the free, independent and confidential 24-hour phone and email service is available 365 days a year for a range of personal and professional support.

Callers can talk to friendly, knowledgeable, trained staff about everything from bullying, harassment, mental health and wellbeing to debt and financial issues. Theatre Helpline staff can also signpost a range of useful external resources and support services if necessary.

This week, theatre venues and production offices across the UK will receive posters and flyers about the Theatre Helpline to put up around their workplaces.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, said:

‘Christmas can be a difficult time for some, and we want to remind our industry that the Theatre Helpline is on hand as a vital resource for anyone struggling with a personal or professional issue – big or small – and unsure where to turn. One of SOLT and UK Theatre’s core missions is to ensure the theatre sector is a safe, supportive working environment, and the Theatre Helpline is central to this. Please spread the word about the Helpline among colleagues and friends.’

Theatre Helpline FAQs

Who can contact Theatre Helpline?

The Helpline can be used by anyone who works in the theatre industry. You can be employed, self- employed, a student or a volunteer, for example. It doesn’t matter what job you do. You do not have to be a member of UK Theatre, SOLT or any other membership body or organisation to use Theatre Helpline.

When is the Helpline open?

The Helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round.

Is the Helpline free to call?

Yes, the Helpline is free to call from both a landline and a mobile.

Who is at the end of the phone?

UK Theatre and SOLT have commissioned Connect Assist to provide the Helpline. Connect Assist is based in Wales and provide Helpline support for a number of UK charities, including Film and Television Support and Help for Musicians.

The people at the end of the phone are professional, friendly, approachable and knowledgeable. If they can’t help you, they will refer you on to a person or source who can.

How is the Theatre Helpline funded?

The Theatre Helpline is funded by the Theatre Development Trust.

What sort of thing can I ring the helpline about?

It is a support line that offers anyone working in the theatre and performing arts industry a resource to help them deal with any issues affecting their health and wellbeing. The person at the end of the phone can offer advice, guidance and signposting.

For instance, you might be calling because you are going through a bereavement and want to know where you could receive emotional support, or because you have an employment issue and don’t know where best to turn to help you sort it.

Is my call confidential? Do I have to give my name or other personal details?

Your call is confidential. You can give as many details as you are comfortable providing.

The person on the helpline will ask you for some basic details such as the region you are in, or the sort of role you have in the theatre industry. They will feed back anonymous data, such as the types of issues people are calling with, to help UK Theatre and SOLT to continually improve the service and understand what may need to be developed in the future.

All calls are recorded for quality and staff training. All recordings are deleted after 3 months.

I am deaf / can’t hear very well on the phone / have a speech impairment – are there other ways I can contact Theatre Helpline?

Yes, you can email the Helpline on this email address: advice@theatrehelpline.org

I have some feedback on my experience on the helpline, who can I give this to?

They welcome your feedback on your experience using the Helpline. You can give us this feedback through emailing UK Theatre and SOLT on enquiries@soltukt.co.uk or the Connect Assist team on theatrehelpline@ourcrmservice.co.uk. Please only share feedback on the service itself.

2018 Box Office figures released by Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre

SOLT
  • Data jointly released for West End and rest of the UK for the first time
  • Resilience of UK’s theatre industry revealed
  • Strong audience and ticket sales figures from SOLT and UK Theatre members including several new records

Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre have released data for ticket sales across their member venues in 2018. The figures reveal a combined audience of over 34m and ticket revenue of nearly £1.28bn, from a total of 62,945 performances over the course of the year in the West End and across the UK.

London’s West End theatres drew in audiences totaling over 15.5m last year, resulting in box office revenue of over £765m – both record figures, generating over £127m in VAT for the Treasury. The year saw an increase in the number of performances to 18,708, up 2.8% from 2017. Hit shows including Hamilton had an impact on overall ticket sales in a very strong year for musicals, while plays experienced a dip in attendances and revenue.

Audiences for theatre across the rest of the country topped 18.8m, with a box office of over £509m. Theatres reported a slight increase in attendances, and also number of performances (44,237, up 0.2% from 2017), as well as a rise in income and average ticket price. This was largely due to increased yield at the biggest presenting houses, which bounced back after a small dip in 2017. Smaller producing theatres saw the largest dip in attendance and revenue, falling back in line with previous years after an unusually strong 2017.

2018 SOLT Highlights:

  • Attendances of 15,548,154 (up 3.0% compared to 2017)
  • Gross revenue of £765,800,051, (up 8.6% compared to 2017)
  • Average ticket price paid £49.25 (up 5.5% compared to 2017)
  • 77.5% of available seats filled
  • 18,708 performances

2018 UK Theatre Highlights:

  • Attendances of 18,806,659 (up 0.3% compared to 2017)
  • Gross revenue of £509,567,967 (up 8.4% compared to 2017)
  • Average ticket price paid £27.10 (up 8.0% compared to 2017)
  • 61% of available seats filled
  • 44,237 performances

Kenny Wax, President of SOLT, said:

‘As these figures show, London’s world-leading theatre industry is attracting larger audiences than ever after another record year. Increasingly, people seem to want to invest in high quality cultural experiences, and the West End is benefiting from this trend. We must be cautious heading into 2019, however, as the combined effects of some theatres going dark for renovations, major musicals closing and an uncertain political climate might have an impact in the coming months.’

Fiona Allan, President of UK Theatre, said:

‘2018 was generally a good year for the UK’s theatre sector, which proved robust in a difficult economic climate. London’s West End enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the rest of London and across the nations, with fantastic new writing and revivals originating all over the country and ending up in West End theatres, and West End productions touring the UK.’