West End theatre is a tough business. There’s no doubt about that. Dozens of shows are trying to make a profit. Production costs are often high and it’s unlikely these costs will fall in the foreseeable future.
And obviously producers need to sell tickets to keep their shows running. Ticket prices have increased a lot over the past 10 years. I remember buying top price seats for We will rock you for less than £50 to name just one example.
But then everything is getting more expensive. I realise that and although I’d be lying if I said I never complain about regular ticket prices I’m ok with shows charging £65 for best seats. After all there’s usually day seats, online offers, TKTS etc. for us regular theatre goers. Yes, it sometimes means getting up early and spending an hour or two of your Saturday morning waiting in front of a theatre. But if I end up with a great seat for £25 I will happily make that bit of an effort.
And for the few shows without suitable offers (Matilda springs to mind) I will pay £65 and just accept that I won’t be able to watch that particular show over and over again. After all the “usual” audience member rarely watches a show more than once (maybe twice if it was an especially enjoyable experience). So, I don’t expect a show to offer me nice and cheap tickets. In the end it’s good to see a show doing well enough to not having to rely on discounting tickets to fill the theatre.
But there’s a difference between doing well and being greedy. The introduction of premium seats at usually around £95 is verging on the edge of greed. But if people are willing to pay that much for one ticket who can blame the producers for charging these prices? They want to make money – that’s the purpose of their business.
But now we are facing a whole new level of ticket prices in the West End. The smash hit musical The Book of Mormon is selling out performance after performance. Tickets are like gold dust at times. There’s a ticket lottery for every performance which – although giving 21 lucky winners the opportunity to watch the show for £20 – only adds to the hype surrounding this musical. The Book of Mormon was the first show to introduce premium tickets at £127, a price that seemed ridiculously high at the time. But there obviously were people willing to pay that much for one ticket.
Personally I can’t say I’m surprised to see the producers of The Book of Mormon have now taken the next step. Super premium tickets (or whatever they are called officially) for £152 each. I’ll repeat that just in case you didn’t quite get that figure: £152 for ONE ticket.
Don’t get me wrong, I think The Book of Mormon is a fantastic show. It’s funny, it’s clever, it has great music and a brilliant cast. It deserves to be a success. But I do find the pricing policy of this show slightly worrying. Enjoying an evening at the theatre shouldn’t be a privilege. But how is a couple with regular jobs supposed to afford two tickets for £304? Add costs for transport, a drink and maybe dinner before the show – it’s a ridiculous amount of money for an evening out. The Book of Mormon is a great show but it’s not that great!
Sadly as long as there are people who are buying these tickets we will see prices increasing further in the future. The only way to stop this trend is to stop buying tickets at these prices. And as much as I would love to see this happening it is obviously just wishful thinking. Clever marketing and a huge hype has made The Book of Mormon the hottest ticket in town. And the producers know people are going to pay to become part of this hype. I don’t agree with the decision to charge £152 for a ticket but I can’t blame the producers for jumping at the chance to make a fortune. It’s the basic rule: Supply and demand.
It does make me sad though. I love the arts. I love West End theatre. And I strongly believe theatre should be more than a money making machine.