The 2012 Summer Olympics in London from 27 July to 12 August will be the biggest event that the city has ever hosted and will certainly put all of London to the test from transport and security to hospitality and entertainment, as to whether London can successfully pull off hosting the world's largest sporting event. I believe with the amount of foreign visitors to the city, the West End Theatres will thrive, however some theatre owners are less positive and have already announced certain theatres closing for the London Olympics.
The Really Useful Group, which is Andrew Lloyd Webbers production company owning six West End Theatres, is considering closing three of its shows during the Games. They have also already confirmed that Sweeny Todd, Matilda The Musical, The Phantom of the Opera, Singin' in the Rain and Shrek will not be running on the 27th July which is the day of the Opening Ceremony. The only shows that they will run on that day is The Wizard of Oz and War Horse. There are however many great alternatives which will be open if one or more of The Really Useful Groups classics will be closed. The Mousetrap will this year celebrate its 60th anniversary making it the world's longest running play of all time. During this time it has done over 23,000 performances and is sure to be open during the games for the many visitors to London to enjoy. Alternatively you could see the iconic Les Miserables. This is London's longest running musical overtaking Andrew Lloyd Webbers Cats which closed in 2002.
It has been reported that currently, advanced ticket sales for the summer period are only at 10% of their normal level which is worrying theatre owners into believing that the millions of extra tourists that the games will bring could actually have a negative effect on ticket sales and tourism as a whole. Lloyd Webber has said that London theatre was in for a "bloodbath of a summer" and continues “What will happen will be that the big, big, big hits will keep going, War Horse obviously, Les Miserables, Phantom, all the oldies. But it’s going to be tough because we already know all of the advance bookings, because there’s always a pattern." They are worried that the regular theatre goers will want to keep as far away from London as possible and that the international tourists visiting London will not be interested in the West End, but more interested in being further West in Stratford where the sporting action will be.
Instead of complete closure for the duration of the Olympics, some shows are taking a more proactive approach and offering heavily discounted seats to entice people to come and see their show. Jersey Boys at the Price Edward Theatre for example are offering top price seats for just £20.12 for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Sweeny Todd however will open in the West End in March but will then close for the Games.
The truth is, no one knows how the Summer Olympics will affect London theatre ticket sales. Theatre owner and producer of The Mousetrap Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen says "There's a lot of discussion and disagreement about what is going to happen, personally I think that the two-and-a-half weeks of the Olympics will see pretty poor attendances in theatres because people will be focused on sport. I hope I'm going to be proved wrong.". It seems he has more of a "the show must go on" attitude unlike Lloyd Webber as he has confirmed The Mousetrap will be running eight shows a week as normal. So if you are planning on visiting a show after a day watching the games, make sure you book in advance or check online for a list of theatres closing for the London Olympics.