Most people don't know much about London theatre ownership, most likely people think that each theatre is family owned and operated and has been that way since its beginning. The fact is that nearly all of the prominent theatres in London's West End are part of big chains who own several of the famous theatres in London.
The four big players in the ownership of London's theatres are Delfont Mackintosh Ltd, The Really Useful Group Ltd , Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and Nimax Theatres.
Delfont Mackintosh Ltd was founded in 1991 by Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Bernard Delfont and is owned by Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Bernard Delfont passed away in July of 1994. The company now operates seven of London's major theatres including the Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Queens, Novello, Noel Coward, Wyndhams and the Gielgud Theatre. Five are freeholds and two have very long leases of 150 years. Delfont Mackintosh Ltd and in particular Cameron Mackintosh has shown his dedication and commitment to the restoration and revitalisation of his theatres over the years with all seven either undergoing complete restoration and redevelopment or some sort of smaller refurbishment to keep the theatres fit for the 21st century.
The Really Useful Group Ltd was founded in 1977 by composer, songwriter, businessman and theatre director Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Really Useful group is broken up into smaller companies including the Really Useful Theatre Company who produce and manage plays and musicals. Really Useful Films who produce film versions of Andrew Lloyd Webbers catalogue, Really Useful Records who produce the cast albums and Really Useful Group Theatres who own and manage seven prominent London Theatres. They include the Adelphi, Cambridge, Her Majesty's, London Palladium, New London Theatre, Palace and Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
The Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd or ATG for short, are in independent theatre group operating theatres all over the UK. They were formed in 1992 and own nearly fourty theatres all over the UK. Their portfolio in London's West End includes Apollo Victoria, Harold Pinter, Donmar Warehouse, Duke Of York's, Fortune, Phoenix, Piccadilly, Playhouse, Savoy and Trafalgar Studios 1 and 2. The company was co-founded and is run by Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire. The group also own ATG Tickets which is the joint-largest ticketing company in the UK and FFE which is a major pantomime company who have just produced 8 pantomimes for the 2011/2012 Christmas season with international stars such as David Hasselhoff and the hilarious housewife from Moonee Ponds, Australian Dame Edna Everage.
The final big gun in the London theatre world is Nimax Theatres owning five of London's most beautiful theatres, The Apollo, Garrick, Duchess, Lyric and Vaudeville Theatres. Formed in 2005, Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer, they bought four of their theatres from Andrew Lloyd Webber with Weitzenhoffer already owning the Vaudeville Theatre. Nica Burns is one of the UK's leading play producers and Max Weitzenhoffer has been involved in theatre on Broadway and in the UK for decades.
Keeping these theatres in good condition and comfortable and accessible for a modern audience costs a lot of money. When you purchase tickets for many of these theatres shows, you will pay a small restoration levy which is put aside for maintenance and future restoration and renovation. This fee usually ranges from £0.50-£1.50.
As you can see the majority of the most well know London Theatres are in fact owned by one of these four big theatre chains. Hopefully they will continue to take their London theatre ownership seriously and keep the theatres in a great condition for theatregoers to visit and enjoy for years to come.