The question of whether the Olympics will be good for London theatres has been on producers minds. Ever since it was confirmed that London would host the games for a record breaking third time, debate has been raging as to how it would affect the West End.
Most theatres have cancelled their shows on the days of the opening and closing ceremonies and some have decided to close down all together. Theatre legend Andrew Lloyd Webber said it would be a "bloodbath" and nobody would attend. His song writing partner, Tim Rice had the opposite opinion saying, "he believed the Olympics would prove "a major benefit to the theatre world". "I don't see why (the Olympics) should be anything other than a plus. There will be a lot more tourists floating around and I simply don't see why they would only want to see the Olympics," he told the London newspaper.
So who is right?
In the summer of 2012 around 10,700 world class athletes from more than 200 nations will compete in the Olympic Games. Over 16 days of competition (28 July to 12 August 2012), approximately ten million tickets have been available for sale for the Olympic Games to watch the athletes compete in 26 sports.
Lets face it London is going to be packed! Have the authorities got the transport situation sorted to ease up travelling? New lines have been opened, business have been encouraged to get their employees working from home to avoid using the transport system...surely London is prepared for the influx!
Does it stand to reason that everybody in London whether local or visitor is only going to be attending an Olympic event and not do anything else in London? Not really! In a survey of 38,000 theatre goers voted their prediction that the Olympics would actually boost London Theatre attendance and would be more likely to attend a show. Now this is where it gets interesting and theatre producers should take note-
The minority of theatre-goers who said the Olympics may put them off going to see a show, added their minds could be changed in the run up to the games by reduced ticket prices (63%), assurance of smooth-running transport (41%), good seat availability (31%) and celebrity-led casts (18%).
The fact is although the theatre producers like to boast about the increase in ticket sales for 2011, the actual attendance level has decreased. Why? It's all about the ticket prices. Of course there is more money made when it cost around £75.00 on average to see a West End musical and lets not even get started about those pesky premium seats producers like to sell. What used to be a limited amount of the best of the best seats being set aside as "premium" now on a Saturday could be half the theatre...if they are busy enough. A family of four going to see the Lion King could be splashing out around £400.00 for a Saturday night. No wonder attendance is down when it would be cheaper to take your family on holiday for a week!
So producers, instead of closing your shows and spreading gloom and doom why not look at bigger picture? Reduce your prices, do some special Olympic offers and draw in the crowds. Instead of being greedy with the ticket prices encourage everybody to see a show with reasonable prices and actually fill those houses out! How many woman for example would only be too glad to leave hubby at the Athletics and have a night out in the West End to see a show like Mamma Mia or a world class play such as Long Days Journey Into Night starring David Suchet at the Apollo?
With so many people swarming to London, this could be a golden opportunity. There is no doubt the Olympics will be good for London theatres if producers take note of the public mood and take action now to show off one of London's best world class attractions - The West End theatres.