The price of a West End theatre ticket has now tipped over the £100 mark. “Tipped” is not the right word, “leaped” would be better. The Book of Mormon released their new tickets which included a hike in prices. A day later The Audience followed by raising its premium seats to £126 as well.
I have to say I think it’s a shame that the West End has crossed the £100 line. I understand theatre is an expensive creative endeavour and people clearly are willing to pay this price (and more to touts). However I do feel that it prices the regular theatre goer out of the range of some shows. Even if you could get a half price premium ticket to either of the above shows, you’d still be forking out £63. I’m certainly not going to bother to see The Book of Mormon for a good few years when they’ll be offering discount tickets.
Likewise The Audience while it’d be nice to see Helen Mirren performing, the play itself doesn’t appear to be getting a “you must go and see this” response by those I trust. I have a feeling the opinions of critics could become more of a factor for people choosing which show to see going forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I DO expect to pay for tickets, and I’m well aware of the financial implications putting on a West End Show (or any show for that matter) entails. I just feel that the West End has taken a step which I think in the long-term may have negative effects. I like anyone have to budget and make choices with my hard-earned money. Shows charging what I perceive to be excessive tickets prices won’t get my wonga.
Many are excited about the “new” audience The Book of Mormon is bringing to the West End, however if they leave assuming the price of all the other shows is £126, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Many contemporaries of mine avoid the West End due to a perception that it is “too expensive”. I take my hat off to the marketing gurus behind The Book of Mormon though, they have truly created a juggernaut that is bringing in millions of pounds worth of tickets. I’m skeptical that their success will spill over to other shows though.
Some have said it is “only” £126 for a ticket, but going to the theatre is seldom an individual event. I have only been to a show or play on my own a handful of times. I go with my wife usually, so now suddenly it’s £252 for tickets, plus a bite to eat beforehand, a programme for show, ice cream in interval and travel. All of a sudden a West End show is a several hundred pounds.
We keep being told the West End is bucking the recession trend, I wonder how much of this is due to the increase in ticket prices as opposed to an increase in audiences? I’m thrilled the West End is doing so well and there is a genuine buzz around about the great shows that are on offer at the moment. I’m just concerned that the trajectory can’t keep going up and up.
Perhaps the West End is a different theatrical beast? It is an event to go there, and it’s prices and shows should reflect that? It does cater for a more transient audience than other theatres and it certainly does offer spectacle and some of the best theatre in the world. Maybe I just need to get used to sitting up in the gods and save my pennies for those shows I really want to see. The West End is my “local” theatre which is a privilege I know, maybe I’m being greedy, as I want to see everything all the time.
I also think the ticket prices help people promote/justify the shows with the zeal The Book of Mormon has created. Very few people who fork out £126 (or more to the touts) are going to say afterwards, “yeah it was an ok show” are they?
When I write my reviews a key consideration I now have is, “does this ticket represent good value for money?”, in the current climate, that is really important. As I think the productions have to justify their ticket prices, is an “ok” show really worth those premium rates?
Let’s hope the rates plateau at this for the forseeable future, and we’ll see what happens.
(Last year I wrote a post, 16 Ways to go the Theatre and Not Pay Full Price click here to read it)