£10 Season Takes National to Record 91% HousesDate: 7 September 2004
Fuelled by the success of the Travelex £10 Season, the National Theatre has reported the highest attendance figures in living memory. The results of the NT Annual Review - covering the 2003/2004 financial year to 28 March 2004, the first fully under the direction of Nicholas Hytner - show the NT playing to 91% capacity across all three auditoria, equalling a total of 731,000 people, up 11% on the previous year (See News, 24 Sep 2003).
For the four productions - Henry V, His Girl Friday, Tales from the Vienna Woods and Edmond, starring Kenneth Branagh - in last year’s inaugural £10 season, which won the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Planet Hollywood Theatre Event of the Year, audiences rose to 95%, a third of whom were first-time bookers who later returned to the theatre for other productions.
Now halfway through the second Travelex season, during which 150,000 seats are reduced to just £10 over six months, Hytner says this year’s attendances are on target to match last year’s. The three-year arrangement with Travelex ends in 2006, though the director was optimistic about maintaining it as a permanent fixture in the National’s annual repertoire.
As a result of Travelex as well as box office successes such as Alan Bennett’s The History Boys and the two-part stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, to be revived in November, instead of a budgeted deficit of £500,000, the NT has once again reported a small surplus, this year of £48,000 (compared to £58,000 in 2002/3003).
Speaking at this afternoon’s press conference, Hytner commented, with marked relief, that thankfully “all of the big risks worked.” He continued: “We’ve learned that the bolder we are and the higher the road we take, the more our audiences respond.”
Hytner also used the publication of today’s annual report to praise the government-led “transformation” of the arts, begun with a £25 million injection into regional theatre by former New Labour Culture Secretary Chris Smith, and to confidently declare that subsidy works “maybe above all to recognise that there is a universal entitlement to the spiritual, intellectual and emotional nourishment that our artists offer when they are at their best.”
Touring new work
Other news from today’s event includes confirmation that, after an 18-month moratorium, the National will resume regional touring in 2005 with an emphasis on taking “our newest work, the work we’re proudest of” out to new audiences. Although co-productions have continued over the past year (Play Without Words, The Permanent Way, Jumpers), in a bid to increase output and improve efficiency, Hytner suspended NT-managed touring when he took over as artistic director last year (See News, 16 Apr 2003).
Today, he said that touring would resume with full force from spring 2005 when The History Boys and Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman would hit the road. In total, the National will tour for 16 weeks next year, as opposed to an average of ten weeks before the moratorium.
Prior to its UK tour, The History Boys will remain at the South Bank as the “spine” of the NT Lyttelton’s repertoire. After its UK dates, the production will then embark on a substantial international tour.
During the 2003/2004 financial year, the National mounted 17 new main-house productions (as well 14 young people’s shows as part of Shell Connections), including one musical (Jerry Springer) and seven world premieres, and won 33 major industry prizes, including no fewer than 15 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. The NT’s Arts Council grant for 2003/2004 was £14.3 million – it rises to £17.3 million in 2005/2006 (See News, 26 Mar 2003) – against box office and other self-generated income of £22.9 million and total expenditure of £37.2 million.
- by Terri Paddock