NT Reports Historic 94% Houses & £675k SurplusDate: 14 September 2005
The National Theatre has broken its own seemingly unassailable record. For the 2003/4 financial year, the first fully under the direction of Nicholas Hytner, it reported the highest attendance figures in living memory, playing to 91% capacity across all three auditoria (See News, 7 Sep 2004). In the results for the new NT Annual Review, covering the 2004/2005 financial year to 30 March 2005, that figure increased to a staggering 94% capacity, amounting to nearly 800,000 people (58,000 of them first-time bookers) coming through the doors at the South Bank complex.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon at the theatre, Hytner attributed the audience growth to the success of the Travelex season, during which 150,000 seats are reduced to just £10 over six months in the NT Olivier. “This has really worked, this Travelex thing,” he said in perhaps the day’s biggest understatement.
Financially, too, the National experienced one of its most successful years to date, with a substantial operating surplus of £674,000 (compared to £48,000 in 2003/4). “We did as well as it is ever possible to do”, said Hytner, due to the continuing box office phenomenon of Alan Bennett’s multi award-winning The History Boys (which Hytner ranked alongside Amadeus and Pravda as one of the most successful plays in NT history) and the Christmas return of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, whose primary production costs had already been paid for the year before.
Hytner cautioned that such a boom could not be expected next year. For the current 2005/6 financial year, an additional £1 million has already been budgeted to compensate for last year’s lower than usual investment in new productions which resulted from the extended runs of The History Boys and His Dark Materials. Although Hytner said that a £250,000 operating surplus would be “comfortable and healthy” as a cushion against any unforeseen box office catastrophes, he declared that “we will not aim to increase the surplus”. Making profits, he said, is “not what we’re here for…we’re here to constantly reinvest.”
During the 2003/2004 financial year, the National mounted 17 new main-house productions - plus the His Dark Matierals revival, the transfer of Out of Joint co-production The Permanent Way from the Cottesloe to the Lyttelton and ten young people’s shows as part of Shell Connections - including one musical revival (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and four world premieres. It also won 22 major industry prizes, including a Special Award at the 50th anniversary Evening Standard Awards for “the remarkable contribution made to theatre during the past half-century” (See News, 13 Dec 2004).
The NT’s Arts Council grant for 2004/2005 was nearly £15.9 million – against box office income of £13.1 million and other self-generated income of £11.4 million and total expenditure of £37.5 million.
- by Terri Paddock