Hytner Stays On, Aims for Sundays & £10 ExtrasDate: 12 September 2006
Nicholas Hytner (pictured) has extended his initial five-year contract at the National Theatre by another five years, which, “barring an act of god or 18 flops” will see him remain as artistic director through to 2013, a decade after succeeding Trevor Nunn in the position (See News, 31 Mar 2003).
At a press briefing this afternoon to launch the National Theatre’s 2005-6 Annual Report (See Today’s Other News for programming announcements), Hytner said that he intends to stay for a similar term as “most of my predecessors” (notably, Nunn remained for only one, albeit extended, contract term): “ten years (in the job) feels about right”.
Hytner and his executive director Nick Starr also reiterated the NT’s commitment to Sunday openings, hopefully in 2007 (See The Goss, 7 Dec 2005). They had previously aimed to initiate Sunday openings in this past financial year but admitted today that they had missed the deadline due to ongoing talks with workers’ unions. “We really earnestly hope that we will succeed next year, but we’ve got to make it work in negotiations,” said Starr.
They have estimated that an additional £300,000 to £500,000 per annum will be required to make Sunday openings a reality, a financial risk that they liken to the same order of magnitude as launching the Travelex £10 Season but, according to Hytner, “we have to be able to take that risk”.
Certainly the Travelex has proved to be a risk worth taking. It’s been so successful in the NT Olivier, where for four productions a year two-thirds of seats are reduced to just £10 with the other third at only £25, that Hytner is planning in future seasons to extend the pricing policy to the NT Lyttelton as well. Amongst today’s other announcements, Hytner said the necessary £6 million has been raised for the refurbishment of the National Theatre Studio, where new work and artists are developed. Building work is now under way and is due to be completed in September 2007.
At last year’s Annual Report press briefing, Hytner warned that the National would not be able to continue its record-breaking box office success once blockbuster hits The History Boys and His Dark Materials were removed from the equation (See News, 14 Sep 2005). And so it has proved. Attendances across the financial year, ending on 30 March 2006, were down 10% - dropping to 84% capacity compared to the all-time high of 94% in 2004/5 and 91% in 2003/4. However, said Hytner, 84% is still above the NT’s historic average.
Financially, the NT reported a small deficit (£160,000) on its operating budget of £41 million, but retains a substantial surplus of £718,000 on unrestricted reserves. During the 2005/2006 financial year, the National mounted 17 new main-house productions, had eight productions on tour (some of them presented by commercial partners) and had four productions transfer to Broadway. The NT’s Arts Council England grant for 2005/2006 was over £17.5 million, the largest awarded to any of the country’s subsidised theatres (excluding the two main opera houses).
- by Terri Paddock