The trust’s new report, called “Act Now!,” is the result of a two-year study with leading theatre owners in the commercial sector and with the Society of London Theatre (SOLT).
In a press release accompanying the report, Theatres Trust director Peter Longman said, “We all know what is wrong with these theatres. Most of them are one hundred years old —even the new ones are 70 years old!...it is no longer realistic to expect owners to put things right without outside assistance.”
Longman points out that, as the West End’s 40 commercial theatres generate more than £200 million in annual tax revenues, and also create a spend of more than £400 million on other UK economy products, £250 million (or £17 million per year for fifteen years) would be a beneficial investment. And with audiences often heard grumbling about uncomfortable seats on opening nights, theatregoers would doubtless welcome refurbishments.
Among the report’s official conclusions are the following points:
• “London’s theatres contribute hugely to the cultural life of the capital and to the UK economy.”
• “Around one hundred years ago when they were being built, theatre ownership was a lucrative business and owners could afford…prime sites…Today the economics of theatre ownership are very different.”
• “Most theatre buildings still reflect the conventions of a period when…theatre goers were physically smaller. Today’s audiences cannot be expected to tolerate the conditions of a bygone era.”
• “The renaissance of the West End can only be brought about by refurbishing the buildings we already have.”
• “We have estimated that some £250 million will need to be spent over the next 15 years to bring the…theatres up to modern standards.”
• “…theatre as an art form, and as a form of entertainment…cannot survive without theatre buildings, and…the buildings need attention.”
• “…there is no alternative but to look to Government or other outside agencies for some kind of…assistance.” Although West End theatre owner and producer Cameron Mackintosh has pledged to spend some of his fortune improving his venues, the Theatres Trust is convinced that more help is vital. With dozens of buildings around London’s center, such a major renovation program could transform a significant portion of the city’s architectural landscape.