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Art or Money?

September 22, 2010

Last week’s entry was about the subsidised sector. This week it looks like the private theatre industry is also taking a long hard look at its books.

Andrew Lloyd Webber appears to be leading this charge, as talks were recently announced about him selling all but two (and a half) of his West End theatres.

Having followed his work and career for many years (more on that in a bit), it surprised me that the venue he has owned longest – and seemed the most devoted to – may be up for grabs. His loving restoration of the Palace exterior (the interior has had less work… hmmm… maybe he knows something…) and long history with the place seem at odds with the decision to let it go.

Similarly, Her Majesty’s and the New London both are associated with him at the height of his career. Maybe, as businessmen have to be, he has taken a dispassionate view; but even the fact he is talking about selling them just struck me as sad. As Cameron Mackintosh, Nica / Max, Wiley Cohen and Howard Panter also know, theatres are as much the children of the owners as possessions. Each is almost a living and dependent creature who requires much love, care, attention and money, but rewards with many years of pleasure.

Money is, of course, the problem. As reviewer Mark Shenton recently pointed out in The Stage newspaper, Nimax have been spending large sums raised by the “restoration levy” on each audience ticket on simple repairs and enhancements that are much needed. Bearing in mind they own the smaller venues in London, one can see why “The Lord” might be seeking an alternative to having to write his own large cheques. Maybe the rewards are starting to outweigh the pleasures after all?

Still, while he is fundraising, I was amused to get a questionnaire from his official website wondering if I’d like to comment on plans for a new gift set of his work. Intrigued, I followed the link and found plans to sell a box of all his show cast albums, with a book and smart case. My opinion… Why?! Fans have all this stuff already. What we want is the obsolete and unreleased material (though many of us also have that). Then I’d consider a purchase for sure.

On the subject of purchases, good news is that after almost a year, the Theatremonkey book remains number 2 in the Dress Circle Shop sales list. And no, mum, I’ve not looked under the tarpaulin in your garage.

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