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Ticket Prices Discussed

January 20, 2011

This morning, I was delighted to find www.theatremonkey.com mentioned in the print (not viewable online) version of “The Stage” newspaper in an article (by Mark Shenton – thank you, Mark) discussing how flexible ticket prices and performance times are increasingly the tool of choice to lure audiences.

Mr Shenton notes the increasing number of premium seats – and the fact one producer had to reduce the number for one play after a while – and also the number of discounts.

In the typical way that two related things happen together, today reader Mike of www.theatreguys.co.uk (a rather good group organising outfit) dropped the monkey a line on the issue of “Richard III” at the Old Vic, saying (my replies in italics),

“First of all, apologies for covering a subject you may already be aware of. I am very concerned about the general trend for increasing the number of ‘Premium’ theatre seats.”
It is indeed something I’ve been irritated about for a while now…

“I book seats for my Group and usually we get a group discount on Top Price seats. Premium seats used to be no more than about 30 seats in the centre Stalls but I was outraged when I discovered Sonia Friedman Productions had increased the number of Premium seats at £75 for The Children’s Hour to most of the Stalls and half the first Circle. This arrangement was subsequently amended – the price was increased to £85 and the number of seats reduced, perhaps because the large number of Premium seats meant they were really Top Price seats by another name.

All the talk of “Upgrade your seat to a Premium seat” just means that some top priced seats are being deceitfully increased by about 40%!”
Just because they charge that, doesn’t mean they’ll sell them at that, of course…

I just enquired about booking Top Price seats (no reduction for groups, of course!) for Richard III at the Old Vic. I was told they have now introduced a large number of so-called Premium seats – centre seats, from the third row up to row R, are now Premium Seats leaving only side seats in those rows as so-called Top Price seats. In the hope of cashing in on Kevin Spacey as Richard III, seat prices have been surreptitiously hiked.
Rather going  against ‘access for all’ ideas, isn’t it?!

Anyone fooled into ‘upgrading’ to a Premium seat is only purchasing what is a Top Price seat for the current production.”
True.

“I hope if sales are slow that perhaps an amendment will be made, as happened to The Children’s Hour, when general booking opens.”
It could. I don’t know anything about how it might be selling, though, so would never comment on it.

“Capricious pricing on the internet does not surprise me but I am disappointed to find theatre producers showing a similar disregard for their prospective audiences. I wrote to Nica Burns at SOLT (The Society of London Theatre) asking for their views on the irregular pricing policy for ‘The Children’s Hour’ but I have received no reply.”
Would be interesting to hear their thoughts, though SOLT don’t have anything to do with pricing for commercial producers of course.

“It appears the Old Vic is following the same trend. Surely SOLT must sanction this misleading form of re-branding, this sly and substantial increase in seat prices, and are hoping audiences will shut up and pay up.”
Rather out of SOLT’s domain, as I say. It’s a commercial choice, and not something they can do much about. The TMA (Theatrical Management Association), perhaps might have an opinion too, but even then, it is down to individual producers who set prices.

“I feel that major price increases like this should be publicly announced, rather than be hidden behind the re-naming of seat categories. “
When the trend was for a few seats at top prices, I’d say there was no reason to say anything. Now, I’m wondering a bit too. If premium pricing is done in moderation it is one way of keeping prices of seats around them at reasonable levels. “The Lion King” is a good example of this. A very few rows are ‘premium,’ but seating around them is way less than most other musicals. The idea of setting almost the whole house at the high level has proven commercially trickier anyway (Children’s Hour) and in those cases I’d like to see the ‘premium’ label removed and the price admitted as ‘top.’ Well, that’s my feeling anyway…

“We regular theatre-goers must stick together and protest against what looks like secret price increases introduced in an unfair and underhand manner!”

Mike would welcome discussion, so feel free to have your say by emailing the theatremonkey.com website at the usual address website (insert the @ symbol here, please) theatremonkey.com.

4 Comments
  1. January 24, 2011 10:58 pm

    We are very interested in this topic following a piece in the papers last week, and have recently posted an article ourselves reflecting on our own experiences of top price seats expanding over most of theatre, and the seemingly inevitable need for premium pricing to distinguish the better seats. It shouldn’t surprise us that now premium seats are creeping outwards as well – perhaps there will have to be ‘super-premium’ soon. Thanks to Mike as well for pointing out that there is nothing special about these seats except that the theatre think they can get more for them We feel that decent offers are drying up too.

    Theatremonkey is of course one of our main weapons in the battle for value for money – it occurred to us that perhaps the Theatremonkey seating plan archives could be an invaluable source of evidence for these trends. We also wondered if you have to keep adjusting the seat opinions? A green for value might be fine for a normal top price ticket, but turn white or even red when that seat is redesignated. Intriguing….

    • June 17, 2011 7:32 am

      Yes, seat plans and advice are constantly adjusted to reflect “premium” prices.

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