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The Joy Of Numbers

June 12, 2013

There’s a lot of them in theatre. Start times and running times, seat numbers and ticket prices, and of course headlines like “over £8 million in advance ticket sales.”

As I always mentally add… “so?”

Think about it: say you have a show called, oh, I don’t know, “Les Book of the Bodyguard’s Hat Factory.” It’s playing in a 1,125 seat theatre. Seat prices range from £67.50 to £37.50, with a few premium ones at £95 each.

The show plays 8 performances each week, and is proclaiming an £8m advance as discussed.

OK, we’ll leave off where the cash actually goes – VAT and tax etc, and also the commissions paid out to agents who sell the seats. We’ll just take it nice and easy that there are four prices – £95, £67.50, £47.50 and £37.50 each. That gives (adding all four together and dividing by four) an arithmetic mean price of £61.87 (we’ll discard the half penny).

OK, so, say all those seats were sold at the average price stated for a single show. That is £61.87 times 1125 seats. That’s £69,603.75 total income from a single performance. Or, for 8 shows in a week, £556,830.

Now, here’s the good bit. If you divided the £8m advance by the total income for a week… you get 14.3. In other words, an £8m advance means that just 14 weeks of performances – a bit over three months – would be totally sold out.

In other words, a huge smash-hit that has £8m in the box office, even using my incredibly simple (and very over-simplified) mathematics… would only be totally sold out for three months.

Put another way, it just proves how incredibly hard it is to get a show to “work” financially in the West End, and that the proud announcements of “record” advance sales just means some seats have been sold and some jobs are safe… for now, anyway…

NOTE: The above is a work of fiction with no accounting or recognised industry-standard mathematical formulae used. The above is about NO particular show, all numbers are fictional without basis in specific reality or fact. NO relationship to any particular production, past or present, is intended or should be inferred.

  1. June 13, 2013 1:49 pm

    Will there be a cast recording of “Les Book of the Bodyguard’s Hat Factory”? 😀

    • Steve Rich permalink
      June 13, 2013 1:55 pm

      CD or not CD, that is the question…

      • June 13, 2013 1:57 pm

        Original concept album on triple gatefold vinyl, please!

      • Steve Rich permalink
        June 13, 2013 2:03 pm

        33 or not 33, that is the question…

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