So VAT on theatre tickets goes down today and in some cases the reduction is being passed on to the public. Mark Shenton reports that shows such as Mamma Mia!, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Sound of Music will be dropping their prices. To give you an example of the scale of this, here’s what it means for Grease:
Box office prices, previously scaled from £20 to £55, will now be re-priced from £19.50 to £53.50, representing savings of between 50p and £1.50 per ticket. The middle range of prices from £30-£45 will each see the prices reduced by £1.
But Andrew is nothing if not penny-pinching and he has an argument – refuted by so-called tax “experts” – that the rate of VAT should be determined by the date on which the service is delivered and so is hoping to save pounds by insisting on a VAT refund on all tickets already purchased. He has had some business cards printed with “tax expert” on them in the hope of intimidating box office staff into giving in.
But frankly these kinds of savings are just not interesting. The Whingers’ fallback for getting to see shows which stubbornly refuse to be affordable is to purchase a group booking and then invite some makeweights their closest friends to join them but this avenue – like Phil’s own street since he moved in – is becoming less and less attractive.
For example, the days of cheap seats at Old Vic seem to have passed. Last year the Whingers booked a group for Speed-The-Plow , getting £45 tickets for just £25. By contrast their group booking for their next (and at this rate possibly last) visit to Mr Spacey’s theatre to see Complicit save them only £10 off the £46 top price seats. Hardly worth the hassle. So instead of selling 10 seats per Whinger outing, the Old Vic will in future sell only 2 seats or possibly 0 seats if Phil gets into one of his moods about it.
There are apparently no group discounts at all for Waiting for Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Honestly if the theatres wanted to curb people’s spending they really couldn’t do a better job.
Meanwhile Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is going all out to annoy people with “Premium Seats” at £85 – an interesting departure in the current economic crisis. When Phil was at the box office a few weeks ago someone in front of him was asking what he would get for his money. Came the reply, “well, we’re not exactly sure yet. You might get a programme”. Even Young Frankenstein producer Robert F.X. Sillerman has acknowledged that that show’s notorious $450 premium seating was a mistake. If showman Mel Brooks can’t get people to shell out (it’s closing) it’s difficult to see how Jason Donovan in a wig is going to pack them in.
Meanwhile, at the “desperate” end of the scale, there was a very fractious debate between Imagine This producer Beth Trachtenberg and Norman Lebrecht of the Evening Standard (well worth listening to if only to wonder at Mr Lebrecht’s astonishing arrogance) which ended up with Trachtenberg offering 800 free tickets to listeners for that evening’s performance. Now that’s showmanship.