If you read my last post Reflecting on 2017, then you’ll know I saw the following in 2017 — 19 operas, 26 theatre shows, eight classical music concerts and seven dance shows. In a similar way, I sat down and figured out how many films I saw at the cinema last year and, to my surprise, the number was impressive, by comparison. It’s forty-nine, yes, 49! Essentially, I saw a film at least once a week, which is brilliant, but you’re probably wondering how is that possible, right?
The average price for a cinema ticket is £15, in London anyway. I’m guessing you’re thinking I spent £735 on film tickets… wrong! As much as I love theatre, opera, entertainment and culture, on the whole, a £15 cinema ticket (not two,) is a hefty price. On top of making the time to see films, after a hard day’s work (not forgetting that some cinemas show films past some people’s bedtime), I depend on a cinema card for my Hollywood and CGI fix, without having to break the bank. That card was, and presently is, the Limitless card from Odeon Cinemas.
Now, before you decide to close this page, please don’t assume this is a promotional post for Odeon. I wasn’t paid to write about them (although Odeon should pay me). I would humbly like to address — the fact — that I paid £19.99 a month to see all the films I wanted. That includes the sky high £23 tickets sold at the Odeon Cinemas in the West End. It’s wonderful, honestly. I know Cineworld cinemas have a similar scheme, but Odeon has more venues closer to me, which is why I went with them. If you want to be a film buff, this is possibly the quickest way to become one. So, how about a limitless card for theatre?
Imagine that? The idea you could pay once a month to see as many West End musicals, fringe shows, ballets and operas as often as you’d like for only £19.99! Hold on, backtrack… ‘as much as I’d like?’ That’s hardly possible now, even without the hypothetical limitless card. Theatres don’t have enough showings in a day, let alone enough seats to satisfy all UK audiences. This week, The Shakespeare Globe announced news that Sir Mark Rylance will be performing the role of Iago in their Summer production of Othello. Can you envision Mr. Rylance performing as many times as Star Wars: The Last Jedi is shown at the Imax on a daily basis? On average, that’s four times a day. Ouch! He, the production team and cast would suffer from stress and lack of rest. It just isn’t sustainable. That is unless the theatre productions start introducing alternative casts. I’ve seen this with fringe theatre companies such as Hampstead Garden Opera and the Kings Head Theatre. The purpose is to showcase new talent and give audiences the chance to meet upcoming artists. It’s that or a future with robots programmed to play recordings of performers’ lines and monologues on stage. The problem is it takes away the authenticity of seeing the actor(s), you paid to see, in the flesh and right in front of you.
Coming back to the problems of a theatre limitless card, there’s the monthly rate to consider as well. How much money would theatre fans be willing to pay to see theatre as much as they would like? Generally speaking, theatre tickets are not always cheap… fine, they can be ****** expensive. After having a brief look at some tickets online from different productions, I’ve noticed the vast spectrum of price tiers. For example, The Phantom of the Opera’s front row stall tickets are £76 while the Lion Kings have great seats starting from £179. Mischief Theatre, who were the founders of The Play That Goes Wrong, have a new show on called Mischief Movie Night at the West End. Tickets are going for £21, which is cheap if you compare the price to the Lion King or The Phantom of the Opera tickets. Tickets to see opera and ballet at the Royal Opera House or English National Opera vary too. It greatly depends on where you want to sit. Stall seats can go above the £250 bracket while the nosebleed seats can be as cheap as £4. This is true for many Royal Ballet productions.
The problem of supply and demand beckons. In the UK, roughly 4000 cinema screens exist, but there are only 1,300 active theatres, give or take. Moreover these theatres have one to two stages per venue, and not 15 screens which is true of some cinemas such as Kingston and Wimbledon Odeon Cinemas. This leaves us with a combination of problems; the limited number of venues; insufficient number of seats per venue; and the crazy amount of showings in a day. Oh, the calamity. I can picture frustrated customers p***ed off they didn’t book fast enough because a queue of speedy limitless card holders got in their first. The idea sounds nice and amusing, hence why I considered writing about it on TrendFem.
On that note, tell me, how much would you be willing to pay for a monthly theatre limitless card? £50, £200? Maybe someone from the future of theatre will read this and do something about it. I sincerely believe that theatre lovers would jump at the chance to have a theatre limitless card. I mean, if I could see theatre, concerts, operas, and ballets as much as I saw films, with a limitless card, I’d be over the moon and closer to Valhalla.
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- January 1 – 7 2018: Golden Globes, #Times Up, Opera, Theatre & other Social Media news
- Q & A: Sinéad O Neill – Opera Director
- Q & A: Becca Marriott – Opera Singer and Performance Artist (2018)