Many theatre companies make a loss when they put on fringe theatre plays in London because so much of the money goes on hiring the venue. The common myth is that is costs thousands to put a production on in London at a fringe theatre, it can of course but also it can cost hundreds if you know how.
Frequently Asked Questions
How come you can charge less for theatre hire then all the other fringe venues? We have the same running costs in regard to insurances, PRS fees, business rates, licencing and staff and general running costs as every other London fringe theatre. One reason is we have made some savings in the cost of electricity used for theatre lights by investing in an energy efficient lighting rig. (we use 80% less electricity per performance then a theatre using the old style standard theatre lights). We also look at income from other avenues associated with your production such as income generated from drinks at our theatre bar. Most other fringe theatres don't account for this and they should as the productions are bringing people to the venues. The above question is always asked to us, as producers are pleasantly surprised by our rates and really instead of asking why we charge so little, the question should be put to other venues in the form of 'Why are you charging so much for the venue?'
How much should I budget for marketing? You don't need loads of A5 flyers as most get chucked as they don't get used. The cheapest we found is the company we use who do 5000 double sided full colour for £69 and 1000 for £39. You only need a few A3 posters which you can get for £1 each and maybe 10 A4 size posters. Most listing advertising is free so you should look at about £80 for advertising and this includes going into our event guide which goes out around the area, inclusion costs only £10 and is a very effective form of advertising with 10,000 produced.
How to guarantee a successful run? Well known plays always sell well and also often plays which attract lots of interest, either from a specialist audience and often believe it or not, the more obscure and specialist the audience, often means the more bums on seats. An example was our recent season of plays performed in Russian. These completely sold out for the entire 3 weeks! Often newer writing by unknown writers attract less seats sold and depend on friends and family of the cast to make up a percentage of the seats sold. Also a factor is that if the cast are London based often the more friends and family of the cast come along and watch the play. Of course, the bigger the cast, the more audience they bring.
How do I get my production reviewed? Many local paper reviewers won’t attend any theatre production which has less then a three week run, and this goes for 'Time Out' also. However lots of web based reviewers will attend productions with week long or even shorter runs. Also 'The Stage' newspaper often attends for shorter runs. We can supply a list of reviewers from a number of great web and paper publications depending on your run length.
I am a new producer, what does the term 70/30 split actually mean? Many theatres offer a 70/30 split (sometimes a 50/50 or a 60/40). Often these are based on the track record or the producers and writers. We will consider a 70/30 split for certain productions which mean that you as a producer pay no money for using our theatre. In return we take 30% of the gross ticket sales. You are left with 70% of the gross ticket sales. (This is after any credit card charges are taken off the amount for card transactions when the tickets were purchased. This is a nominal amount). However this is where new producers often get confused. All the production costs such as marketing, actors, rights to the play, techs, rehearsal space and scenery and costumes is still paid for by the producer. The theatre does not cover 30% of these costs. At the end of the run, we give you a breakdown of the income from the ticket sales and you invoice us for the 70% which we then pay to you via BACS. We do take a £100 holding deposit when you confirm the dates which is either returned or taken from our 30% of the gross. This is to stop theatre companies just changing their mind and us losing income from the hire to other companies.
What are the advantages of doing a 70/30 split The biggest advantage is no big up front theatre rental costs to the new producer apart from the £100 deposit and also no commission charged for selling tickets via our box office (credit card fees still apply) and no cost to go into our event programme.
What are the disadvantages of doing a 70/30 split As a new producer you have to look to the long term gains, the same way as we do when agreeing to a 70/30 split. We have to take a gamble on the 30% being at least the same amount we would from simply hiring the venue to you. However we actually base which plays we are willing to do a 70/30 split on knowing that we will be getting more income then just the £495 weekly hire rate. This means in truth, you actually earn less from a production then just doing it as a straight hire from us.
Some simple sums:-
Tickets £10 each and for a six night run you sell 25 per night. Total income is £1500
If doing a 70/30 split you get £1020(credit card booking fees have been included)
If doing a straight hire you get £1150
In the past, some producers have calculated that they are earning less doing a 70/30 split then a straight hire and want to suddenly convert to just hiring the theatre when they start selling out. We won't change the agreement as it was a two way gamble. Same way if you under sell tickets on a 70/30 split, we won't suddenly come to you to make up the difference to bring it up to £495 for the week's hire.
Do you do a reduction in your hire rates for longer runs - Simple answer is no. Our rates we know are already at lot less then other London fringe theatres. Our three week hire is often cheaper then a one week hire elsewhere.
What about rehearsal space? We have some of the cheapest rehearsal space for theatre productions in any theatre - however we will offer the following:
On runs of one week or more - you will have the space for free during the day for your tech / dress on the Monday (10am to 4pm) before your show starts on the Tuesday.
On runs of two weeks or more, you will have the above plus one extra rehearsal space hire day for free for castings a few weeks before the start date from 10am - 4pm
On all productions performed in our venue, the rehearsal rate will be just £35 per day. (Subject to availability and pre-payment).
I'm a producer with a play and have its performance rights, how do I cast it and get a director? We can do this all for you and our artistic director will arrange all castings, find actors, set a rehearsal schedule and rehearse the actors on your behalf for a period of 40 hours and we include the rehearsal space hire in this. The fee for this is £500. You as the producer are just responsible for funding the play such as paying for the set, costumes, actors and their expenses, the tech and marketing etc.
Can I sell tickets via your box office? yes, and it means that your audience can call us and pay over the phone from 1pm each weekday or even come in and buy tickets. Also they can buy from us online 24 hours a day. We will also man the box office half and hour before the start of your production. We charge 10% of your ticket face value for this service (plus credit card fees which you don't actually pay yourself as they are charged to the customer). We have a min ticket price of £10 for us to sell tickets. Some companies want to run their own box office which is fine however they must supply a person to man the box office 1/2 hour before the performance and they must not include our box office number on any publicity material and must provide a phone number for persons to call up and reserve tickets. They must also have a float with enough change for the selling of tickets.
As the theatre has full public and employers liabilty insurance, does that mean my production is covered so I don't need to have it. Like all venues we have employers liability insurance for £10 million which is the law plus public liability for £5 million for members of the public using our venue. Our employee liability insurance covers our staff only and not persons employed by outside production companies. As a visiting theatre company by law you must have employers liability insurance even if you are not actually paying your actors or they are working on profit share or are contracted to you on a self employed basis. Our public liability covers any accidents or damage caused by us. However like most theatres, we require hirers to prove that they also have public liability insurance for the course of the production. We request the policy details before the start of the actual hire and this is to cover us from your employees, actors and tecs who my cause accidential or intentional damage to our venue and lighting etc. We DO NOT require you to prove you have employers liability insurance. The cover isn't that expensive and often more cost effective getting an annual policy which will then cover you for all productions in all theatres and also any rehearsal space you use and even things like loading and unloading vans and scenery moving etc. Remember an actor hurts themselves in rehearsal that could cost you thousands if you don't have insurance.
We recommend the following company who give competive quotes for theatre companies: Quotedesk
For your piece of mind, our public and liability insurance policy number is QDCC586297 (Hanover PLC)
I DON'T WANT OTHER THEATRES OR COMPANIES KNOWING HOW MANY TICKETS WE SOLD We never disclose ticket sales to third parties and requests on current sales if we are doing the box office are sent via email only to the email address supplied with the contract.
However we do send a breakdown to the writer or writers agent of either known gross sales or if this is not known, then seats occupied per performance. This is standard practice of all UK theatres. The writer or writers agents details must be enclosed with the contract and forms part of the conditions of hire. The visiting producer cannot request that this information is not forwarded, and any such requests will not be entertained. For all hires where we are not providing box office, the report will state seats occupied and the ticket price per seat. The producer will then have to contact the writer or writers agent to confirm how many of these seats where not sold at full ticket value and the venue will not be involved in this negoiation.
DO YOU PROVIDE A TECH? depends on the production. If the tech part of the show just means bringing up the lights at the start and the end and not having to follow the script. We will do that for free. However any light cues and sound cues and script following will require you to either provide a tech or one can be hired, we have a list of names. The cost then is between £15 and £30 per show or a weekly deal can be negoiated direct with the tech. They are to be employed directly by you as a contractor. Please note, we have the latest LED light rigs which are computerised and each light can produce a wealth of colours and fades etc. To get the most out of our amazing system, use a lighting tech who understands this technology. We can create lighting settings which many large scale theatres envy.
We strongly recommend if using your own tech that they visit us a week or so before the production to see our system and download the operating manuals and lighting programmes. Our system is so neat that all the lighting cues can be done off site by your tech and they just plug a laptop in and away you go on the first night. You can contact our tech on 0774 8788262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . He charges £40 for the set up day and if you want him each show it's £15. he knows our system well.
CAN I VIDEO THE PERFORMANCE we will not allow a public performance to be recorded, even by the producer for personal use as we have to get permission at the ticket point of sale stage from audience members. You may video a dress rehearsal and we hold the rights to all images of the inside of the venue and the exterior and name of the venue. You may not broadcast the images without our written consent. We only give this at the end of a run and we have the right to refuse to give permission without giving a reason.
WHY DID YOU REFUSE MY PRODUCTION /PLAY EVEN WHEN I JUST WANT TO HIRE THE VENUE We are getting well known locally for the high standards of our productions, both in house and by visiting companies. All it takes is one bad production / under rehearsed or badly directed piece for us to lose audience members. Our artistic policy is clear to the type of productions we are more likely accept and the type of companies performing them.
We ask a number of questions to a company wishing to hire the space which is designed to work out if the production is suitable for us and be of interest to our audiences.
The main types of productions we now always refuse are:
1. Vanity Plays - These are new plays written by, directed by and starring the writer. (stand up comedy is the exception and again even these must be by well known stand up circuit comedians.)
2. Plays aimed solely at schools or under 18's Many schools pre-plan their trips months in advance and have to follow health and safety guidelines and get permissions. Producers often work this out late and find that no schools attend because of the timescale. We will sometimes allow an extra daytime performance of a theatre production for schools to attend but charge a hire rate of £90 per performance on top of the standard weekly hire rates. We do not allow evening performances for groups of under 18's or school groups. We will accept a private hire where tickets are not advertised to the public for productions aimed at under 18's or the cast are under 18. However the charge per day will be £200 as we do not open our bar during such performances and this covers lost revenue. Any production involving under 16's must get written permission from the child's local council.
4. Performances to raise funds for or to recruit to political or religious groups or to use the venue for meetings / talks for such groups. This includes plays where there is a Q&A session which we restrict unless talking about the artistic merits of the play. We do this to stop certain groups using the venue to force their views on a paying public. We allow subject matter to be discussed and plot lines in Q&A's. We also insist that the public are able to leave the venue before the Q&A session begins if they want to.
5. Interactive plays with workshops we limit this type of production as we have had problems in the past with 'life coaches' using it to sell expensive (thousands of pounds) self development courses. Also many visiting companies don't have the liability insurance required for such activities. We will allow dance demo's and certain drama based classes which we class as adult education and not public performance.
6. Plays that have already played in London within 12 months. We find that all the friends and family of these productions don't come twice, so often seats filled are down for such productions.
7. Production companies not based in London doing a new play using actors and crew not based in London. These shows are really hard to market as often the company can't do any of the local marketing or have local friends and family to support the production. (on some occasions we will consider such productions but would hire the venue at a higher rate which can be worked out on an individual basis).
8. Productions where we know the overall income generated to a previous theatre or performance does not match what we expect or where we can not confirm information you supply. Guess what? a theatre will talk to a theatre! Many companies who perform here who want to go onto bigger venues often quote the ticket sales to other venues to get the production on there. We get calls from such venues asking about previous productions all the time, especially venues outside of London and we also contact other venues to confirm what the company is telling us ie bums on seats of their previous shows. Also in case anyone wants to know 'The Gaddesden Theatre' in Tring in Hertfordshire where a theatre company said they performed each night doesn't exist! An Irish Theatre company called 'The Orchard Theatre Co' kept up a page on their website for 4 weeks stated they played at our theatre for a week in April 2012 as their only UK date on a tour. THEY NEVER DID!