Here’s a turn-up for the books (and booking fees): in its latest press release announcing an extension of booking for performances through April 2014, the producers of We Will Rock You have announced: “Ticket prices remain unchanged at £35.25 – £91.25 (including restoration levy). New booking fee £2.25.”
And they include a quote from the show’s general manager Peter Gibbons Hansen: “We have campaigned long and hard on behalf of our customers to secure this substantial reduction. We’re delighted that these efforts have resulted in making theatre-going so much more reasonable in cost for those who want to enjoy the excitement of the live musical theatre experience.”
Of course, booking fees are applied not only by the producers but by the theatre owners and their appointed ticketing provider, but the customer doesn’t know this: they have to pay the charge regardless of who is applying it. So it is indeed a major victory of the producers to secure this on behalf of future customers.
Just a year ago, The Stage revealed that the booking fees at the Dominion were the highest in the West End, with additional fees of up to £12.25 at the time. As we reported then, “Although people buying tickets for We Will Rock You in person at the venue do not have to pay a booking fee, online buyers must pay a “service charge” of £8.25 if they are buying a top-price, £64 ticket. This fee varies depending what ticket is bought – the fee is £5.50 for a £34 ticket. British audiences must then pay a further £4 to either have the ticket posted or emailed to them because box office collection is not an option for UK residents online. This brings the total top price for We Will Rock You to £76.25 for online customers in the UK.”
It would be nice to think that The Stage played its own part in seeing these fees reduced now by highlighting just how iniquitous they were. As we also pointed out, “For the £12.25 cost of the booking fee levied on the top-price tickets for We Will Rock You, customers could buy tickets to see three other West End shows including fees. These were War Horse, Noises Off and Les Miserables. Audiences could see any of a further five productions at subsidised venues for this price.”
But I’m wondering if pressure on price sensitivity could be related to Ticketmaster (the ticket provider at the Dominion) wanting to re-position themselves as a major operator over here. Whatever the reasons, it proves that press pressure and competition works — in favour of the consumer.
On the other hand, premium prices at The Book of Mormon, which already set an all-time West End high the day after the show opened by suddenly being spiked to £125, have now gone one step further: they’ve introduced a premium on the premium prices. There are now two bands — the ‘old’ £125, and now £150 as well.
When I asked rhetorically on Twitter when it will all stop, an instant chorus replied: “When people stop paying those prices!”
And it’s true: they’re only as high as they are now because people are, apparently, willing to pay them. It’s simply called supply and demand. All the while, though, a perception grows that the sky’s the limit. And that way the hyper-inflation of Broadway follows, and the sense that regular theatregoers are being priced out of the game in favour of those who can afford to pay the premium, whatever it is.