E3 Group expands into stage schools franchise market

Natalie Woolman

Talent agency and production company the E3 Group is to expand into the stage schools market, with plans to launch a franchise of up to 25 sites across the UK over the next three years.

E3 is currently the exclusive entertainment provider for Thomas Cook resorts and will also be setting up film and stage academies in six of its hotels this summer after piloting in Ibiza last summer. This mirrors a similar arrangement at selected Thomson holiday resorts, where Razzamataz already runs theatre schools.

The first and flagship E3 Academy is due to open in Brighton on February 27 and the group plans to launch the franchise later in the year. Chief executive David Hill said he aims to secure five franchisees in the next 12 months. He added that the company’s business plan forecasts a total of 25 franchisees over three years.

Hill explained that the deal with Thomas Cook, to which E3 will pay a small commission for each child that participates in the holiday academies, was important because it would help to promote the brand.

He said: “The Thomas Cook deal drives a very powerful message to any potential franchisee because we are going to be seeing children from all over the country, so if they want to continue with the academy once they have had the Thomas Cook experience on their holiday, then they are going to need outlets in their local area.

“One of Thomas Cook’s motivators for doing this is that they want to see a child coming into one of their hotels as a customer, joining the academy, having a fantastic experience, possibly leaving their holiday and returning to a UK academy and then eventually becoming a Thomas Cook entertainer – they want that story.”

According to Hill, the E3 Academy brand will offer training of a professional standard, including the use of professional TV cameras and green screen technology. He also said that the fact E3 has a West End agency means it could eventually take children into employment within the industry. The franchise will not be limited to UK locations, with the company considering sites with large ex-pat communities, such as Majorca.

Hill said market research conducted by E3 had revealed that the stage school market was not already saturated by existing chains such as Stagecoach and Theatretrain. It discovered there were still some areas where children did not have easy access to training. He said that ultimately E3 wanted “national coverage” for the franchise.

E3 is moving its Hove offices to within the Brighton academy at the beginning of February before the stage school opens later in the month. Its agency will remain in its present Covent Garden office.

Hill set up in E3 in 1998 and the business now includes a talent agency, a training and recruitment division, a production company and costumiers.

* Stage school franchises supplement, p20.

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