The Royal Shakespeare Company has posted a 75% increase in box office during 2012/13, thanks mainly to the success of Matilda the Musical in the West End.
Matilda the Musical opened in the West End in October 2011 and on Broadway in April this year, following previews from March. This means that box office generated from Matilda on Broadway has not yet had a significant impact on the figures. The year also saw the RSC produce the World Shakespeare Festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
RSC productions played to 1.5 million worldwide in 2012/13, generating a total box office of £31.6 million, up from £18.1 million in 2011/12 (which was itself up from £8.3 million in 2010/11 when the RSC’s Stratford theatres were running a reduced operation).
The improved box office has helped the RSC increase its percentage of self generated income to 73% – from 67% in 2011/12 and 52% in 2010/11.
However, the RSC’s executive director Catherine Mallyon warned of difficult times ahead for arts organisations.
Cuts in public investment are biting
She said: “We have had a very successful year with some very strong results, including a 75% boost in box office receipts to £31.6 million, a 28% increase in revenue fundraising to £4.1m and a 9% increase in trading income to £4.8 million.
“However, the fantastic figures mask some real challenges. There is significant pressure on us and on arts organisations up and down the country. We know this because we are out there, performing and working, in every region. Cuts in public investment are biting. Local authorities are having to take unwelcome decisions. Trusts and foundations face pressures on their own endowment returns. And corporate sponsorship for the arts is falling, especially outside London.
“We are responding to the challenges with vigour, to bring the best possible theatre to the widest possible audience. We are working hard to maintain a healthy mixed economy, where public investment leverages income from commercial revenue, sponsorship and philanthropy and, of course, from people who choose to buy our tickets. And we are collaborating with and supporting other organisations where we can, making the case for the arts to be woven into every strategic development plan and inward investment strategy.”
The RSC has also announced that it has received a “major gift” from one of its American board members, Mark Piggott.
Mallyon added: “Encouraging philanthropy and private investment is an important opportunity for UK arts and is essential in order for the RSC to make great theatre. Mark Pigott’s generous and significant gift is a commitment to our future, and I hope it will inspire others to join him in contributing to artistic excellence.
“The arts have been correctly described as the ‘rocket fuel’ of a local economy and as ‘essential services’. But these compelling descriptions do not paint the full picture. The arts provide something vital to us all: they entertain us, they emphasise our humanity and they create a sense of place and of community. We’ll champion that.”
The annual report also showed that the RSC’s funding from Arts Council England has fallen by £800,000 to £16.6 million. It toured its work to 13 UK cities and five countries overseas and played to an average 83% capacity over all locations.
RSC artistic director Gregory Doran added: ”We have been fortunate that Matilda, nurtured over several years by a combination of philanthropy and public investment, has allowed us to weather, in part, the storms of funding cuts and economic downturn. We couldn’t have planned its extraordinary commercial success and yet we cannot rest on our laurels and rely on its substantial contribution for ever.
“The regional theatres we work with across the country face more immediate challenges and we will continue to collaborate with and support them where we can. Great regional theatre is crucial, not just to local audiences, but to the success of the national companies and the West End and we must do all we can to make the case for its future wellbeing.”
The RSC’s annual report can be read in full here