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Theatres must follow cinema’s example to improve audience experience – ATG boss

Mark Cornell Mark Cornell
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Ambassador Theatre Group chief executive Mark Cornell has claimed theatres need to look to cinemas to improve audience comfort, arguing theatregoers are having to endure “seats designed like torture instruments”.

Cornell, who joined ATG in 2016, made the comments during his first major speech to members of the industry at UK Theatre’s Theatre and Touring Symposium, which took place in London on June 17.

He said: “[Audiences] arrive at our theatres at a time set by us, they then navigate queues, fold themselves into seats designed like torture instruments, dine on a packet of crisps or a tub of ice cream and often endure temperatures that fluctuate between Siberia and the subcontinent.

“Yet cinema chains such as the Everyman have reinvented the experience of going to the movies […] They provide a wonderful, enriching experience, which everyone should really enjoy regularly at the theatre.”

He added: “Today we’re asking people to work really hard for the privilege [of going to the theatre]. In a world where we expect everything to be connected, seamless, easy and immediate, this is not sustainable.”

Cornell also raised the issue of ticket prices, arguing that the commercial operators shared a responsibility with the subsidised sector to keep theatre affordable.

“I’m afraid there’s a huge amount of misinformation surrounding theatre pricing. [One misconception] is that keeping theatre affordable is the reserve of the subsidised sector. I strongly believe that we all share a responsibility in this area, whether we operate in the subsidised or commercial sector,” he said.

He added: “For subsidised theatre, it’s part of their mission and contractual obligation.

“For commercial theatre such as ATG, keeping theatre affordable just makes good business sense. If we want to keep growing, we need to keep attracting large audiences to our theatres.”

ATG chief executive Mark Cornell: ‘Theatre’s been slow to embrace the importance of selling itself’

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