Ambassador Theatre Group has announced a new partnership with the UK’s leading pantomime producer Qdos Entertainment, in a move that will see ATG dissolve its own pantomime division.
The move marks a reunion for two of the biggest players in regional theatre. ATG and Qdos have previously worked together on pantomimes, however ties were severed upon the creation of First Family Entertainment by ATG and fellow theatre operator Live Nation in 2005.
The new development is also the latest in a number of structural shake-ups at ATG, which began when co-founders and joint chief executives Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire stepped down in May 2016 to be replaced by Mark Cornell.
It has now been confirmed that FFE chief executive Kevin Wood will step down at the end of the current pantomime season, along with associate producers Laura Taylor and George Wood.
Under the new partnership, market leader Qdos will produce pantomimes for ATG venues in addition to those it already creates. In 2016/17, Qdos produced 26 pantomimes – including the first to run at the London Palladium in almost 30 years, with FFE creating 10 at ATG venues.
Qdos managing director Michael Harrison confirmed that the new venture meant it would take on the roster of venues formerly held by FFE. However, there are no plans to expand into more ATG venues beyond that.
Prior to the formation of FFE in 2005, ATG made bids to acquire Qdos but these were rejected. Following the creation of FFE, Qdos lost its contract with ATG.
Harrison said the new arrangement marked a relationship that had “come full circle”.
“We’re looking forward to doing brand new shows for them and putting some existing shows, with some of our big stars and big productions, into those huge theatres. We [Qdos] have great relationships with major independent venues so there’s no reason why we can’t have a great relationship with ATG,” Harrison told The Stage.
“It’s a great time for pantomime, it’s very strong at the moment. We’ve had a terrific year, and of course the cherry on top of the cake has been an outstanding success at the Palladium, which I think has really turned eyes on to what pantomime means in the industry,” he added.
Harrison went on to say that while the new partnership constitutes a dominance of sorts in the pantomime market, there was still “room for all out there”.
“We’ve got to work towards delivering the best possible attractions at the busiest time of the year,” he added.
Qdos chairman Nick Thomas added: “We are delighted to be working with ATG, and look forward to introducing our pantomime productions and an array of star headliners to the ATG circuit.”
Panter and Squire’s departure from ATG last year kicked off a series of reshuffles, with the company focusing increasingly on its expansion into the global market – with key hires and acquisitions in the US. In the UK, a programme of compulsory redundancies was launched in November, as Cornell looked to free up funding for the company’s future growth.