Portsmouth’s Kings Theatre has vowed not to work with producers who “bleed regional theatres dry” with unreasonable financial demands – as the venue reveals a new business model for its future.
Chief executive of the Kings Theatre Trust, Paul Woolf, has urged other regional theatres to take a stand against national producers who are asking for “massive” financial guarantees.
His comments come as it is announced that the theatre has been awarded a £3 million loan from Portsmouth City Council towards a major redevelopment of the grade-II listed building, which will include bars, a restaurant and rehearsal space.
The council, which owns the freehold on the building, also confirmed a £300,000 grant towards the regeneration and will pay £350,000 for urgent repairs.
“We have taken the step to no longer work with producers who ask for guarantees so massive they effectively bleed theatres dry, as this is what is happening across other regional venues like ours,” Woolf said.
The chief executive said that regional venues often had to “take a gamble” on being able to sell enough seats to make money, and could end up losing tens of thousands of pounds for particular shows.
He added: “We were hooked on that drug a bit, we were taking these shows and doing these deals with producers, and in the last year we stopped.
“I would love to talk to all the regional theatres that feel the pain, and encourage them to talk to me and talk through how we’ve gone through this journey.”
Woolf said that the theatre’s new model will include a combination of touring West End shows brought in at what the theatre considers a reasonable cost, as well as shows produced in-house in collaboration with the local community, including an upcoming production of Annie.
The theatre, which has historically been a receiving venue with occasional in-house productions, also aims to create touring work in the future.
Woolf said: “We have yanked the Kings Theatre into today and the future. But we are still keeping the history there – we are staying true to the heritage and the building.
“We will become a serious attraction. In the new space, we will be able to offer so much more to the community. People will come here for food and drink and may not even come to the theatre. We are utilising parts of the theatre that we couldn’t before.”
The Kings Theatre Trust has also announced that would expand its current list of patrons to include former ITV boss Clive Jones and actor John Challis.