US investors have warned they would stop putting money into UK shows if plans to limit the number of Olivier awards handed out to producers go ahead.
As revealed by The Stage last week, the Society of London Theatre, which organises the Olivier Awards, is looking at how to manage an increase in the number of named producers on commercial productions, which has led to more demand for Olivier statuettes.
One proposal to be put to members is to limit the number of awards available for each winning show. If more statuettes were to be required, producers would only be able to purchase a different style of statue.
Responding to the news, one US investor, who has put money into an Olivier award-winning show, told The Stage he and other US investors would stop putting money into shows if a limit were imposed.
“What other perk is there for Americans to raise money for West End theatre?” he asked. “It’s not like we get to see the shows we invest in frequently or attend meetings in person.”
He added that he would not be happy with a different style of award.
“If they did something similar for the Tonys, there would be an outcry. It’s like: ‘Okay, you spent time and energy raising money for a show and here’s your mini-Olivier,’ ” he said.
Another US-based producer said investors saw awards as a “reward for their risks”.
“As a producer, I have to do whatever is necessary to raise the funds to mount a production, and if it takes 50 co-producers, so be it. Producing musicals is very expensive with the ‘sweet spot’ being in the $10-16 million range. You’re not going to raise that kind of money from a handful of investors. So it’s sad that SOLT is penalising these ‘angels’,” he added.
Karl Sydow, a producer in both the UK and the US, described the plans as “a silly move”.
“I don’t think the producers of the Olivier Awards should get involved – it’s something for the producer and his or her investors. Someone has to buy an award, so it doesn’t cost the producers of the Olivier Awards anything,” he said.
He agreed that investors would think twice about putting money into shows.
“I think they probably will. They want what they can get,” he said and urged SOLT not to make it tougher for producers who need people to invest.
Another high-profile West End producer said the UK needed to take a balanced approach to investors. He said they should be recognised, but that it was also important to avoid that “ghastly sight of hordes [of people] stampeding towards the stage” when a show wins, as happens at the Tony Awards.
“We need to increase the recognition of investors here, who are sneered at, but not go as far as [having them] put on a dress and charge towards the stage to pick up a bauble,” he said.
Company and Come from Away, which were both winners at this year’s awards, are shows with multiple producers. The Stage understands that many of these producers applied to have additional statuettes following this year’s awards, at a cost of £800 a statue, resulting in unprecedented demand for statuettes.