National Theatre Moves toward U.S. Funding Model and Increases Attendance…

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

The National Theatre (London) is turning heads with it’s recent increase in attendance. With a 50% jump in attendance in 2009-2010 from the 2008-2009 fiscal year, many in the theatre world are starting to pay attention to the National Theatre’s new initiatives in order to find inspiration for their own organizations. While Hayden Phillips, the outgoing chairman of the NT, attributes some of the success in attendance to the hugely popular West End production of War Horse, he gives just as much credit to sound financial management, artistic planning, and most importantly, audience outreach initiatives. The National Theatre has increased it’s international reach to 1.4 million, up from 700,000 8 years ago. Through NT touring productions and the new live cinema broadcast initiative, the National Theatre has been able to double their international reach in less than a decade. What is even more amazing is that they have managed to achieve such feats all while dramatically losing monetary support from the government. In 1980, the English government provided the National Theatre with 60% of it’s income. By 2000 it was only 50% and as of 2010, it is a mere 30%. While government funding has fallen, the organization has managed to increase box office revenue to represent 47% of it’s income. In fact, according to Phillips, many of the major London Arts Institutions are doing the same thing as the National Theatre and are adapting to find ways to "pave their own way" financially. It will be interesting to see if this new system continues to be successful for the National Theatre and if it is one that is sustainable, especially in Europe where, in the past, the arts were so heavily funded by the government. Will a U.S. based funding model work in a country where philanthropy isn’t as ingrained in the culture?



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