Tough trading times at theatre

BOSSES of Ipswich's Regent theatre have today revealed that tough trading conditions mean the venue is likely to make a sizeable loss this year.

BOSSES of Ipswich's Regent theatre have today revealed that tough trading conditions mean the venue is likely to make a sizeable loss this year.

The theatre, which made a loss of around £600,000 last year, is expected to make a loss closer to £700,000 for the current year, a report published today will say.

Management say the nature of the industry means that providing a diverse range of acts for theatre goers is a costly venture with big name acts commanding big fees that are difficult to recoup.

Despite this they have vowed to work to reduce the burden on the public purse.

Billy Brennan, head of cultural services for Ipswich Borough Council, said: “There is a misunderstanding that because a certain star has performed at the theatre that tens of thousands of pounds profit will have been made and that's simply not the case.

“The challenge that we have as theatre operators is to provide a programme that is going to be attractive to customers, affordable and minimal risk.

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“That is really where the skill of the managers comes in.

“It is about balance, getting the right cost with the right programme which is a very complex equation.

“It is always going to cost money to have a theatre - that is the nature of theatres.

“The question is how much should a theatre the size of the Regent cost and who pays?

“Of course we want to reduce those costs as much as possible.”

Despite concerns about the current state of the economy, Regent manager David Mansfield said there are positives for the theatre.

This includes the expansion of University College Suffolk, a move that will provide opportunities to attract new customers.

He also pointed to exciting upcoming acts including comedians Steve Coogan and Lee Evans as well as pop act The Feeling. Meanwhile it seems likely that the venue will remain in council hands for the immediate future rather than bringing in a specialist firm to run it privately.

Mr Brennan said should a decision be made to have the theatre taken out of council control, a privately run theatre would unlikely provide the current eclectic mix of music, ballet, theatre and comedy currently available.

n. Are you concerned at the amount of money it costs to support the Regent? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk