Tag Archives: economics

Economics of Live Theatre

In the last month, I.ve been to two performances. The first was a production of Macbeth put on by the Blue Bridge Theatre Repertory at the Roxy that was discussed in this blog. The second was eatingthegame put on by Hong Kong Exile at Metro Studio discussed here. Have you ever wondered about the economics of theatre? Here.s my take on the economics of live theatre based on the rate cards from the Roxy and Metro Studio.

Here.s the rate card from Metro Studio:

Metro Studio Rate Card

Metro Studio Rate Card

Let.s work it out in the most advantageous terms from the point of view of art. Or in other words, how to make the show as profitable as possible. Here.s the base price scenario for the Metro Studio:

$575 (not for profit rental rate) + technician ($98, based on minimum 4hr call) + front of house manager ($70, based on minimum 4hr call) + production manager ($120, based on minimum 4hr call) + projector rental ($40) = GRAND TOTAL $903.

Here.s the rate card from the Roxy:

Rate Card Roxy

Rate Card Roxy

Let.s make it out in the most advantageous terms from the view of art. Or in other words, how to make the show as profitable as possible. Here.s the base price scenario for the Roxy:

$650 (not for profit rental day rate) + concession manager ($72, based on minimum 4hr call) + technician ($88, based on minimum 4hr call) + $2,000,000 public liability insurance ($150, estimate from top of head) = $960.

So, best case scenario for a theatre troupe to stage a one day production at the Metro Studio is $903. By best case, these are only the fees incurred to the venue. The writer, director, actors, assistants, costume/set designers, makeup artists, etc., are all working for free. You say: ‘Maybe the rental rate shouldn.t be included in that figure if the Metro Studio is inviting a troupe to perform in their space’. Well, the Metro Studio wouldn.t be in business for long if they didn.t get rental revenue so that figure should stay in.

For the Roxy (which has 20% or so additional capacity), the best case scenario for a theatre troupe to stage a one day production is $960. By best case, these are only the fees incurred to the venue. The director, actors, assistants, constume/set designers, makeup artists, etc., are all working for free. You say: ‘Maybe the rental rate shouldn.t be included in that figure if the Roxy is putting on a performance in its own space’. Well, the Roxy would.t be in business for long if they didn’t. pay their property taxes, upkeep their building, pay the hydro bill, etc., In other words, the rental rate should stay in the figure.

At eatingthegame at the Metro Studio, the crowd was estimated at 50. At $20 a ticket, that.s a revenue of $1000. So, if the troupe didn.t have to travel from Vancouver and got paid absolutely nothing for the performance and the rehearsals, the show would make $97.

At Macbeth at the Roxy, the crowd was estimated at 70. At an average of $35 a ticket (including student / senior discounts & flex passes), that.s a revenue of $2450. So, if the troupe got paid absolutely nothing for the performance and rehearsals, the show would make $1490.

eatingthegame was a one show deal at the Metro. The economics are ouch. Good thing it is a one man show.

Macbeth went on for 14 performances. $1490 * 14 is $20,860. The bad thing is you have to split that number between 10+ actors, choreographers, director, set designers, and so on. Let.s say to make a Macbeth happen, four weeks of labour for 20 people are necessary. That.s a very optimistic estimate. That.s 3200 man hours. Let.s say of that $20,860 profit, $5000 goes to materials: props, setting, costumes, and so on. That leaves $15,860. $15,860 divided by 3200 man hours equals a wage of $4.96 per hour. Ouch. No wonder in the economics of theatre there are sponsors but not investors.

I.m Edwin Wong and my heart goes out to all the brothers and sisters out there Doing Melpomene’s Work because from the economics, it looks like it.s a tough go.