Kingston's Rose Theatre reports £204,000 annual loss as key productions flop

Surrey Comet: Tanqued: The Second Mrs Tanqueray was a commercial flop for the Rose Tanqued: The Second Mrs Tanqueray was a commercial flop for the Rose

Rose Theatre chief executive Robert O’Dowd said he was disappointed but not surprised after the venue made public a loss of more than £200,000 last year.

The deficit - revealed in the 2012/13 annual accounts of the Kingston Theatre Trust, which manages the Rose - came despite the continued £500,000 funding from Kingston Council and further £380,000 from Kingston University.

Mr O’ Dowd said several underperforming shows - including The Vortex, The Second Mrs Tanqueray and last year’s Christmas show Cinderella The Midnight Princess - contributed to poor box office receipts.

Ticket sales fell by £190,000 to £1.28m, with grants and donations dropping by £155,795.

Total income fell to £3m from £3.5m the year before while spending was down slightly – £3.2m compared to last year’s £3.4m.

Despite saving £180,000 in overheads through a “stringent cost control” programme, the theatre’s wage bill increased by £12,000.

The accounts also said liabilities exceeded assets by £858,343 “which may cast significant doubt about the charitable company’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

Overall, the theatre reported a trading loss of £204,126.

However Mr O’Dowd said he was confident of the theatre bouncing back next year, when box office sales from hit shows including Smack Family Robinson and The Snow Gorilla are accounted for.

Mr O’Dowd said: “It’s not a surprise. I was disappointed by the performances of those three plays.

“This year it looks like we should be in profit but there’s still three months to go and a lot can change.

“I’m feeling much more confident that next year’s accounts will show a brighter picture.

“We will then need to build on that and make sure there’s a sustainable future for the Rose.

“This year, at this moment, it’s going in the right direction.”

Surrey Comet:

The Vortex was praised by critics, but failed to attract audiences

In the year ending March 2013, the theatre sold 103,000 tickets for 21 productions, not including one-off events.

More than 55,000 people also attended artistic, educational and social events, including 250 young people taking part in the Rose Youth Theatre.

But the theatre’s own productions – with the exception of Michael Frayne’s Here - were box office flops.

Surrey Comet:

Last year's Christmas show, Cinderella The Midnight Princess, was another box office casualty

Mr O’Dowd said: “Theatre is tough at the best of times.

“It is not an easy thing to rely on the vagaries of public taste.

“Maybe with The Vortex and Mrs Tanqueray, it was a case of one melodrama too many.”

The results have led to a strategic rethink for the theatre.

Artistic director Stephen Unwin has left after six years, and will not be replaced.

Instead, the theatre is moving to a producer-led model – shifting away from star names and choosing titles it believes will appeal to its audience, such as Michael Frayne’s Donkey’s Year’s and Kingston author Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather, which both feature this spring.

Surrey Comet:

Rose chief executive Robert O'Dowd

The theatre has appointed a new head of fundraising, Emma Richards, and gained new corporate partners including restaurants Cote and La Tasca.

It also hopes to double the turnover of its cafe following a deal with the Swallow Bakery, which has taken over the every day running of the catering operation.

The trust's report concludes that while there is uncertainty about the "timing and value" of some of the income streams, the trustees believe sufficient funds will be generated through the new strategy to continue operating as a going concern.

Kingston Council lead Liz Green gave her backing to the Rose, saying she believed the annual £500,000 funding was value for taxpayer money.

She said: "Based on the service we receive and the benefits to the residents who use the theatre, yes, I believe it is money well spent."

Comments (10)

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9:30am Thu 9 Jan 14

DB says...

That is a shame. I have been to quite a few performances and enjoyed them all. I do think that the price puts a lot of people off, though. I have paid over £20 for a ticket and that it not far enough off of West End prices for a lot of people.

I will continue to support the Rose as much as possible, but I wonder how many people find those prices too high. Perhaps a 50% price cut would generate enough extra ticket sales to wipe out this loss?
That is a shame. I have been to quite a few performances and enjoyed them all. I do think that the price puts a lot of people off, though. I have paid over £20 for a ticket and that it not far enough off of West End prices for a lot of people. I will continue to support the Rose as much as possible, but I wonder how many people find those prices too high. Perhaps a 50% price cut would generate enough extra ticket sales to wipe out this loss? DB

9:47am Thu 9 Jan 14

Happy59 says...

I hope as a council tax payer I will not be expected to make up this short fall when other more essential services are being cut.

I do not agree with Liz Green, in these austere times 1/2 million pounds of council taxpayers money being spent on a privilege for the few does not represent value for money for the rest of us nor prudent spending of OUR hard earned cash.

May be they should put on productions that people actually want to go and see.
I hope as a council tax payer I will not be expected to make up this short fall when other more essential services are being cut. I do not agree with Liz Green, in these austere times 1/2 million pounds of council taxpayers money being spent on a privilege for the few does not represent value for money for the rest of us nor prudent spending of OUR hard earned cash. May be they should put on productions that people actually want to go and see. Happy59

10:18am Thu 9 Jan 14

concernedofkingston says...

Happy59 wrote:
I hope as a council tax payer I will not be expected to make up this short fall when other more essential services are being cut.

I do not agree with Liz Green, in these austere times 1/2 million pounds of council taxpayers money being spent on a privilege for the few does not represent value for money for the rest of us nor prudent spending of OUR hard earned cash.

May be they should put on productions that people actually want to go and see.
I agree entirely that this is effectively a luxury for the few that the majority can not really afford. The bad news, however, is that I think the Osborne committed the taxpayers to paying £500,000 for five years (I'm sure the Liberal politicians will correct me quickly if I'm wrong) making the total support (apart from long loans and low rents) £2.5m. When the election approaches I will be asking each party (including any independents) what they would do to try to unpick this commitment (but we will probably find that any discretion over this has been fettered?). I just hope that in the meantime no more cash is volunteered by the Council.
[quote][p][bold]Happy59[/bold] wrote: I hope as a council tax payer I will not be expected to make up this short fall when other more essential services are being cut. I do not agree with Liz Green, in these austere times 1/2 million pounds of council taxpayers money being spent on a privilege for the few does not represent value for money for the rest of us nor prudent spending of OUR hard earned cash. May be they should put on productions that people actually want to go and see.[/p][/quote]I agree entirely that this is effectively a luxury for the few that the majority can not really afford. The bad news, however, is that I think the Osborne committed the taxpayers to paying £500,000 for five years (I'm sure the Liberal politicians will correct me quickly if I'm wrong) making the total support (apart from long loans and low rents) £2.5m. When the election approaches I will be asking each party (including any independents) what they would do to try to unpick this commitment (but we will probably find that any discretion over this has been fettered?). I just hope that in the meantime no more cash is volunteered by the Council. concernedofkingston

10:25am Thu 9 Jan 14

DB says...

Happy59 wrote:
I hope as a council tax payer I will not be expected to make up this short fall when other more essential services are being cut. I do not agree with Liz Green, in these austere times 1/2 million pounds of council taxpayers money being spent on a privilege for the few does not represent value for money for the rest of us nor prudent spending of OUR hard earned cash. May be they should put on productions that people actually want to go and see.
I agree that is quite a strange comment from Liz Green. I would have thought that there is a large majority of Kingston residents who have never been to the Rose and the ones that do go are paying very high ticket prices anyway.

Reading the article again, it seems impossible that the Rose can ever break-even regardless of ticket price cuts and more attractive shows. They need to improve their financial performance by more than £1m if they are to survive without council and University funding. I wonder how many Kingston University students are happy that their £9k per year tuition fees are being spent in this way?
[quote][p][bold]Happy59[/bold] wrote: I hope as a council tax payer I will not be expected to make up this short fall when other more essential services are being cut. I do not agree with Liz Green, in these austere times 1/2 million pounds of council taxpayers money being spent on a privilege for the few does not represent value for money for the rest of us nor prudent spending of OUR hard earned cash. May be they should put on productions that people actually want to go and see.[/p][/quote]I agree that is quite a strange comment from Liz Green. I would have thought that there is a large majority of Kingston residents who have never been to the Rose and the ones that do go are paying very high ticket prices anyway. Reading the article again, it seems impossible that the Rose can ever break-even regardless of ticket price cuts and more attractive shows. They need to improve their financial performance by more than £1m if they are to survive without council and University funding. I wonder how many Kingston University students are happy that their £9k per year tuition fees are being spent in this way? DB

10:49am Thu 9 Jan 14

Tony from Surbiton says...

DB wrote:
That is a shame. I have been to quite a few performances and enjoyed them all. I do think that the price puts a lot of people off, though. I have paid over £20 for a ticket and that it not far enough off of West End prices for a lot of people.

I will continue to support the Rose as much as possible, but I wonder how many people find those prices too high. Perhaps a 50% price cut would generate enough extra ticket sales to wipe out this loss?
I do realise that £20 is too much for some, but West End prices are considerably higher. To drop the ticket price by 50% would mean they would need to double the audience just to take the same amount. Unfortunately I can't see that being viable.

I'm afraid it all comes down to the quality of the shows and whether they are things that people want to come and see. They obviously haven't got it right at the moment.

Personally I always go into central London to watch theatre. It doesn't take long to get to London where it tends to be of a higher standard with better quality seats/views.
[quote][p][bold]DB[/bold] wrote: That is a shame. I have been to quite a few performances and enjoyed them all. I do think that the price puts a lot of people off, though. I have paid over £20 for a ticket and that it not far enough off of West End prices for a lot of people. I will continue to support the Rose as much as possible, but I wonder how many people find those prices too high. Perhaps a 50% price cut would generate enough extra ticket sales to wipe out this loss?[/p][/quote]I do realise that £20 is too much for some, but West End prices are considerably higher. To drop the ticket price by 50% would mean they would need to double the audience just to take the same amount. Unfortunately I can't see that being viable. I'm afraid it all comes down to the quality of the shows and whether they are things that people want to come and see. They obviously haven't got it right at the moment. Personally I always go into central London to watch theatre. It doesn't take long to get to London where it tends to be of a higher standard with better quality seats/views. Tony from Surbiton

11:17am Thu 9 Jan 14

reesmf says...

I went to the theatre over one hundred times last year but only a few times to the Rose despite it being within walking distance. I think that the Rose is still struggling to find its identity with its curious mix of "classics" (Ghosts, which I saw), less known works (The Second Mrs Tanqueray, which I missed) and touring productions (Propeller Shakespeare, which I saw).

I also agree with the comment made above about costs. My rule of thumb is that I do not need to justify to myself anything up to £20 so I go and see a lot of theatre on a speculative basis. The Rose charges quite a bit more than that so I have to be really certain that I want to see something before I'll go, hence giving things like The Second Mrs Tanqueray a miss.

The Rose needs to be certain who its target market is (I don't think it is me) and then deliver to that market.
I went to the theatre over one hundred times last year but only a few times to the Rose despite it being within walking distance. I think that the Rose is still struggling to find its identity with its curious mix of "classics" (Ghosts, which I saw), less known works (The Second Mrs Tanqueray, which I missed) and touring productions (Propeller Shakespeare, which I saw). I also agree with the comment made above about costs. My rule of thumb is that I do not need to justify to myself anything up to £20 so I go and see a lot of theatre on a speculative basis. The Rose charges quite a bit more than that so I have to be really certain that I want to see something before I'll go, hence giving things like The Second Mrs Tanqueray a miss. The Rose needs to be certain who its target market is (I don't think it is me) and then deliver to that market. reesmf

12:41pm Thu 9 Jan 14

DB says...

Tony from Surbiton wrote:
DB wrote: That is a shame. I have been to quite a few performances and enjoyed them all. I do think that the price puts a lot of people off, though. I have paid over £20 for a ticket and that it not far enough off of West End prices for a lot of people. I will continue to support the Rose as much as possible, but I wonder how many people find those prices too high. Perhaps a 50% price cut would generate enough extra ticket sales to wipe out this loss?
I do realise that £20 is too much for some, but West End prices are considerably higher. To drop the ticket price by 50% would mean they would need to double the audience just to take the same amount. Unfortunately I can't see that being viable. I'm afraid it all comes down to the quality of the shows and whether they are things that people want to come and see. They obviously haven't got it right at the moment. Personally I always go into central London to watch theatre. It doesn't take long to get to London where it tends to be of a higher standard with better quality seats/views.
I have seen tickets for most West End shows for not much more than £20, but I suppose that is not really comparing like with like because that would be for worse seats, and the worse seats in the Rose are probably much less as well.

There are no end of deals on West End shows at the moment, and I have had good stalls seating at several of the smaller shows for £15 in the past year.

As you say, the Rose is always going to be stuck with the fact that it is only 30 minutes away from the West End with all of the competition that offers.

I still think that a ticket price drop could make a difference. For a family of 4/5, getting up to the West End is a bit more hassle and the idea of popping into the Rose if it is within walking distance of home would be much more appealing, but not at the current prices. Perhaps by making it more accessible price-wise they could even more than double the current attendance, thus reducing the shortfall.

Either way, if viability is measured by surviving without a subsidy, I can't see how that can happen.
[quote][p][bold]Tony from Surbiton[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]DB[/bold] wrote: That is a shame. I have been to quite a few performances and enjoyed them all. I do think that the price puts a lot of people off, though. I have paid over £20 for a ticket and that it not far enough off of West End prices for a lot of people. I will continue to support the Rose as much as possible, but I wonder how many people find those prices too high. Perhaps a 50% price cut would generate enough extra ticket sales to wipe out this loss?[/p][/quote]I do realise that £20 is too much for some, but West End prices are considerably higher. To drop the ticket price by 50% would mean they would need to double the audience just to take the same amount. Unfortunately I can't see that being viable. I'm afraid it all comes down to the quality of the shows and whether they are things that people want to come and see. They obviously haven't got it right at the moment. Personally I always go into central London to watch theatre. It doesn't take long to get to London where it tends to be of a higher standard with better quality seats/views.[/p][/quote]I have seen tickets for most West End shows for not much more than £20, but I suppose that is not really comparing like with like because that would be for worse seats, and the worse seats in the Rose are probably much less as well. There are no end of deals on West End shows at the moment, and I have had good stalls seating at several of the smaller shows for £15 in the past year. As you say, the Rose is always going to be stuck with the fact that it is only 30 minutes away from the West End with all of the competition that offers. I still think that a ticket price drop could make a difference. For a family of 4/5, getting up to the West End is a bit more hassle and the idea of popping into the Rose if it is within walking distance of home would be much more appealing, but not at the current prices. Perhaps by making it more accessible price-wise they could even more than double the current attendance, thus reducing the shortfall. Either way, if viability is measured by surviving without a subsidy, I can't see how that can happen. DB

2:07pm Thu 9 Jan 14

kingstonpaul says...

The bottom line is that The Rose will never wash its face. For the simple fact that it's competing in an already crowded marketplace, whose audience will always be attracted to the world' best theatres and productions a half-hour train ride away.
It's found a niche alright, but it's not a proftable one. Personally, I'd like to see more use as a mid-sized music venue.
Finally, The Rose isn't a cheap venue. Not helped by the outrageous price of the theatre's cash & carry quality wine at £7/£8. It's no surprise that local pubs like The Ram do well at the interval because patrons are avoiding the theatre's exorbitant prices. Lower them a bit, and it might generate higher secondary income.
The bottom line is that The Rose will never wash its face. For the simple fact that it's competing in an already crowded marketplace, whose audience will always be attracted to the world' best theatres and productions a half-hour train ride away. It's found a niche alright, but it's not a proftable one. Personally, I'd like to see more use as a mid-sized music venue. Finally, The Rose isn't a cheap venue. Not helped by the outrageous price of the theatre's cash & carry quality wine at £7/£8. It's no surprise that local pubs like The Ram do well at the interval because patrons are avoiding the theatre's exorbitant prices. Lower them a bit, and it might generate higher secondary income. kingstonpaul

4:26pm Thu 9 Jan 14

SAKingston says...

There have been a few shows there that just don't interest me at all including the 'classics' but I've also seen some brilliant things.

But at least some of the money tax payers pay allows the Rose to provide hundreds of Kingston school children with free tickets to shows providing the opportunity for some children who wouldn't otherwise be in a position to experience theatre the chance to see the work that they do there.

My child has been to see a few things there now with his school and has always come back raving about it there. I think it is important for the town to have a bit of culture - otherwise we are just left with shops and nightclubs.
There have been a few shows there that just don't interest me at all including the 'classics' but I've also seen some brilliant things. But at least some of the money tax payers pay allows the Rose to provide hundreds of Kingston school children with free tickets to shows providing the opportunity for some children who wouldn't otherwise be in a position to experience theatre the chance to see the work that they do there. My child has been to see a few things there now with his school and has always come back raving about it there. I think it is important for the town to have a bit of culture - otherwise we are just left with shops and nightclubs. SAKingston

2:21am Sat 11 Jan 14

Marple says...

It is about time The Rose followed the example of both the Richmond and the New Wimbledon Theatres and run the theatre for the whole community .
After all from it's beginning it has mainly been the ratrepayers who have financially supported it.
It could not do better than run it on the same lines as the old Kingston Empire -
traditional family pantomimes, comedians,celebrity music groups, talent contests etc, etc. -forget the about staging Shakespeare and the depressing Greek tragedies , leave those to The Globe and suchlike-
It is about time The Rose followed the example of both the Richmond and the New Wimbledon Theatres and run the theatre for the whole community . After all from it's beginning it has mainly been the ratrepayers who have financially supported it. It could not do better than run it on the same lines as the old Kingston Empire - traditional family pantomimes, comedians,celebrity music groups, talent contests etc, etc. -forget the about staging Shakespeare and the depressing Greek tragedies , leave those to The Globe and suchlike- Marple

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