How do you make money in theatre?
Last week, The Sunday Times published its rich list in which the composer and theatre owner, Andrew Lloyd Webber, came in at number 101 with a fortune of £750 million and producer and theatre owner, Cameron Mackintosh, at 184 with £450m. We asked leading theatre accountant, Robert Breckman, how to make money in the theatre
‘There are a variety of ways of getting rich. For example, if, like Andrew Lloyd Webber (pictured), you write something that everybody loves, then you get royalties; not only royalties in the UK, but also a lot of money when the show transfers to America. Then the show goes around the regional theatres and you get royalties from that. It’s a good idea to buy your own theatre and to put your own product into it, which means that you are not paying rents and rates. There are a lot of complaints about Lloyd Webber doing TV reality shows. In his case, they are royalty shows because he gets money from them. Then, as well, the casting is done for free – and there’s an enormous amount of free publicity.
‘It’s better to be a theatre owner than a producer. Producers can lose money on a single show, but there are always new people wanting to rent a theatre. Straight plays make money if you’ve got two or three people in the cast and only one set. Writers get a down payment and they will get royalties rising to seven and a half to ten per cent once the show has covered its production costs.
‘Directors can make money. Trevor Nunn will make a lot of money out of “Gone with the Wind”, in spite of the reviews. If you’re a star actor in the West End, then you can either get a percentage or £2-5,000 a week. Invariably, what happens is that the star won’t get a royalty until the productions costs are covered. But you need to be in the show for six months to be lucky, and some actors don’t want to take that risk because they have a family to look after, or in an actor’s case, usually two.’
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