Downturn sees audiences slide at theatres in Hull
AUDIENCE figures are on the slide at the city's two major council-run entertainment venues.
New figures for a three-month period between April and June paint a bleak picture at Hull New Theatre and Hull City Hall.
They reveal that just over 36,000 people visited the two venues during the period – 12,345 fewer than had been predicted in income forecasts drawn up by the council for the two venues at the start of the financial year.
The slump is being blamed on the impact of the economic downturn, with fewer people being prepared to go out.
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But some councillors have claimed an emphasis on one-off shows is also proving to be a turn-off.
During the period, the New Theatre only staged five productions that ran for more than three nights.
They included David Essex's All The Fun Of The Fair, Northern Ballet's Beauty And The Beast and Beverley Musical Theatre's production of Annie.
One-night shows at the venue ranged from folk singer Mike Harding to psychic Sally Morgan.
The City Hall's early spring programme featured four orchestral concerts as well as one-off shows by the Real Thing, tribute band the Beautiful Couch and former X-Factor finalist Andy Abraham.
Speaking at a council value for money scrutiny commission, Councillor Helena Spencer said: "I am extremely concerned by the figures from the City Hall and the New Theatre, because they just seem to be going down and down."
Having attended several shows at both venues last year when she was the city's Lady Mayoress, she said the latest audience figures only confirmed a continuing trend.
She said: "From my own experience, I know getting bums on seats, however you manage to do it, either through last-minute ticket deals or giving away free tickets, is a lot better than having lots of empty seats at a performance."
Councillor David Gemmell blamed recent line-ups for the slump. He said: "I believe some of the recent programming has been dire.
"We have gone from having very big shows to lots of one-off shows.
"You can't really develop an audience when you have so many one-off shows."
A review of activities at the two venues carried out by a panel of councillors three years ago recommended developing more commercial opportunities, particularly at times when the buildings were not being used for shows.
But Councillor Abi Bell said it was not clear whether any of the panel's recommendations had been carried out.
"For all we know, it might not have made a blind bit of difference," she said.
"These new figures are very worrying."