'Strong end to year will see council-run venues meet target'
THE city's entertainment venues are set to bounce back after a disappointing set of first quarter results, according to a senior councillor.
Audience figures at Hull City Hall and Hull New Theatre fell well below forecast in the three months to June.
The figures, together with a reported overall £266,262 loss at the City Hall last year, have prompted some councillors to question whether action taken after a recent review of commercial activities at the two venues is actually having an impact.
One councillor even described the early season programming at the two events as "dire".
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But Councillor Terry Geraghty, cabinet portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said the first-quarter figures were misleading because several big shows were scheduled for later in the year.
He said: "The overall annual target for the City Hall and the New Theatre is set at 235,095 visits.
"Looking at current sales and programming, we expect to meet this target, which is good news."
At the City Hall, several forthcoming one-night shows have already sold out.
They include appearances by comedians Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges and Mickey Flanaghan, along with TV chefs The Hairy Bikers and musician Ed Sheeran.
Mr Geraghty said a series of Christmas dinner and dance party nights at the City Hall had also sold out, while the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was due to perform at the venue in March.
At the New Theatre, he said there has been "strong sales" for Starlight Express and Cats, which are scheduled for next Spring.
"We have also got Hairspray coming in February and we have already generated ticket sales of more than £30,000 on that," he added.
This year's New Theatre pantomime is also expected to deliver its traditional end-of-year income boost at the venue.
Year-on-year sales figures for reserved and sold seats are showing a £14,000 increase on this time last year.
Mr Geraghty said he expected an "upward trend" in audience figures to continue for the rest of the year.
A report on the first-quarter figures presented to this week's cabinet said a number of events had been unexpectedly cancelled at short notice because of the "difficult financial climate".
It said: "Very strong programmes with a diverse range of events, including national commercial touring productions, are in place, which present the best opportunity to increase attendances and attract new audiences."
The report says programmes and events at both venues were being delivered on a reduced budget and reduced staffing levels compared with last year.