Making culture pay again

What will it cost to return the Royal Opera House to profit if it can’t seat this many?

After extensive lobbying by the arts sector, Boris Johnson has announced a £1,15 billion support package, describing them as “the beating heart of the country.” Art galleries and cinemas are already open: theatres, built mostly in the Victorian era with seating much closer together than the (newly) stipulated one metre, are still waiting for a green light.


What price social distancing?

We looked at the Royal Opera House, surely one of Britain’s iconic centres of culture – and the largest theatre in the county with 2,256 seats. Prices vary from performance to performance but, according to their website, range from £3 to £175.

Part of its remit is to bring culture to as many people as possible, so seating ranges from the plush grand tier boxes to the upper slips, where opera glasses are recommended.

Copying an imaginary income and expenditure into Forecast 5 budgeting and forecasting software programme, we tried out a combination of seat prices and configurations. Initially we looked at what we would need to charge to break even, so as to encourage people to come to the opera and ballet, and then how we could return to profit.


Ease of use

The joy of Forecast 5 is that once we have input the data – or copied it across from our actual accounts – it automatically adjusts all the outputs each time we change a ticket price, making budgeting and planning fast and accurate. 

A post-lockdown innovation at the opera house has been broadcasting previous performances, which have resulted in audiences of thousands. While it was done to keep the spirit of the arts alive, it has turned into a new source of income for Covent Garden, as the opera house is known, and we could factor in this new cash stream quickly and easily—and see its potential impact on the bottom line.

Then, with our What If scenario planning we can test a range of price and cost inputs and depending on the results, save these changes into the budget we are working on, save as a new forecast or refresh.


What’s on offer

 According to The Guardian, the support package includes:

  • A £1.15bn support pot for cultural organisations in England, consisting of £270m in loans and £880m in grants.
  • £100m of targeted support for England’s national cultural institutions and English Heritage.
  • £120m of capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England paused because of the pandemic.
  • Extra money for devolved administrations, with £97m for Scotland, £59m for Wales and £33m for Northern Ireland.

Forecast 5, world-class forecasting softwear and budgeting solutions. Download your 21-day free trial here.