BLOG: A not so beautiful experience when shows close early

It is sad but West End shows close earlier than planned sometimes. The cost of putting on a show in a big London theatre is extortionate and if tickets aren’t selling as well as expected then it can be better for producers to cut their losses and close the show early, rather than continue to hemorrhage money.

But what happens to the people who have bought tickets to see the show after it will now be closed? Yes, they can get a refund from the theatre for the tickets but that doesn’t help if you have already bought train tickets and paid for hotels, does it? And there is no insurance for that type of thing.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical recently announced it will close this August, three months earlier than planned which has aggravated theatre goers who had already purchased tickets beyond that date.

This got me thinking, should shows be allowed to put tickets on sale if they aren’t able to guarantee the show will still be playing? Are we leading ticket buyers in to a false sense of security by putting tickets on sale when it isn’t guaranteed the show will still be running?

In March 2017, Carole King herself surprised theatre goers by making an appearance on stage at the curtain call of the London production of Beautiful to celebrate the show being in the West End for two years. At the same time, the shows booking period was extended from July 2017 to November 2017. Three months later, the show announced it would in fact close in August 2017, three months earlier than the end of the extended booking period.

There is no better marketing tactic than being able to say that a show is selling so well that the run has been extended. With ticket prices costing over £200 for some West End shows, theatre goers are understandably reticent to take a chance on seeing something new and can tend to stick with the long running, safe options, like Les Mis or Phantom of the Opera because they have stood the test of time. So, although its naughty, if a show is struggling to sell tickets, then announcing an extension can make people think it must be worth seeing because its doing so well and ticket sales may pick up. I’m not saying all shows do this but it has been known to happen. And if sales don’t improve, the show can end up closing earlier than even the original date planned!

When a show announces an extended booking period it usually means one of two things. A) the show is selling really well or b) the show isn’t selling well but they want you to think it is so you buy tickets to see it because its doing well.

In April 2015 I wrong a blog Shows on the verge of an early closure when Women Of The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown announced it was extending its booking period from 9 May to 22 August 2015. Less than two weeks after the extension was announced, the show announced it would in fact close much earlier than originally planned on 23 May 2015 (just two weeks after it was originally booking until). Read the blog post here which also talks about other situations when this has happened in the West End.

Now I get the marketing tactics and it can really be quite clever (especially a show like The Book Of Mormon which seems to extend its booking period every month but just by an extra month so it is consistently in the news that it has been extended) but is it fair on the ticket buyers who buy tickets because the show extends its run, book train tickets and hotels, only to find out a month or so later that the show is going to actually close earlier than planned?

Should it ever be allowed to close a show earlier than planned, when tickets have been sold?

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