Producer Irked By Ambassador Levy

Ambassador Theatre Group’s decision to recoup some of the £100 million or so it paid for Live Nation’s theatre business by slapping a £1 levy on every ticket hasn’t gone over well in some quarters.

The Birmingham Mail reported that the extra £1, or “restoration levy” as it’s being called, has already caused one city producer to threaten to pull a major production at the city’s Alexandra Theatre.

Ian Sandy, the principal of children’s theatre group BSS Showbiz , told the paper he’s “never been angrier” after Ambassador said the levy applies to all shows in all of its theatres.

Sandy books a July showcase every year at the Alexandra, even though his training courses are held every Saturday at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

“I wanted to keep the ticket prices at £15 for 2010 because of the recession,” he told the Mail.

Last year’s showcase cost £5,000 to stage, featured 180 children on stage and drew a 700-strong “friends and family” audience.

“I do this show to give children a chance to perform on a big city stage and to try to bring as many new people to a theatre as I can during hard times and what is a traditionally quiet time for the industry. I can’t afford to reduce prices next year, nor do I want to put them up,” he explained.

“This show is not a profit-making venture for me, I just want to meet the bills. But I’ve been told by the Ambassador Theatre Group that the £1 levy is mandatory for all events. And that’s on top of theatres already charging ‘booking fees,’ which I really tried to resist as well.

“The Alex survives on one-night business, but to then ask people to pay an extra £1 in this climate is the most ridiculous situation I have ever come across. I have never been angrier.”

Sandy, who produced the Alexandra’s centenary show in 2001, said the Ambassador booking office has told him “the restoration levy” is being applied company-wide, to be added to every show in all the group’s venues from 2010 onward.

“As a company without any exterior funding, the levy is to be used directly for the upkeep and restoration of each of our venues,” explained Ambassador venue bookings manager Nicky Monk.

“We’re sorry BSS Showbiz is looking for an alternative venue. We’d still be delighted to welcome them to the Alexandra Theatre.”