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Bah, pandemic! How theaters save ‘a Christmas carol’

Mr. Haj does not expect to make any money on this. Leda Hoffmann, artistic director of the Contemporary American Theater Company in Columbus, Ohio, which, for $ 20 per device, will broadcast a contemporary reimagining with Ebony Scrooge at its center. “It’s most likely a losing proposition, but we’re telling the story because we want to tell it,” she said.

The financial implications are huge, especially for those who have chosen not to charge at all. Last year Ford’s Theater in Washington sold tickets for “A Christmas Carol” for $ 2.5 million. This year it is releasing a free audio version on its website and on public radio, funded by corporate sponsorships and donations. “I hope it comes back to us in another way,” said Paul R. Tetreault, director of Ford.

The money in “A Christmas Carol” usually allows theaters to perform more challenging work at other times of the year.

In Raleigh, NC, where Ira David Wood III, artistic director and executive of Theater in the Park, has been playing Scrooge in a musical adaptation since 1974 (he missed a year, when he had open heart surgery), the money earned from the holiday show “allows us to do ‘Uncle Vanya’ and play maybe 12 people,” he said.

Like many large regional theaters, Trinity Rep of Providence is heavily dependent on the show, which accounts for half of all annual sales. This year, its hour-long streaming version still appears to be popular – in the first 72 hours, 75,000 people from 46 states signed up to watch. But ticket revenue, which topped $ 1.7 million last year, will be nil as the video is streamed for free.

“This thing has kept American theaters alive for decades and decades,” said Charles Fee, artistic director and producer of the Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland. “Without ‘Christmas Carol’ our business would almost certainly have failed.”

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