Operator explains theatre problem

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THE operator of Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre has blamed a lack of public support for the venue’s disappointing returns since its reopening two years ago.

Paul Gregg, chairman of Apollo Leisure, which operates the venue, conceded a number of shows had failed to draw in the crowds, with Sir Elton John the only act to sell out the £3.5 million theatre in 2011.

The Scarborough-born businessman said: “We’ve held a variety of concerts and events, some of which have been hugely successful and some of which have been disappointing in terms of crowd numbers. Finding the right audience for the right event has been the most difficult challenge because the content has always been good,” he said.

The operational costs in running the theatre, which dates back to 1932, are expensive and Mr Gregg says the venue has held different kinds of events in an effort to pull in the crowds.

In 2010, a giant TV screen was brought in to show football matches from the World Cup in South Africa.

“It was a bit of an experiment, there was free admission and we had 6,500 in to watch the last England match, but the security and health and safety costs were about £7,500 and it was costing us £10,000 a night to stage,” said Mr Gregg, who added that making the venue available to more community groups was an ongoing problem.

“How do we get more community groups involved? That’s a big challenge because health and safety requirements from the council are about £5,000 a night and it’s very difficult for a high school or a church to pay that kind of money.

“But we are keen to increase community use this summer and we are working with the council on this.”

Earlier this month Mr Gregg attracted criticism after revealing no acts have yet been booked to perform in the summer season.

He said that although negotiations were ongoing with a number of entertainers, nothing had been signed – less than six months before the venue reopens.

Scarborough Council’s tourism portfolio holder, David Jeffels, said Apollo Leisure had initially promised a package of events would be unveiled by November and accused the company of “not delivering the goods” for Scarborough.