Open Air Theatre: 'a surprise we get no share of the profit' says Scarborough councillor

Open Air Theatre
Open Air Theatre

A Scarborough councillor says it is time to look again at how the town's Open Air Theatre is run.

Scarborough Council has revealed its financial results for the 6,500 capacity attraction, which show that the cost to the council of operating the venue for the year will be £107,000, with the council’s finance director warning that it will see no income from a profit sharing deal.

The “cost of operation” of the venue, was reduced by £25,000 as income exceeded expectations by £73,000, which reduced costs from £132,000.

The venue, which is operated through a contract with promoter Live Nation, via its subsidiary Cuffe and Taylor, also booked acts for 2018 including Gary Barlow, Lionel Richie and the Stereophonics.

The deal sees Scarborough Council receive a share of any profits from ticket sales, with the promoter taking over the risk of all costs associated with the booking of acts.

In response to the figures, Steve Siddons, leader of the opposition Labour Group, said: “As we have suspected for a long time, the Open Air Theatre costs the residents of this Borough over £100,000 each year to run, with no guarantee those costs won’t increase in the future.

“We are supposed to share in the profits from the shows with the operator, so it comes as some surprise that following one of the best years of operation with acts such as Britney Spears, Lionel Richie and The Script, we still get no share of the profit.

“This is not a partnership of equals and we need to urgently review these arrangements.”

In his report, which will go before the council’s Audit Committee next week, Nick Edwards said the venue had its best ever year.

He wrote: “Total attendances in 2018 of 91,431 exceeded all other years and increased on 2017 by 17,335. Average attendances increased from 5,211 to 5,714 again the highest average since the venue reopened. He added: “The forecasted economic benefit to the borough was around £7m."

However, the report also notes: “Due to the significant costs involved in the booking of world-class acts this year and the associated costs of putting on these shows it is not anticipated that there will be any profit share due to the council in this financial year.”

The report also notes that Live Nation has agreed to repay the amount spent by Scarborough Council to permanently infill the lake at the front of the theatre’s stage, which increased the capacity this year. The payments will be of £71,000 over a 10-year period.