Theatres across the UK have struggled over the last two years due to the pandemic, which brought with it closures, capacity restrictions and of course, a lack of confidence from traditional, regular theatregoers who are worried about catching COVID-19.
Just last week, the UK’s Royal National Theatre announced that its income was almost halved during the first year of the pandemic and was down more than £50m ($67m/€59m).
The easing of restrictions last year brought some relief to theatres and venues, which were able to operate and stage productions once more. However, the emergence of the Omicron variant over the winter created issues with performers and crew having to self isolate, and a spate of shows had to be cancelled.
Christmas may have come and gone but Theatre Tokens, a gift voucher scheme run by not-for-profit Society of London Theatre (SOLT), can help patrons in supporting their beloved theatre while also patiently waiting for when they are ready to return.
Theatre Tokens has been running for almost four decades and can be used to purchase tickets at more than 260 theatres across the UK, including London’s famous West End.
“Whether it’s an e-gift or a physical gift card, one of Theatre Tokens’ best features is that they have no expiry date, so they make a fantastic gift that won’t run out,” said Jamie Snelgrove, Theatre Tokens business development and relationship manager.
This means that tickets can be purchased for loved ones without pressuring them to return to the theatres until they are truly ready, while also making sure the local theatre is still there once they are able to do so.
Direct from the West End with an extraordinary story and unforgettable vocals. Let your soul sing with the dazzling, multi-award winning DREAMGIRLS at @BristolHipp from 5 – 22 January pic.twitter.com/z7lPGoUA7b
— theatretokens (@TheatreTokens) January 10, 2022
Snelgrove added: “One of the great things about Tokens is that we’re run by the Society of London Theatre, a not-for-profit organisation, so you can rest assured that using Theatre Tokens is supporting the theatre industry, especially at a time when they need it most.
“It’s been a difficult couple of years for the UK’s theatre industry and the many people who work within it. Now more than ever, theatre is reliant on its loyal audiences returning to continue to survive and thrive.”
Big time or local panto
Purchasing a gift card from Theatre Tokens also means that the benefactor can choose what to watch, whether that be a show featured on London’s West End, or a festive pantomime at the local theatre.
“Theatre Tokens are a great purchase all year round,” said Snelgrove. “We’ve found that almost 70% of Tokens purchases are birthday presents, as they can be bought for any customisable amount and won’t expire.”
Before the pandemic hit, around 355,000 theatre tickets were bought each year using Theatre Tokens gift cards, and over £10m worth of Theatre Tokens were sold annually.
Snelgrove said: “While these numbers have understandably taken a dip during the last couple of years, Theatre Tokens’ lack of expiry date allow the consumer to wait until they are happy to return to theatres or until something really want to see is on, so they are still a no-risk purchase.”
Moving into 2022 has provided some light, as Snelgrove explained that while not everyone has returned to the theatre, audience numbers are increasing as restrictions are gradually removed.
He said: “We’re seeing customer confidence returning as more Theatre Tokens are being redeemed, which feels in line with restrictions lifting across the UK.”
A token gesture
Snelgrove also highlighted how Theatre Tokens helps the theatre industry on top of providing gift cards to theatre-loving customers.
He said: “We are constantly trying to promote the theatre industry across the UK. We provide free marketing support and access to our date, raising awareness of the shows Theatre Token-accepting theatres are putting on.
“Also in May 2021, we began a partnership with O2 Priority where customers can purchase Theatre Tokens for £40 or £20 and get double the amount for free. The ‘Priority Show Stoppers’ campaign is live in-app for up to a week each month, and each month we highlight three different shows playing across the country to show customers a taste of what they can spend their Theatre Tokens on.”