Catalonia’s National Theatre closes its third auditorium for two years due to budget cuts

Despite having a balanced budget in 2012, the National Theatre of Catalonia has decided to close the most alternative auditorium of the three it has since it will have smaller funds in 2013. The theatre expects a reduction in the occupancy rate due to the economic recession and therefore selling fewer tickets, resulting in a 28% reduction in its own resources. The institution has readjusted the 2012/2013 season by cancelling the spectacle ‘Panorama’ by Philippe Decouflé and by eliminating 70 performances of other plays in the other theatre rooms.

CNA / Pau Cortina / Margalida Amengual

January 25, 2013 11:10 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The National Theatre of Catalonia (TNC) finished 2012 with a balanced budget but it faces a complicated 2013 because of the drop in ticket sales. In order to adapt to this difficult year, the TNC managers, in cooperation with the artists and the TNC Trust, have decided to close the institution’s third theatre room for two years in order to reduce costs. The TNC will close the ‘Sala Tallers’, the most alternative auditorium of the three it has, where the most risky productions of contemporary theatre were shown. Consequently, the 2012/2013 season has been adjusted, also affecting the rest of the TNC. The spectacle ‘Panorama’ by Philippe Decouflé has been cancelled, as well as 70 performances of other shows in the other two theatre rooms. Managers have adopted this drastic decision because forecasts predict that the occupancy rate during the performances will drop from the current 73% to 55% and yearly tickets will drop by 31% due to the economic recession and the decrease in internal demand. Consequently, the TNC expects to lose around 28% of the revenue from its commercial activity. On top of this, the Catalan Government might reduce the size of the grant given to the TNC, as it did in 2012 . However, this has not been confirmed since the 2013 budget has not yet been disclosed (as the new Cabinet took office a month ago, after the November elections) and in the end the Catalan Ministry of Culture might not reduce the grant, keeping it at last year’s level. The TNC Artistic Director, Sergi Belbel, stated that the decision has been taken “in order to not put the theatre’s future at risk” and to allow the new Artistic Director, Xavier Albertí – who will take office in June – to have a large enough budget to close the programme of the 2013/2014 season. Mònica Campos, the CFO of the TNC, added that they are working on a viability plan. “The priority is to offer a public service, the mission under which the TNC was built”, she said.

The TNC finished 2012 with a balanced budget, in part thanks to the success of the play ‘Agost’. However, the 28% drop in ticket sales, added to the reduction in public funds, has obliged the managers to rethink the project in the short term and adapt to the new circumstances. The TNC suffered from a drop in seat occupancy, especially in the last few months of 2012, due to the economic recession and the increase in VAT on movie and theatre tickets. On top of this, the revenue coming from sponsorship is also decreasing due to the economic context.

All this combined means the loss of €1 million in revenue and in order to compensate for this, the TNC has decided to adopt a series of measures to reduce costs, the main one being closing one of the three theatre rooms for two years. The  ‘Sala Tallers’ room, linked to the T6 project of contemporary creation, will be closed to the public. However, it will still be used as a space for creativity and rehearsals, and it will be available for rent for private events.

“The Tallers room is the non-profitable room per se. You can keep it open if you can compensate for it”, stated Belbel. “If T6 was private theatre, it could not exist, it would be completely different. That was one of the charms of T6, but you can only do this when the situation in the country enables that. A public theatre has to generate this sort of project, but perhaps the situation is not to generate this sort of project right now”, he added.

Belbel has decided to cancel the show ‘Panorama’, by Philippe Decouflé, and to readjust the number of performances of the rest of the season in the other two rooms, passing from 430 to 360. Belbel stated that if he were to continue after June, he could have made the adjustment in the first part of the 2013/2014 season, but that would not be fair on his successor because “Xavier Albertí would not have had any funds left to create the first part of the 2013/2014 season”. ‘Groenlandia’, by Jordi Faura will still be performed in the Tallers room. However the projects of Nao Albet and Marcel Borràs, and that of Elena Tornero will be moved to the ‘Sala Petita’ room, although with only 50% of the budget and performances. In the two main auditoriums – Sala Gran and Sala Petita – the programme is maintained except for ‘Panorama’. However, some days have been changed and some performances of some shows have been cancelled. For those who already have their tickets for some of the cancelled shows, the TNC will be in contact to change them.