Yau Ma Tei Cantonese opera venue miscalculates discount ticket sales

Patrons may have to pay more as Yau Ma Tei Cantonese opera venue underestimates discount ticket sales

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 4:10am

Fans of Cantonese opera may have to pay more to watch shows at a new government arts venue next year because of a budget miscalculation.

The Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, which performs at the Yau Ma Tei Theatre, said that when drafting its budget, the association was required by the government to project a box office income from 70 per cent of ticket sales.

But since the association began staging shows at the refurbished grade two historic building under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's venue partnership scheme in July, it has sold more concessionary tickets to students and the elderly than it expected.

The association initially estimated that most of the tickets it sold would be standard tickets, chief executive Alisa Shum Kam-sin said. But it turned out that more than half were concessionary tickets. While attendance was satisfactory, therefore, box office income was only half what had been projected.

Although the first phase of the venue partnership agreement will not end until March 31 next year, Shum said, "if our box office does not reach our projected level, we will lose money".

Shum said it was only the beginning and the association was "very happy that we have developed a bond with the local community".

But it was pondering what to do after the first phase of the agreement ended. "Do we have to put up the ticket price? There is pressure," she said.

Shum said the association did not limit sales of discounted tickets.

An organisation operating under the venue partnership scheme has to seek government approval for the budget.

The projected box office income is a decisive factor when seeking other funding either from the government or the private sector. However, Shum said, there was a lack of flexibility in the government's budget calculation requirement.

The association declined to provide the total income projection and other budgeting details.

According to the Home Affairs Bureau, it received a grant of more than HK$3.8 million to run 130 shows of its Cantonese Opera Young Talent Showcase, a platform for new blood, in the 300-seat theatre.

Under the venue partnership scheme, the department also provides the association with an annual programme fee of HK$1 million to pay for production and administrative costs, besides free venue, ticketing services and support for publicity.

Li Kui-ming, the playwright who signed a four-year lease in a last-minute deal to stop the closure of the Sunbeam Theatre, the North Point institution famed as a Cantonese opera venue, has donated HK$3 million to the association.

The theatre on Waterloo Road, built in 1930, is the only surviving pre-war theatre in Kowloon. It took HK$180 million and two years to restore.

The association is also a partner with the Tourism Board and the tourism sector for Experience Cantopera: A Taste of Hong Kong's Intangible Cultural Heritage, which features 72 programmes.