Recently the English National Opera banned patrons from bringing their own food and drink to shows in their home at The London Coliseum. This seems be a common practise now in many theatres and cinemas, but is really necessary?
I would have agreed with the idea until the theatre’s statement about this matter reasoned their decision with the fact that patrons are ‘picnicking’ and ‘swapping water for gin and vodka’, erm come again?
I don’t know of anyone who has brought their full lunch into a theatre, and as for the gin and vodka well that can be bought from the theatres own bar, but surely to bring a half litre and consume it in 2 hours would be lethal to anyone’s body.
Now I am not saying that it doesn’t happen that people bring more food in then is normally acceptable nor am I saying people wouldn’t bring in booze and when people this it is right to condemn the practise. But at the same time going to a theatre can be expensive enough with just the ticket let alone an interval drink and some sweets.
Whilst theatres like every other business are trying to make a profit to survive at the same time they need to remain sensible, finding the balance to keep patrons coming back during a down turn in the economy and making a stainable profit to keep going.
So bearing in mind that most theatres have some sort of funding arrangement, whether that be grants or commercial support the beverages and confectioner which is sold during a performance are all aimed to help support the actual building as the performance usually funded separately.
So the audience should have the consideration that theatres need every penny it can get to ensure that is still standing so they keep producing performances. But at the time theatre operators need to accept that it is only a small amount of patron that do bring food and drink to performances and these would probably be the patrons that wouldn’t have bought anything on site anyway.
We also have to remember that theatre for many is not a luxury, they may have saved up for the tickets over a long period so for them having to save up for the extra beverage which they have no idea how much it will cost could be the difference between seeing a show and it closing before they have had a chance to see it.
If a theatre really wants to see patrons stop being their own food and drink they need to use more than signs that people only see when they turn up at the door on the night and find they are being asked to throw their own stuff away and buy what’s on site, the only thought there is ‘greedy theatre!’. It needs to be on tickets and clearly on pages where the performance information is found. It has to be about educating a new generation of people about the etiquette of theatre, as some may never have passed the threshold into a theatre before and it’s these you need to hold on too.
So to retain patrons there needs to be some grace when people make mistakes. As long as the bottle is sealed or there is limitation on the food that is brought, maybe just one bag of sweets, then a polite conversation to educate them in prep for their next visit should be good enough, making it all smoother and pleasant experience. Those new patrons may even be go away and educate others making the issue almost clear up on its own rather than warning other potential patrons not to go the theatre as they are nothing but greedy only allowing you to buy their expensive food on site.