Spa Pavilion needs to fill half of its seats to make a profit

The Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe.

The Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

New owners of a seaside theatre are confident they can make the venue viable – if they can sell half the seats for every show.

But NRG Theatres, which bought the Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe for £1, will have to do it without the £8.50 per ticket subsidy the previous operators received from taxpayers, and the company has warned it will mean rises in ticket prices.

At this stage, the only show the theatre has booked for the next year is the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company’s Christmas panto, though NRG is promising big names from stage and TV, both comedy and music, when it reopens, hopefully in October or November.

The previous operators were receiving £250,000 a year from the then owners Suffolk Coastal council.

For the 29,000 seats sold in the last year of operation, this meant a subsidy of around £8.50 per ticket.

NRG will have to do without the subsidy and pay the acts, staff, utilities and rates bills, and for maintenance and improvements.

Chief executive Ray Anderson said he was confident the company’s business plan was sound.

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He said: “We can make this place viable on something like 50% occupany of seats, give of take £5%. We feel on that basis we can achieve profitability.

“When this theatre was open before it had a subsidy from the local council which was quite generous.

“We will have to put up our seat prices a little bit but we want to make sure we still provide value for money with family entertainment across all age groups – we want a hallmark of quality about everything we do here.”

The venue will be relying on its restaurant and bar, which have stunning sea views, to bring in cash in the early stages – with the aim to make the Spa a regular venue for people, who might then enjoys shows as well as using it as an eating and meeting place.

However, when it closed the theatre, Suffolk Coastal said the “harsh facts” were that the Spa could no longer generate the audiences it once did and “it urgently needs a large financial commitment just to get the building up to scratch and to give it a chance to attract the audiences that would make it viable”.

Consultants employed by the council said between £8million and £15m needed to be spent to bring it up to standard, and said the £250,000 a year from the council was “a very low level subsidy” and similar-sized theatres received twice as much from their local authorities.