East End Rife With Fiennes

London’s Hackney theater in the working-class East End has a world-class hit with “Hamlet,” the Almeida Theater production starring Ralph Fiennes which will have sold an estimated 85% of its tickets – or some £250,000 ($400,000) – by Tuesday’s opening night. (By contrast, Harold Pinter’s “Moonlight,” the Almeida show prior to “Hamlet” with the largest pre-opening advance, was only 50% sold prior to opening night – and in a 303-seater a third the size of the Hackney Empire.)

“The demand is way above any of our expectations,” said Almeida general manager Jonathan Reekie. “What was a completely unknown quantity was the Hackney Empire and whether people would be prepared to go there; no one had ever tried a six-week run at that theater before.”

The limited run may in fact gain an extra week – ending April 1, not March 25 – due to the cancellation of a hoped-for visit to Ljubljana in Slovenia. Instead, the production moves directly to Broadway, starting previews April 14 and opening at the Belasco May 2. New York is where the big money kicks in, since the profit margin in London is tight, to put it mildly: $15,800 or so a week at a capacity gross, said Reekie, of “about $80,000.”

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