The longest-running show in town – excluding, of course, “The Mousetrap” – must be the ongoing issue of Sunday matinees, which raises its head every so often only to go underground for another few years. Now the Mayfair Group, London’s second-largest theater owners (after Stoll Moss), has announced Sunday performances beginning March 26 in most of the eight West End theaters they either own or manage. Low grossing Monday nights would then be dropped.
“What we hope is that other theaters follow suit so it becomes the norm for the whole industry,” says Mayfair chairman Roger Wingate, who struck an independent deal with the stagehands’ union BECTU – the London equivalent to New York’s IATSE Local 1 – after industrywide talks with the Society of London Theatre ended in November. The deal, according to BECTU general manager Gerry Morrissey, gives members an extra 10% per week while allowing them alternate Sundays off and a higher hourly rate for overtime. Morrissey estimates 150-200 people – 20% of BECTU membership – will be affected by the decision.
Mayfair is ideally placed to strike such a bargain, since its theaters mostly house plays, not musicals – “Blood Brothers” is the long-running exception – and so are spared the Musicians’ Union Sunday requirements (each player gets the equivalent of 10 shows) that would make a comparable arrangement difficult for, say, Stoll Moss, which houses “Miss Saigon” and “Oliver!,” among others. Tony Lucas, central London branch secretary for the MU, called the Mayfair deal “quite irrelevant to us.”
Stoll Moss chief executive Richard Johnston said that while he was “at the moment crunching the numbers over the Mayfair deal, it may well be a bit rich for us. Obviously, we would like to see Sunday performances, and there may well be occasions when we come to a separate arrangement.”
Stay tuned for the next act.