Regulations stand to expand London schedule

In a move likely to usher in widespread change across the West End legit map, Britain’s National Theater will commence Sunday performances in September, following protracted negotiations with Equity, the Musicians Union and Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theater Union.

While a tiny handful of shows, including Disney’s “The Lion King” at the Lyceum Theater, currently pay staff extra to work Sundays, the National’s decision will break London’s standard practice whereby theaters open Monday through Saturday and go dark on Sundays. In New York, by contrast, Sundays have long been a big day for matinee ticket sales.

The first show to benefit from the National plan, which will undergo an initial trial period of three-to-four months, is the return season of Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris’ SRO production “War Horse.”

The ultimate aim, as originally set out by National artistic director Nicholas Hytner and exec director Nick Starr at the org’s annual press conference last October, is to move the theater complex toward seven-day operations.

The Cottesloe, the smallest of the venue’s three theaters with its own separate entrance, will be unaffected, but the plan is to open the main building’s other two theaters and public spaces, including its bars and restaurants, on Sunday. For a building employing close to 850 staff onstage, backstage and front-of-house, the move is not without risk. Year-round Sunday opening is estimated to cost about £300,000 ($594,000), initially offset by a one-off grant of $297,000 from the U.K. government’s funding body Arts Council England.

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