There were no sell-out shows of the panto – until the very last night

Panto legend Berwick Kaler embraces arch villain David Leonard on the last night. Photograph: Jan Tallack

No showing of the pantomime at York Theatre Royal sold out this year except for the final night, councillors were told.

And executive director Tom Bird said the theatre will “build a new pantomime for the city that doesn’t rely on you having been to the pantomime for 30 years to get it”.

He told councillors an announcement about the future of the pantomime will be made early next week.


He said: “I know how much affection there is for our pantomime in the city. What’s prompted us to make this change is that that affection isn’t necessarily translating into popularity.”

Mr Bird told councillors that if the new team heading the pantomime want to work with actors who have previously been in it, he would “be very supportive”.

YorkMix Panto Poll results

What Christmas show should York Theatre Royal stage in 2020?

The traditional panto – with or without Berwick
50.56%
The traditional panto – but only if Berwick returns as the dame
23.59%
A panto with an all-new cast
14.03%
A Christmas show that ISN’T a pantomime
11.81%

Votes cast: 3,200

Family ticket plan

York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird. Photograph: Kirkpatrick Photography
He added that ticket sales had declined and he does not believe ticket price was a factor – because no off-peak shows were sold out.

And that the theatre is looking to introduce a family ticket for the next production. He said:

  • We want to build a new pantomime for the city that to some extent doesn’t rely on on you having been to the pantomime for 30 years in order to get it – so that we’re welcoming people who have come to the city in more recent years as well as those who who have been coming for a very long time.

    We are seeing a decline in the number of people who are coming to our pantomime.

    It’s with a very heavy heart that we make changes but it’s not something we can leave.

He said the size of the auditorium was reduced seven years after the decline in ticket sales started: “The decline was underway before the house was remodelled.”

Prices ‘not a factor’

Some pantogoers have said higher prices put them off this year. But Mr Bird said: “We have offered significantly more lower price tickets than ever before.

“There were children’s concessions for off peak performances. We are looking at the introduction of a family ticket for next year.

“I don’t think [the prices] did have a negative impact. There wasn’t an underlying demand there for the show. There were no full houses when it was off peak.


“There were no full houses apart from the last night, which is normal to have the last night full.”

He added: “If the new team want to work with any of the actors who have been involved in the past, I will be very supportive of that.”

Cllr Dave Taylor thanked Mr Bird for the update and said: “I do know how important it is to our residents and we know how important it is to the finances of the theatre.”