Hackney Empire Business Model Case Study

Hackney Empire Business Model Case Study

By Mark Robinson


Discover how Hackney Empire changed its business model in response to financial crisis and the threat of reducing subsidy.

Introducing Hackney Empire

Hackney Empire is a theatre in a grade II* listed building, designed by the renowned architect Frank Matcham.

Historically a music hall and then used as a bingo hall, it was restored to regular theatrical and performance use in the 1980s. A major renovation took place between 2002 and 2004.

Hackney Empire is the largest performing arts venue in Hackney and sits at the heart of Hackney’s Cultural Quarter.

Hackney Empire Limited is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee. The building itself is owned by Hackney Empire Preservation Trust and there is also a trading subsidiary.

The programme of the theatre encompasses opera, musical theatre, music and comedy. Empire calls this ‘variety theatre for the twenty-first century’ and ‘a bridge between the arts and popular culture.’

The building now includes the 1,300 seat main theatre, rehearsal and office spaces, a bar and a cafe. Hackney Empire both produces and presents work, working in partnership with a
number of key partners including English Touring Opera and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

In 2013/2014 there were 162 performances of 60 different productions on the Empire’s main stage. Playing to over 125,000 people. 71% of available seats were sold.

Business Model Innovation

The Business model for Hackney Empire was remodelled in 2009/2010 by incoming Chief Executive Clarie Middleton.

A financial crisis and the threat of reducing subsidy required a strategy that could minimise risk and maximise potential. This has been achieved through a focus on costs and profit or return margins on activity. That has led to changes in the offer, markets and

The business model is driven by the Value Proposition and the Customer Segments. However, the innovation in the model has concentrated on the cost base and the revenue income by increasing the amount of money earned as opposed to gained from grants.

Core staffing was reduced and more use was made of associates and freelance staffing that can expand or reduce according to need.

Associate producers have been especially useful in broadening the artistic range and will continue to explore the spectrum connecting opera and musical theatre. This has also helped Hackney Empire develop a diverse artistic direction without costs increasing.

A more return-on-investment focused and data-driven approach to audiences and programming was also introduced.

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Hackney Empire Business Model Case Study (PDF)

Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2015