Live Theatre Business Model Case Study

Live Theatre Business Model Case Study

By Mark Robinson


Discover how Live Theatre has embraced conscious risk-taking and social enterprise to future-proof new writing, theatre and education work.

Introducing Live Theatre

Live Theatre was founded on Tyneside in 1973 as a radical theatre company, taking plays to audiences in non-theatrical locations.

Since 1982 it has been based in a set of converted old almshouses and warehouses on Broad Chare, Newcastle Quayside.

It is a new writing theatre and has worked with lots of the leading playwrights in the UK. Many playwrights such as Lee Hall have had decades-long relationships with Live Theatre.

Redevelopments in 1997 and 2005 increased the size of the buildings. Social enterprises The Broad Chare pub and The Schoolhouse office complex opened in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

In 2014 Live Theatre began building work on Live Works, a £10 million capital development to purchase and develop quayside-fronted land and buildings adjacent to the Theatre. This will include the creation of new commercial office space, a public park and a children and
young people’s writing centre.

Live Theatre is a limited company and a registered charity. It has a subsidiary trading company and has also created a Special Purpose Vehicle to manage the Live Works development.

The Business Model

Live Theatre’s business model is based on the quality of its theatrical and education practice and on exploiting its assets to create income to support this cultural activity.

Although some parts of its programme such as the Youth Theatre are free to participants, Live Theatre is not generally a free model; many activities, such as theatre shows, are paid for. However, tickets are heavily subsidised and financed by other Customer Segments
such as funders and by other Key Activities such as trading and social enterprise.

Live Theatre has a small capacity for its productions, with just 280 seats. Despite capital development, it is no longer possible to increase this on the current site. This
has shaped how it can deliver the different elements of its Value Proposition and how that proposition has evolved under the leadership of Chief Executive Jim Beirne and Artistic Director Max Roberts.

Creating and sharing new theatre that reflects contemporary issues and experiences, and giving young people the chance to fulfil their potential through theatre have always been core to Live’s work. As the building has been developed through a series of extensions
and refurbishments, the spaces have enabled the offer of creative space for creative industries and social enterprises. They have also enabled the development of social spaces, some of which are not directly connected to the theatre but nevertheless form an integral part of Live’s larger brand.

Live is an example of an organisation where finance-driven innovation has been combined with an increase in the overall offer to the public. Due to the limited size of its venue and public sector budget cuts, Live needed to grow the revenue generated from sources other than ticket and grant income in order to deliver the cultural benefit to its target audience. It has done this through use of loan and grant funding to create assets that bring in reliable revenue streams through social enterprises. These are to a large extent operationally ‘unbundled’ from the core cultural activity.

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Live Theatre Business Model Case Study (PDF)

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Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2016