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Audiences up as Orchard Theatre in Dartford celebrates a fruitful year

In its annual report to Dartford council, HQ Theatre and Hospitality, which has managed the theatre for the past five years, revealed attendance went up by 5% between April 2013 and March 2014.

Over the year’s 344 performances, 175,798 visitors attended with 85,713 tickets going to Dartford residents, an increase of 32%.

The Orchard Theatre

The Orchard Theatre

The theatre restaurant has also seen an increase in usage with 489 diners using it over the pantomime period, double the numbers from the previous year.

There were some complaints – about the heat in the auditorium, the closure of the Orchards centre car park and the condition of the toilets.

The report states: “The toilets remain a challenge with the pipework regularly leaking resulting in toilets put out of use.”

Each year, the theatre is given a target of the different types of performances it should stage.

Compared to the year before, there were more variety shows (up from 37 to 42), more children’s entertainment (up from 24 to 41) and more musicals (up from 63 to 83).

Drama also saw a rise from one show the previous year to 22.

The biggest drop was in the panto performance of Cinderella, down from 50 the year before to 39, but this was done to fit in with star Bradley Walsh’s availability.

Bradley Walsh will be starring in Cinderella at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford.

Bradley Walsh will be starring in Cinderella at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford.

However, the show broke box office records and played to a 96% capacity crowd.

Ticket sales for Dartford residents increased year on year.

In 2009/10 sales were at 53,236, rising to 55,103 in 2010, 59,068 in 2011, 64,884 in 2012 and in 2013/14 they hit 85,713.

The average attendance per performance has however fallen from 64% in 2012/13 to 57% in 2013/14.

The report goes before the council’s scrutiny committee next Tuesday).

The contract for the management of the theatre sees the council paying HQ Theatre and Hospitality a set management fee of £362,617 each year, and receiving a small share of any profits.

The profit share will be announced once the accounts are received in October.

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