Mackintosh stages epic 40 per cent rise in profits

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Sir Cameron Mackintosh's company has predicted a rosy financial future for British theatre after its profits rose by 40 per cent.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh's company has predicted a rosy financial future for British theatre after its profits rose by 40 per cent.

The West End impresario, who plans to launch two new productions in London this summer, banked £6.7m in one year, while his company reported profits of £9.1m.

Accounts for 2002-03 filed two weeks ago revealed that Sir Cameron paid himself a £5.5m dividend on top of a salary of £785,000, and £500,000 into his pension.

Though the company's profit is still a long way from the returns of theatreland's heyday of the late 1980s, when its annual profits hit the £20m mark, executives predicted a return to form this summer with new musicals including Mary Poppins luring in greater numbers of cultural tourists.

Sir Cameron's company is behind worldwide box-office successes including Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and, most recently, Mary Poppins. Its leading actress, Laura Michelle Kelly, was named best actress in a musical at the Olivier awards in February and the show's glowing reviews, as well as strong ticket sales, were a welcome payback for Sir Cameron's 25-year fight to claim the stage rights, although its financial success is not reflected in the latest profit figures.

Nick Allott, managing director of Sir Cameron's business empire, said there were several reasons for the company's healthy financial year. "Trading was better on the whole for the industry and our business in England as well as the USA was good," he said.

Among the best shows, he added, wereMy Fair Lady, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera, as well as the UK tour of Miss Saigon. The theatre-owning side of the company has also flourished, he said, with profits streaming in from the ownership of the refurbished Prince of Wales theatre, which is hosting sold- out shows of Mamma Mia!.

He said the Far East was a developing market and last year tours of Oliver! and Miss Saigon had opened in Shanghai and seen profits soar by 80 per cent, with Miss Saigon selling out for three weeks. Oliver! and The Witches of Eastwick are currently running in Europe and Australia.

"We are casting our net farther afield and we are exploring possibilities for the future, which could include China," Mr Allott said.

Theatres across the West End saw profits drop dramatically as tourist numbers slumped. "There was a huge drop in 2002, but we have seen the number of theatre-goers climb back up and things are much better now. Theatre owners and producers were forced to rely on domestic audiences, which is very hard for long-running musicals."

He added that he was optimistic new musicals in the West End this summer, such as Billy Elliott and The Woman in White, would boost the industry as a whole, rather than create unwelcome competition.

Sir Cameron was 125th on The Sunday Times Rich List this year, with a personal fortune of £400m.