Fringe benefits from line-up set to smash all sales records
LEADING venues at the Edinburgh Fringe are reporting record ticket sales – despite fears the event would be damaged by the box office chaos which engulfed the festival last year.
Major players such as Assembly, Underbelly and Gilded Balloon are all reporting major hikes on last year as it emerged that 600,000 worth of Fringe tickets have been sold since sales opened a week ago.
Fringe officials reported an "unprecedented" demand for tickets in the past few days, with sales for the first week higher than ever before at this stage.
And they insisted that early problems with this year's box office operation have been dealt with and sales are now running smoothly.
However, officials have also admitted the Fringe website is to get a major overhaul after this year's festival in the wake of complaints about the difficulty of buying tickets this year.
Assembly artistic director William Burdett-Coutts said his sales were around 20 per cent up on last year – despite the loss of one of his major venues, the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms, on George Street.
Alistair McGowan, Denise van Outen, Craig Hill, Clive James, The Chippendales, David Byrne, The Stranglers and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie are said to be among the hottest sellers so far.
The Scotsman revealed earlier this week that the Fringe had been inundated with complaints from customers unable to book tickets through its new box office system.
Dozens of potential ticket-buyers have complained to the festival's online forums about the website box office in particular, many of them "friends" of the Fringe who had stumped up 18-a-head for three days of priority booking.
But Fringe chief executive Kath Mainland yesterday insisted that all of the festival's box office systems had been working "successfully" since Monday, when full sales opened.
Ms Mainland said the festival was currently surpassing all previous box office records, adding: "Our box office is already 12 per cent up on the previous best performance over this period.
"Despite an international recession, the evidence so far supports our cautious optimism about this year. It is extremely heartening that so many people are still seduced by the appeal of the Fringe and are so keen to get their hands on literally hundreds of tickets the moment they go on sale."
The Fringe said 62,946 tickets had been sold by around 5pm yesterday, compared with 56,163 tickets two years ago.
Mr Burdett-Coutts said: "We're extremely pleased with how things are going at the moment and our records show we're around 20 per cent up on last year. We're also very pleased the box office systems are working well."
Charlie Wood, director of Underbelly, said: "This has definitely been our best ever first week of sales, which is obviously great news, although we're not too surprised.
"We know we've put together a very good programme, we knew the box office would work well this year, and the recession, such as it is, does not seem to be having a negative impact on events like the Fringe."
Karen Koren, artistic director at the Gilded Balloon, said: "We're doing great business at the box office so far, ticket sales are up on last year.
"It's the first chance Fringe-goers have had to lay their hands on the Chippendales, who're proving to be a really hot ticket.
"We're off to a great start."
More shows than ever before are being staged at this year's Fringe, despite the impact of the economic downturn and the loss of major venues like the Spiegeltent and the Assembly Rooms ballroom.
Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh City Council's festivals and events champion, said: "I'm not too surprised to hear this news about ticket sales.
"Lessons have clearly been learned after last year, but I think the level of sales shows the high esteem the Fringe is held in across the country.
"People are showing their faith in the festival."
EARLY 2009 favourites include:
Ricky Gervais, Edinburgh Playhouse
David Byrne, Edinburgh Playhouse
The Stranglers, Picture House
Craig Hill, Gilded Balloon
Chippendales, Gilded Balloon
Hardeep Singh Kohli, Gilded Balloon
Frightened Rabbit, Queen's Hall
Eric Bogle, Queen's Hall
Morecambe, Assembly Hall
Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Assembly Hall
Alistair McGowan, Assembly Hall
Tao – Samurai Magical Drumming
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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