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Cultural institutions see decline in sales due to Catalan crisis

Instability over the last two months is having an impact on cultural consumption in the region

The Liceu opera house in Barcelona.
The Liceu opera house in Barcelona.

The instability of the political situation in Barcelona over the last two months is having a direct impact on cultural consumption at theaters and cinemas.

The Liceu opera house, one of the most iconic cultural institutions in Barcelona, is feeling the effect acutely: It made €400,000 less on box office ticket sales between September and October, a 30% decline from the same period last year.

It is a trend that is not exclusive to the Liceu opera house

Roger Guasch, director general

We began to notice it a little after the August attacks, which saw a decrease in box office ticket sales of future shows and gift packages. The situation is worrisome, especially if it becomes a pattern. If we continue like this three or four more weeks it will be bad, but if it does not change in the next few months it will be unsustainable. And it is a trend that is not exclusive to the Liceu because all the cultural operators in the city are more or less in the same situation,” explains Roger Guasch, director general of the Liceu.

The problem is also affecting the flexible subscriptions, which are typically most popular in the fall, when the season begins. “By this time last year we had sold 200 subscriptions, and this year we have sold 65. Whoever denies what’s happening is not being truthful, because it is affecting us all. We trust that this will change, because the Liceu has made a tremendous effort to overcome a difficult financial situation,” says Guasch.

The impact is not so clear at the Palau de la Musica, both in visitor numbers and concert attendance. “The most objective data we have shows a 20% drop in guided tours during the long holiday around October 12, when we traditionally get Spanish tourism,” explains Joan Oller, the Palau’s director.

The important thing is for people not to see scenes of violence

Joan Oller, Palau de la Musica director

The attack that shook Barcelona on August 17 only caused cancellations on the days immediately following the event; sales returned to normal the following week. But box office sales have dropped 15% since October 1, the day of the banned independence referendum. “The important thing is for  people not to see scenes of violence, that is what really alarms people,” says Oller in reference to the images of the police charges that day.

On opening day at the Palau there was nearly full attendance despite the fact that half a million people took to the streets of Barcelona that afternoon to protest the arrests of the leaders of two pro-independence civic associations, who are being held in pre-trial detention over their alleged role in hampering police raids against referendum organizers on September 20.

The Verdi movie theater in Barcelona’s Gràcia district is a good gauge of the mood in the city. This venue has suffered a decrease in attendance of between 25% and 30%. The biggest declines are on weekends and protest days. “Many people stay at home to watch the news and avoid risky situations and problems,” acknowledges a theater manager.

English version by Debora Almeida.

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