Economy, Business And Markets

Iranian Theaters to Set Records in Sales, Profit

Domestic Economy Desk
In recent years, more viewers have been attracted to theater, spending their leisure time in theaters due to rising awareness and development of social media
In Tehran, around 90-100 performances are staged every night.In Tehran, around 90-100 performances are staged every night.
Many high-grossing plays owe their box office success to famous cinema actors and huge advertisements

Sales and profit records in Iranian theaters are being broken.

Last Iranian year (March 2016-17), the play ‘Mississippi Dies Seated’ adapted and directed by Homayoun Ghanizadeh based on the original play ‘The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi’ by Swiss writer Friedrich Durrenmatt was named the top grossing play of the year, earning around 20 billion rials ($475,963) in one month.

Now it seems the musical ‘Oliver Twist’ has aimed for the sky this year (March 2017-18), the Persian daily Haft-e Sobh reported.

The play directed by Hossein Parsaei, based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by English author Charles Dickens, went on stage on Nov. 22 at Tehran’s Vahdat Hall.

Distinguished actors Mahnaz Afshar, Navid Mohammadzadeh, Amir-Kaveh Ahaninjan, Atila Pesyani and Saeed Changizian are in the cast. Notably, tickets for four days of the play (consisting of six performances) were sold out in less than an hour, heralding the prospects of seeing surprising figures as the play’s profit.

The play’s ticket costs between 450,000 rials ($10.7) and 950,000 rials ($22.6). Suppose each ticket is worth 550,000 rials ($13). The Vahdat Hall, located on Shahriar Street off Hafez Avenue, has the capacity to seat 900 people. This means an average of 500 million rials ($1,189) worth of tickets is sold for every performance.

With respect to wages, unlike the orphan Oliver Twist himself who was born and raised into a life of poverty and misfortune, two of the leading performers, namely Afshar and Mohammadzadeh, each have received around one billion rials ($23,798) for a month. The play’s costs for other performers’ wages, production, décor, etc. are estimated to revolve around 2.5 billion (close to $60,000).

Looking back, the famous actress Vishka Asayesh received around 700 million rials ($16,658) monthly for ‘Mississippi Dies Seated’.

Vahdat Hall, with a daily rate of 80 to 120 million rials ($1,903-2,855) per night, is charging 100 million rials ($2,379) for this play. In other words, 3 billion rials ($71,394) would be paid to the hall in a month.

According to the calculations of Haft-e Sobh, the play’s expenses for a month is estimated to reach around 7.5 billion rials ($178,486), while the play earns 30 billion rials ($713,945) through ticket sales; that makes its monthly net gross reach 22 billion rials ($523,560). has announced that the play will be on stage through January 20, 2018, which marks the end of the Iranian month of Dey.

Considering the current trend in sales, which is expected to continue, a dramatic gross record of over 40 billion rials ($951,927) awaits the Iranian theater.

The 120-minute play was produced by Harir-e Honar-e Sharq.

As Mehr News Agency reported, it has a large ensemble of over 150 actors.

Parsaei had earlier told Hamshahri Online that his work would be an adaptation of ‘Oliver’, a 1968 British musical drama film directed by Carol Reed.

The story is about the orphan Oliver Twist, who is born in a workhouse and sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. He escapes from there and travels to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal, Fagin.

 Bigger Picture Not So Rosy

However, such high sales figures do not mean that Iranian theater is doing well economically.

Theater veteran Hassan Alikarami, who has over 30 years of experience in the field, told Financial Tribune that plays that do not have big sponsors and strong advertisement campaigns are not favored by theater hall owners and authorities.

“As a director and producer, all my focus must be devoted to the play, but instead we have to deal with a lot of financial issues because there is no support or justice. Renting halls is a headache if you don’t have connections to help you smooth the process,” he said.

Alikarami said the presence of film stars in plays and large-scale publicity campaigns are two of the main reasons leading to high sales for plays.

Many Iranian plays fail to gross much in sales and many incur losses, although they may offer eye-catching and worthy performances.

Alikarami believes that theater in Iran suffers from lack of organization and fairness, as certain individuals call the shots and profitability plays an unquestionable role, degrading the importance of quality and merit.

Echoing more or less similar remarks, Peyman Yahaghi, a theater producer and director, also told Financial Tribune that many high-grossing plays owe their box office success to famous actors and huge advertisements.

Yahaghi stressed that many theater producers lack sufficient knowledge of the production process, which leads to poor plays and inability to earn a profit.

“In Tehran, around 90-100 performances are staged every night, a majority of which lack basic standards,” he said.

In his opinion, the quality of theater hall and the performance itself play the main role in attracting the audience and giving rise to profit.

“A good theatre is one,” he explained, “that provides necessary services such as ease of ticket sale and seat booking, providing a platform for the audience to observe the play comfortably.”

He added many private-run halls are not well equipped and have not been designed for stage plays in the first place.

 Growing Audience

According to Yahaghi, in recent years, more viewers have been attracted to theaters and more people of different ages are spending their leisure time in theaters due to rising awareness and development of social media.

With up to 110 stage plays every year, Iranian theater is no longer a small-scale economic activity, Qotbeddin Sadeqi, a prominent theater director, told to Financial Tribune’s sister daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.

“Twenty-eight theater buildings are operating in Tehran, in addition to 16 out-of-use cinema halls hosting theater groups. Drama artists generate around 600 billion rials ($15 million) in revenues on a yearly basis,” he added.

Today, the private sector has been entrusted with the total care of the country’s theater, therefore it has turned into a commercial business.

And the government has gone into the business of making money out of renting its venues, regardless of the quality of performances.


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