RTÉ’s Toy Show musical has unfair advantage over others says panto producer Alan Hughes
‘They have the might to be able to publicise it the way they can and they obviously thought that would help them and it has to some extent’
Pantomime producer Alan Hughes feels RTÉ’s Toy Show The Musical might have an unfair advantage over other Christmas shows.
He said that only an organisation the size of RTÉ would be able to come into the market with a large-scale production like Toy Show The Musical, which is being advertised heavily on all its platforms and runs until New Year’s Eve at the Convention Centre Dublin.
Hughes and his partner Karl Broderick spent €50,000 advertising on RTÉ Radio 1 alone for their show, Snow White and Sammy & Buffy, at the National Stadium.
“Thanks to the might of RTÉ, I don’t think any other small independent production person could come into this small, saturated market at Christmas,” Hughes told the Irish Independent.
“I think it’s the might of RTÉ to take the chance and be able to do it because I know if we weren’t established, there’s no way we would enter the Christmas market with all the theatres and shows going on this year.
“They have the might to be able to publicise it the way they can and they obviously thought that would help them and it has to some extent.
“But myself and Karl, as independent producers, we certainly wouldn’t open in this saturated market with two shows daily – there’s so much on this year.”
Hughes and Broderick have staged a Christmas panto for more than 20 years, even during the pandemic when they moved it to an open-air drive-in format at Malahide Castle.
Hughes said it cost hundreds of thousands of euro to put on, and building up their audience over time had allowed them to continue making a success of it.
“We have such a loyal following that we have brought with us over 20 years and then we introduce little novel things every year to attract people’s attention,” he said.
“That’s why we do it and will always continue to do it. But they [RTÉ] obviously felt they could do it and they went ahead with it.
“I feel, post-pandemic, when everybody’s just trying to get back on their feet and do the best that they can, it’s unfortunate that this is the year they [RTÉ] felt they had to do it.
“RTÉ has always been very fair to us, but I do feel there is an unfair advantage there.”
RTÉ has been able to advertise the Convention Centre show heavily on all its platforms and social media channels.
Hughes, whose panto will run until January 8, said they had spent huge sums to advertise with RTÉ.
He also questioned why the broadcaster did not also get in touch with some of the other pantos running this year and feature some of the Christmas productions taking place to give everyone “a fair crack of the whip”.
“I would have thought RTÉ or somebody on The Late Late Show would extend an invitation to the production companies and shows going on in Dublin that are in direct competition to give them a little plug as well,” Hughes said.
“I just would have loved it if somebody from RTÉ had been able to say to us, ‘We’re a big organisation and we know that you’re struggling’, and extend the hand out.”
RTÉ said in a statement: "RTÉ does not comment on the costs of any individual productions as they are commercially sensitive, this is no different.”
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