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A dispute between artists and theater houses led to the cancelation of theatre shows in Addis Ababa.
The dispute arose when an association of 34 private enterprises who present various theatre plays in the three theatre houses, National, Hager Fikir and Addis Ababa City Administration theatre houses, stipulated that the current price of entry to theatre houses, which is 15 birr, should be doubled to be in line with their various costs.
Ras Theatre house hasn’t been affected by the dispute since it is currently closed for renovation.
Netsanet Workneh, one of the up and coming artists in the field of performing arts, said his association had decided to increase the entry ticket price for a show he’s performing in called “Freshman,” taking into account the cost of ticket tax, rent, advertisement (10, 000 birr for a one minute TV commercial), script payments, expenditure associated with production and other miscellaneous expenses.
He said about 11 theatre shows have so far been affected, since his association went on strike protesting low ticket prices about a month ago, and had made their complaints known to Amin Abdulkadir, Minister of Culture and Tourism (MoCaT), seeking redress. The Minister asked for and received their study on the need for price increment two weeks ago.
Desta Kassa, Director General of the National Theatre, which falls under the umbrella of MoCaT, said the relationship between theatre houses and artists is not the case of a rentier-tenant relationship where the rent of a house or cost for utilities is increased just because the rentier desires so.
“The Pros and Cons of price increment have to be based on affordability to customers and must center on their needs,” said Desta, adding that requests for price increment has to follow standard procedures and be made in writing.
He also said a letter of intent from the artists was received by the ministry on December 21st, and that he personally became aware of it then. He stated that ticket prices for theatre shows has not been stagnant, but has increased from 4 to 15 birr in a relatively short period of time, which is an increment of almost four times the previous price.
Desta further added that theatre houses should not only focus on profits but also look at things from other angles, like the value such services provide to the society and cater to the needs of the public. Due to this reason, the government subsidizes theater houses, and to cite an example, mentioned that it finances the National Theater to the tune of 10 million birr annually, to cover its costs.
The official of the theatre house indicated that despite this disruption, private enterprise performers would have negligible impact on the house, affecting only one theater show per week, a slot that will be filled by film graduations and various types of performing arts.
Mulu Gebeyehu, Vice Head of the Addis Ababa Culture and Tourism Bureau, which administers two theatre houses, the Hager Fikir Theater and the Addis Ababa Municipality Theater, said theatre houses are not ordinary eateries where you suddenly increase prices dramatically, and even then these types of private enterprises usually show restraint in price increments.
“We reserve the right, if necessary, to sue these private enterprises for such an unlawful strike,” said Mulu, concluding that the bureau has undertaken a study on the current prices of theatre houses, taking into account affordability, and that the results of the study is going to be announced and until a resolution is found, he has asked the artists to return to work.