Show business suffers with the hot spell

Box office sign

Smashing weather don't you think? No wonder the French have made London their sixth city. Our Great British Summer of celebration is up and running. Beer gardens are full, ice cream vendors are flush, and England beat the West Indies at cricket. Glory days.

Unless, that is, your business is show business. Because the brilliant sunshine has put a real dampener on things in our cinemas and theatres. Last week UK box office takings on the top 15 films plummeted by 45%. The Dictator, which is at No 2, has fallen by 78% - and that's not funny. As for the 52-week rolling rankings, last week's cinema box office performed like Engelbert Humperdinck at Eurovision, coming in second bottom at 51.

Theatreland felt the heat too. According to one leading West End producer and theatre-owner, Saturday saw an almost complete absence of "walk-up" trade (ie those without pre-booked tickets), wiping about 20% off audience numbers, which is enough to turn cash cows into dead ducks.

The problem is that good weather is bad news for much of the British arts scene which has been designed to provide warm, light relief from a typically dismal climate of grey skies and chilly days.

I don't want to be unduly gloomy on such a nice day, but this hot spell is the worst possible start to a summer that our impresarios and producers were already nervous about. They had expected the Jubilee, Olympics and dodgy economy all to take a toll, but they hadn't expected the trusty British weather to turn on them before May is even out.