The sad part is that my first response was jealousy: the British have always had more public funding than we've had -- now they're doing better than us at corporate support?
But really, this is just a symbol of the relationship the arts have today with alcohol. I've joked about it before, but the young theater companies I know are basically in the debt of the alcohol industry. We get people to come to our fundraisers through the lure of alcohol, among other things.
Right now, one of my company's projects is to try and build a relationship with an alcohol distributor, to see if we can get discounts on alcohol for fundraising purposes. And this is not an uncommon thing. One of my favorite art groups, Fresh Ground Pepper, has kept its commitment to not charging tickets largely through its sale of alcohol -- and here I am jealous that they've got the hook-up!
So in a way, it's refreshing to see Punchdrunk dive full in to alcohol patronage. If Stella Artois or Sixpoint Brewery want to patronize the arts, let them! It's nice to hear a company think that art could benefit them. Most companies wouldn't want to be associated with theater if it was dead. Stella Artois might be getting some brand association with Punchdrunk, but Punchdrunk is getting some brand association from Stella Artois as well.
And what has a better brand, theater or alcohol?