Funding cuts cue 5.1% rise in theatre tickets

Theatre and the performing arts membership organisation UK Theatre released a new benchmarking report on Monday, which compares box office figures for 2013 and 2014 from its member venues.

The report reveals that funding cuts resulted in theatre ticket prices increasing by over 5.1% across the UK in 2014. However, despite the cost of going to see a play, musical or pantomime, regional theatres continued to prove extremely popular in 2014 with a slightly higher proportion of available tickets sold and cash value achieved compared to the year before.

UK Theatre’s sister organisation, the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), also recorded attendances of 14,744,887 and box office income of GBP623,616,401 in 2014.

During 2014, big family musicals such as The Lion King, Wicked and Shrek reportedly took almost GBP1 in every GBP4 taken at the Box Office, while adult musicals declined slightly.

Ticket sales for plays dropped by 278,000 in 2014, with auditoriums only being half full on average. The largest theatres, that have seating capacity for over 1,000 people, continued to sell just over half of all tickets in 2014, with share of income rising to 62% in 2014. Concert halls and smaller producing theatres, with seating capacity over 160 people, experienced a 3.2% decline in audiences in 2014.

Average ticket price outside central London were GBP23.77 last year, while in the West End of London average ticket prices were GBP42.29 in 2014.

Rising prices and attendances have resulted in an increase of 8% in total box office takings outside central London to GBP428.6m last year, up from GBP396.9m in 2013.

Audiences for comedy shows bought 780,214 tickets in 2014, down by 1.4% compared to 2013, while concert goers numbered just 1,920,143 last year, a fall of 3.6% in comparison to the year before. Dance audience figures also declined by 3.7% to 1,295,378, while adult musicals sold 23.1% fewer tickets. Tickets for plays declined by 7.2% and variety ticket sales were down by 7.6%.

UK Theatre president Rachel Tackle was cited as saying: “We’re seeing the result of the cuts that we’ve witnessed over many years and theatres have to make their own decisions about how they’re able to cope with those.

“Do they reduce the quantity and quality of their work and numbers of people on stage, or do they put ticket prices up by what is actually not a huge amount?”

Despite the cuts to funding, family theatre audiences numbered 1,000,598 in 2014, an increase of 1.1% and family musical ticket sales amounted to 1,924,528, a rise of 42.7% compared to the year before. In addition, there were 302,828 visits to the opera last year, an increase of 11.1%, while tickets for pantomimes were up by 3.7% in 2014.