Though attendance fell in the first quarter of the year – down 5 percent year-on-year – the second quarter saw them soar back up, with an increase of 8 percent over last year's figures, which were record-breaking in themselves.
According to press materials issued by the Society of London Theatre, "as the summer progresses, the usual overseas audiences are being swelled by U.K theatregoers rediscovering the theatre capital of the world as many choose to stay at home rather than holiday abroad," a phenomenon which has been dubbed in the U.K press as "staycationers."
For the first half of the year to the end of June, just under 7 million visits (6,998,919) had been made to the major London theatres — and the first two weeks of July have also been particularly strong. Musicals remain the most popular shows with 61 percent of all theatregoers (4,696,211) attending them. But plays are enjoying a vintage year. In the year to date, play attendances represent a quarter of all theatre visits, up 19 percent year-on-year at 1,886,586.
In a press statement, Nica Burns, President of the Society of Lokndon Theatre, commented, "Why are we doing so well? We've got some great shows at the moment – basically, it's as simple as that. I'm particularly thrilled that plays are thriving as their demise has been regularly reported in the past. Today, the play is alive and well and living in the West End alongside our brilliant musicals and our world-class dance and opera. There's nowhere in the world that matches London for the breadth and quality of its theatre."
Richard Pulford, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre, added, "Today's figures are a real cause for celebration – not just for the theatre industry, but for the London economy generally. At a time of economic uncertainty, it's marvellous that people aren't retreating into their shells. Instead, they're choosing to come together in our theatres to be entertained, challenged, and uplifted."