U.K. Regional Theatres See Rise in Attendance — But at Overall Cost | Playbill

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News U.K. Regional Theatres See Rise in Attendance — But at Overall Cost U.K.'s regional theatres have seen an increase in both attendance and revenue in the last year, according to a new report published by UK Theatre, the trade body that represents major theatre and performing arts organizations throughout the U.K.

The report found that the total number of ticket sales recorded in 2014 at UK Theatre member venues was 18,029,453 (an increase of 413,994 on 2013), and total box-office income was £428,649,054 (an increase of £31,737,036 on 2013). In 2014, UK Theatre's sister organization, the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), which represents commercial and subsidized theatres in London, recorded attendance of 14,744,887 and box-office income of £623,616,401.

The combined membership between the two organizations achieved over £1 billion in box-office sales and sold more tickets than the entire live audience of the English Premier League (13.7 million), English Football League (16.4 million) and Scottish Premiership (2.0 million) for the 2014-15 season combined.

According to the report, the average advertised ticket price increased by 5.1% in 2014, above inflation but less than the growth in the amount actually paid (up 5.5%). According to a press statement, "This increase in average price paid must be viewed in the context of unprecedented levels of cuts to both national and local funding to theatres."

2014 was also the year of the big family musical, which took almost £1 in every £4 taken at the box office with shows including The Lion King, Wicked and Shrek doing excellent business on long tours.

Overall ticket sales for plays fell by 278,000 in 2014, and on average auditoria were only just half full. The largest presenting houses (seating capacity over 1,000) continued to sell just over half of all tickets in 2014. Their share of income rose to 62 percent in 2014. The main auditoria of larger producing theatres saw big increases in audiences and income, but other smaller producing theatres (seating capacity over 160) saw a decline in audiences, as did concert halls. 

In a press statement, Rachel Tackley, president of UK Theatre, commented, "The good news from this report is that theatres throughout the U.K. continue to thrive despite the challenging financial climate. As the 2015 UK Theatre Awards demonstrated, regional theatres continue to produce some of the country’s most exciting theatre despite unprecedented cuts to national and local funding. It is great to see the growing popularity of family musicals, which are a fantastic way to reach new audiences, but if we are to maintain our position as world leader in the performing arts we must continue to invest in the companies producing innovative drama, dance and opera. Theatre plays a more crucial role in our communities than ever before and the small investment from national and local government is repaid many times over by the economic, cultural, social and educational benefits it returns."

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