Exclusive: Top-priced London theatre seats now cost more than £70 on average

Natalie Woolman
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Tickets for the best seats in the West End now cost more than £70, with the cheapest priced at just under £22 on average including fees.

These are the findings of a ticketing investigation by The Stage, which discovered that the most expensive seat was £97.50 for a musical (Billy Elliot) and £97 for a play (The Ladykillers). The cheapest non-discounted seat that audiences can buy for a West End musical is for Les Miserables at £12, and the least expensive play is War Horse with tickets starting at £10.

For its investigation, The Stage attempted to book a single ticket for every show in the West End for the evening performance on Saturday, April 14 through the production’s official online retailer. If no show was scheduled, tickets for the next available Saturday performance were counted.

On average, the best seat in the West End is now £72.12 and the cheapest seat is £21.91 including fees.

As defined by membership of the Society of London Theatre, the West End includes both commercial and subsidised venues. When the subsidised venues, including the National Theatre and Barbican, are excluded, the best seat for a show in the commercial West End costs an average of £81.17 including fees. The average cheapest seat at such a show is £23.85 including fees.

In the commercial sector, the best seats at musicals are generally over £10 more expensive than those at plays. The best seat at a commercial musical costs an average of £86.53, compared with £74.83 for the best play seats. The average cheapest seats are £27.22 and £19.52 respectively, including fees.

The calculations for the most expensive tickets in the West End include premium seats. These seats often cost more than £90 in commercial venues and have been widely criticised, both inside and outside the sector.

However, Richard Howle, international sales director at AKA, said that premium prices have been introduced to prevent ticket touts scalping profits from the industry.

He said: “The reason why premium seats have come in was because there were people selling tickets way above full price and that extra money was not going to the production. If there are people willing to pay top dollar for those tickets, this is a way of making sure the revenues from those tickets go back into the industry and the investors that put on those shows.”

Society of London Theatre chief executive Julian Bird added: “Our priority continues to be addressing issues around access to the West End, and we know price is one of the major barriers to attendance for some segments of the population. For this reason, SOLT continues to organise and promote (on behalf of the whole theatre industry) a number of reduced price initiatives during the year including Kids Week and Get Into London Theatre. SOLT also runs TKTS, a high profile, official source of discounted tickets.

“SOLT has a role to play in monitoring pricing and attitudes to fees. In 2011 the average net price paid per ticket by the 13.9 million West End attenders was just £37.97. It interesting to note that when inflation is taken into account, this was actually less than it was in 2005, despite last year’s increase in VAT.”

For full results of The Stage’s ticketing investigation, see this week’s print edition of The Stage.

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