Edinburgh Fringe box office to close 1% down

Edinburgh Festival Fringe has closed reporting ticket sales of 1.86 million, down 1% on last year’s record figures.

The clash with the London Olympics during the event’s opening week caused a slow start, but venues around the city have reported strong final week sales and a sustained interest in theatre productions. Last year featured 41,689 performances of 2,542 shows in 258 venues, with 1,877,119 tickets issued. This year, there were 42,096 performances of 2,695 shows in 279 venues with an estimated 1,857,202 tickets issued. These figures do not include free non-ticketed events.

Announcing the results, Fringe Society chief executive Kath Mainland said: “I’m delighted that the fringe is in fantastic health, with over 1.8 million tickets issued and many thousands of audiences attending over 814 free events across the city. The fringe has shown its resilience in responding so positively to the unique challenges of 2012.

“This year, more performers and artists have come to the fringe than ever before, with an estimated 22,457 performers from 47 different countries calling this stunning city home for the past month. I would like to thank them on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who visited the fringe this year.”

Around the major venues, all are reporting sales that are in line with – or only slightly down – on last year. The only significant venue with a marked drop is the Stand comedy club, down 7% on last year.

The strength of theatre productions, particularly in smaller theatres, has been reflected widely across the fringe.

Sheridan Humphreys, spokesman for C Venues, told The Stage: “Sales for studio theatre shows (60 to 200 seats) are very healthy. We think this is due to the dedication of the audience for theatre – they will come, no matter what major sporting events or commercial attractions there are in the summer.”

The biggest change at this year’s event has been the return of the Assembly Rooms after refurbishment, tied in with the closure of George Street.

Speaking of the George Street closure, Tommy Sheppard, director of the Assembly Rooms, said: “It has been a success, admittedly aided by the best Festival weather in a decade, and has broken even in its first year. Subject to discussions with neighbours, business and the local authorities, we hope to bring it back next year and it will be even better.”

Meanwhile, the board of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has elected Timothy O’Shea, principal and vice chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, to the role of chair. He takes over from Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill who stood down after 17 years in the role.

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster