West End stays on course for £500m box office hat-trick

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London's Theatreland looks set to break the £500 million mark for the third year in a row, with revenues during the summer up 5.6% on the same period in 2010.

Theatre producers and owners suffered a difficult opening to the year - box office revenue was down 6% between January and March. However, this picked up during the second quarter which was 2% up on the same period in 2010. That improvement has now been carried on into the third quarter.

SOLT president Mark Rubinstein said improved results between July and September meant that box office revenue for the full year is on course to be in excess of £500 million for only the third time.

He told The Stage: "I think it's great news that we're continuing to see really strong West End sales. We've had some great new shows that have just opened to attract attention and some great new shows yet to come, which bodes well for the final quarter of the year.

"I think given the state of the economy and people's general nervousness, it's a testament to what the offering is and how it's being promoted and the fact that theatre is still a really popular form of entertainment."

The results for the third quarter of 2011 - covering July, August and September - saw London theatre's box offices continue to pick up after a slow start to the year. At the halfway point of 2011, box office was down 1.7% on the same period in 2010. At the end of the third quarter, it was up 0.76% on the first three quarters of the previous year. The third quarter itself was 5.6% up on the equivalent period in 2010.

In terms of attendance figures, the results were not quite as impressive, but were still an improvement on the first two quarters of 2011. After the first six months of 2011, attendances were 5% down on the same period last year. By the end of September, that position had improved slightly so that attendance levels for the first three quarters of 2011 are now only 3.7% down on the same period last year.

SOLT chief executive Julian Bird added: "It looks like once again we will break the £500 million barrier. We remain encouraged by the figures for the year to date - especially looking forward with the range of shows that are currently in the West End and still to come in the rest of 2011, such as Matilda the Musical, The Ladykillers, One Man, Two Guvnors and The Lion in Winter. There are a lot of big openings still to go."

The results cover all theatres - commercial and subsidised - in full SOLT membership.