UK theatre audiences are younger and more experimental than is commonly thought, according to new research published by Ticketmaster.
The report, State of Play: Theatre, marks the first major investigation into the sector by the world’s largest ticketing company and mixes information from its own ticket transaction data with survey responses from a representative sample of the UK population, as well as a selection of theatregoers from abroad. Unlike previous surveys, it covers theatregoing across the whole of the UK and includes responses from non-attenders.
Key findings include:
- Attendance: theatre is more popular than attending sports events or concerts – 63% of the UK population has attended theatre in the last year, compared with 53% for concerts and 47% for going to sporting events
- Demographics: 16-19 year olds are more likely to attend the theatre than any other age group
- Arts funding: only 26% of theatregoers are aware of it, when watching a publicly funded performance
- Taste: audiences want to see new shows (36%) and relatively established ones (43%) over long-runners that have been going for more than two years (21%)
- Innovation: more than a third of audiences (39%) love interactive theatre and more than half think live streaming is a good idea
- Ticket prices: cost is the main barrier to entry for both attendees and non-attendees
- Audience behaviour: nearly one-third of people have used their mobile phone in the theatre during the performance
- Restoration levy: 58% think it should be optional and 68% feel theatre owners should be more transparent about what it is spent on
The report also reveals that two-thirds of people want to maintain or increase their theatregoing in the future. The three most recognised shows among theatre attendees are The Phantom of the Opera (94% recognition), Les Miserables (93%) and The Lion King (92%). Interestingly, though, the three shows that have the highest predicted conversion rate (the proportion of those aware of the show who are also planning to attend in the future) are Once (59%), The Book of Mormon (43%) and War Horse (38%). However, long-running shows are likely to fare less well in this statistic as audiences may have already seen them.
Despite only one of those six shows falling into the category, comedy is the most popular genre among theatregoers, with 42% choosing it as their favourite.
Sophie Crosby, vice president of insight for Ticketmaster International, said it was releasing the report because “information and insight about theatregoers’ habits and attitudes, compared with Broadway or the film industry that regularly share data in trade publications, is surprisingly under-utilised”.
She said Ticketmaster had decided to undertake the research after noticing a trend within their transactional data, which appeared to indicate that theatre bookers were getting younger. This has been backed up by the report.
Crosby added: “We looked at theatre bookers for the last few years and we saw a trend that was emerging and was quite clear year-on-year towards a younger and less affluent customer base. Immediately, we wondered whether that was just because the shows we were selling tickets for had changed. But we’ve seen that on long-running shows – such as Phantom and Wicked – that trend is clearly stated in those single shows as well.”
For more infographics on the report, click here 
Ticketmaster’s report offered a range of insights into the behaviour of theatre audiences, we pick out some of the highlights:
How do audiences choose to see a show?
The content – 51%
Reputation – 16%
Price – 13%
The venue – 8%
The cast – 5%
Availability – 4%
The theatre company – 3%
How do audiences find out about a show?
Word of mouth – 28%
Venue or event website – 26%
Newspaper / magazine – 13%
Ticketing company – 8%
Event poster – 8%
TV commercial or programme – 7%
Artist or performers’ website / mailing list / social page – 4%
Other – 2%
Facebook – 1%
Radio – 1%
Other social media – 1%
Blogs – <1%
Twitter – <1%
When do audiences book to see an event?
Day of event – 3%
Week of event – 18%
Up to two months before – 53%
Two to five months before – 21%
More than six months before – 5%
Which audiences are most likely to attend (percentage of the age group indicating they attend theatre)?
Aged 16-19 – 87%
Aged 20-24 – 82%
Aged 25-34 – 79%
Aged 35-44 – 72%
Aged 45-54 – 66%
Aged 55-64 – 71%
Aged 65+ – 72%
Are theatres under-using social media?
Social media is hugely popular among theatre audiences. Nearly a quarter (24%) tweet about the performance they are about to see or have already see. Among 16 to 19-year olds this rises to nearly half (47%). Meanwhile, around one in five theatregoers are using social media to write reviews about what they have seen. However, only around 3% are currently getting their information about theatre through social media – this could indicate that theatres are not using social media to its full extent to market shows.
What do audiences think of restoration levies?
Roughly equal proportions of people are for (30%) and against (31%) restoration levies. The rest are indifferent. However, most (58%) think they should be optional and a clear majority (68%) think that theatre owners need to be more transparent about what the charge covers.
Awareness of government subsidy
Just over one in four (26%) of theatregoers recognise that have been to a publicly funded theatre. This is only slightly higher among UK residents (29%). The highest region by awareness of public subsidy is the north east (47%)
To read the report in full, http://blog.ticketmaster.co.uk/state-of-play-theatre-uk