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London theatre takes £620m at box office in 2012/13, report finds

Photo: Pawel Libera
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Around £620 million was spent on London theatre tickets in 2012/13 by more than 22 million people, according to a major new report.

The findings are included in London Theatre Report, which has been described as the “most comprehensive” study that has ever been published on the size, number and location of professional theatres in the capital. Unlike previous reports, it includes data from non-West End theatres and the fringe.

It is hoped that the report’s data, particularly relating to box-office takings and audience numbers, will be used in future conversations with policymakers about the arts.

London Theatre Report SOLT National
Click to see full report

Co-commissioned by the Society of London Theatre and the National Theatre, the report shows that in 2012/13, a total of £619 million was spent on theatre tickets in London – up from an estimated £609 million in 2011/12.

Total attendances at all London theatres were 22 million in 2012/13, up from 21 million in 2011/12. By comparison, 2012’s cinema admissions were put at 43 million, and fewer than 11 million tickets were sold for the 2012 Olympics.

The report also reveals that at any one time, London’s professional theatres are engaging 3,141 performers, with more than 6,600 people working full-time in offstage or backstage roles.

London Theatre Report also shows that only 20% of performers are paid national minimum wage in the fringe sector, with around a third – 33.5% – being paid nothing at all.

NT executive director Nick Starr explained that the report had been compiled with SOLT in response to the Greater London Authority’s World Cities Culture report in 2012, which provided data on the scope and impact of the cultural assets and activities produced and consumed in 12 major cities.

While welcoming the report, Starr said it did not seem to reflect the true picture and scale of London’s theatre scene, which prompted him to liaise with SOLT about conducting the new report.

He added that the data revealed within London Theatre Report would be used to conduct “meaningful” conversations with policymakers, so the value of London theatre could be properly reflected in future dialogues. Starr also said he hoped the report would become an annual publication.

Mark Rubinstein, president of SOLT, added: “The report provided us with an opportunity to really map [venues’] size, range and engagement, and this is the first time we have had the opportunity to consider the activity of all professional theatre and theatres across London.”

He said it would act as a resource providing “a snapshot of the theatrical ecology today and a benchmark for charting the evolution of London’s theatre scene in years to come”.

The report, written by The Stage’s editor Alistair Smith, defines London as the administrative area of Greater London, consisting of the city of London and the capital’s 32 boroughs. The report breaks down London theatre into three sectors: commercial, not-for-profit and fringe.

It reveals that there are 241 professional theatre spaces in London, with more than 110,000 seats. The largest space regularly used for theatre is the Coliseum, with 2,359 seats, while the smallest professional theatre is the Lord Stanley pub in Camden, with 30 seats.

Commercial theatre accounts for more than half of all capacity in London, with 56,000 seats in 59 venues.

The commercial West End has 42 theatres – situated in the boroughs of Westminster and Camden – and makes up a third of all of London’s theatre capacity.

The not-for-profit sector also represents a large proportion of London theatre. Although it has the highest number of spaces (135), it has slightly fewer seats than the commercial sector, with 50,058. Fringe theatres make up 47 venues, with just 4,000 seats.

London Theatre Report shows that, on July 5 last year – a date selected to measure employment in the sector – 12 of the largest London venues were collectively engaging more than 900 performers, equating to almost a third of performers across the capital. The fringe sector engages 12% of all London performers, but as only one in five fringe performers are paid NMW or above, the fringe’s impact on the sector as a whole is considered smaller.

For more data from London Theatre Report, see page 5 of this week’s The Stage. Read the full report here.

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