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Regional theatre box office up £70m since 2013

Emily Tierney and Nikki Davis-Jones in the UK and Ireland tour of Wicked. Photo: Matthew Crockett Emily Tierney and Nikki Davis-Jones in the UK and Ireland tour of Wicked. Photo: Matthew Crockett
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Higher ticket prices and increased sales have helped drive box office income for UK theatres up by 18% over the past three years.

Data from industry body UK Theatre has revealed that total box office income for member venues in 2016 was £470 million, up from £397 million in 2013.

This was due to a 10% rise in average ticket price paid over the period, equivalent to a £2.15 increase per ticket, as well as improved ticket sales, fuller theatres and more productions. The number of tickets sold has increased by 8% over the period, despite falling between 2015 and 2016.

Musicals are bringing in by the far the largest proportion of box office income, with family and adult musicals accounting for 40% of the total in 2016. Since 2013, there has been an increase of more than £32 million in money generated from ticket sales for musicals.

Conversely, 2016 saw a drop of more than £10 million in the income generated from plays, following years of growth in 2014 and 2015. While there was a growth in money generated from plays in producing houses, lower sales in presenting houses contributed to the fall.

The data, published in UK Theatre’s Sales Data Report for 2013-16, also revealed that the fastest-growing genres in terms of percentage increase in box office income are concerts and family theatre.

Since 2013, box office income for concerts in theatres is up 47%, and income for family shows is up 42%.

Additionally, pantomime has overtaken comedy as the genre that fills the most seats.

As indicated in previous data from UK Theatre, touring is hugely important for the sector. More than 60% of 2016’s overall box office came from touring shows, despite these accounting for only 10% of productions.

The research also revealed that major producing houses experienced the biggest growth of any type of venue, increasing their cumulative income by 44%.

David Brownlee, vice president for UK and Europe at consulting firm TRG Arts, said: “The data shows that every one of the key metrics is moving positively.

“Whereas we might expect to see capacity falling when ticket prices go up, the fact that we’ve got both rising at the same time shows that theatre is weathering a tough four years remarkably well. As an industry, things are looking bright for the future.”

Brownlee said that in light of national and local government cuts to arts funding in recent years, it was interesting to note that the biggest growth in sales was for subsidised venues.

“While venues in the UK are increasingly reliant on support from the public through ticket sales rather than from the state through grants, for our theatre to remain world-beating and accessible to all it is crucial that funding levels do not drop further,” he added.

Fiona Allan, president of UK Theatre, added: “The market for theatre appears to be growing, the demand for individual performances is growing and the price the public is willing to pay is increasing. This is very welcome news – a vital vote of confidence for the sector during testing times.”

The report is based on data supplied by UK Theatre member venues, with analysis supplied by TRG Arts.

Data presented in the report does not represent 100% of tickets sales in all UK Theatre venues, as a few venues do not take part in the scheme and some venues do not complete returns every week. UK Theatre estimates that it captured around 90% of activity at UK Theatre venues who are not members or affiliate members of the Society of London Theatre.

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