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Hamilton helps West End achieve highest-grossing year ever

Giles Terera with the West End cast of Hamilton. Photo: Matthew Murphy
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West End theatres enjoyed record box office takings of £766 million in 2018, up 8.6% compared with the previous year.

This was driven by ticket sales for musicals such as Hamilton, with revenue from the genre increasing by 15.4% in 2017 to £504 million.

The average ticket price paid for musicals was £53.27. A recent survey by The Stage revealed that the average top-price ticket for a musical in 2018 cost £153.54.

The Stage ticketing survey 2018: Top ticket prices up, cheapest get cheaper

For the first time, West End box office figures have been published by the Society of London Theatre at the same time as regional theatre box office figures from UK Theatre.

The figures reveal a combined audience of more than 34 million and ticket revenue of nearly £1.3 billion, from a total of 62,945 performances over the course of the year in the West End and across the UK.

2018 box office highlights

Attendances Gross revenue % of available seats filled
SOLT  15.5 million (up 3% compared with 2017) £766 million (up 8.6% compared with 2017) 77.5% across 18,708 performances
UK Theatre 18.8 million (up 0.3% compared to 2017) £510 million (up 8.4% compared to 2017) 61% across 44,237 performances

The figures also reveal that the average ticket price for West End shows was £49.25, rising 5.5% compared with 2017.

This is nearly double the cost of the average price paid for a regional theatre ticket, which was £27.10 in 2018, increasing by 8% compared with the previous year.

As well as having the highest box office revenue since records began, West End theatres also had record audience attendances of 15.5 million, up 3%.

However, while audiences for musicals were up, attendance for West End plays dropped by 6.5%.

Regional theatres recovered from a slump in box office takings in 2017, with ticket-sale revenue up 8.4% to £510 million and attendances increasing by 0.3% to 18.8 million.

Commenting on the West End figures, SOLT president Kenny Wax said: “London’s world-leading theatre industry is attracting larger audiences than ever after another record year.

“Increasingly, people seem to want to invest in high-quality cultural experiences, and the West End is benefiting from this trend.”

Wax warned, however, that the industry “must be cautious” heading in 2019, as the combined effects of some theatres going dark for renovations, major musicals closing, and an uncertain political climate could have an impact on figures in the coming months.

UK Theatre president Fiona Allan said: “2018 was generally a good year for the UK’s theatre sector, which proved robust in a difficult economic climate.

“London’s West End enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the rest of London and across the nations, with fantastic new writing and revivals originating all over the country and ending up in West End theatres, and West End productions touring the UK.”

SOLT and UK Theatre figures in detail

Total UK box office revenue (UK Theatre and SOLT)

2018 – £1.28 billion
2017 – £1.17 billion
2016 – £1.12 billion

SOLT: Box office revenue

2018– £766 million
2017– £705 million
2016– £645 million
2015– £634 million
2014– £624 million

SOLT: Attendance

2018 – 15.5 million
2017 – 15 million
2016– 14.3 million
2015 – 14.7 million
2014 – 14.7 million

UK Theatre: Box office revenue

2018 – £510 million
2017 – £470 million
2016 – £472 million

UK Theatre: Attendance

2018 – 18.8 million
2017 – 18.7 million
2016 – 19 million

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