Theatres’ increased reliance on income from box offices, cafes and bars as a result of a 35% decline in government funding over the last decade has made them "incredibly vulnerable" to the Covid-19 crisis, according to the 2020 Arts Index.
The figures show that income earned by arts organisations from avenues including box office sales, venue hires and catering rose by 47% from 2007 to 2018.
Published by the National Campaign for the Arts in partnership with the Creative Industries Federation and King’s College London, the Arts Index aims to provide an annual snapshot of the state of the arts.
Key figures from the Arts Index 2020:
The 2020 edition of the Arts Index covers 10 years of austerity, pulling together data from a variety of sources from 2007 to 2018. It also compares year-on-year figures for 20 indicators, ranging from public participation to West End revenues.
According to the index, the shift towards commercial means of income for arts organisations following the 2008 financial crash means that the Covid-19 pandemic has "bought the sector to its knees", as many companies are currently unable to earn any income and face "ruinous losses".
It reveals the West End weathered the 2008 financial crash "remarkably well" and has seen growth in revenues almost every year since 2013.
Samuel West, chair of the NCA, said: “Arts organisations rose to the challenge following the financial crash; we salute them for increasing earned income in response to a triple whammy of cuts to public funding, business sponsorship and philanthropic giving.
"It’s bitterly ironic that the arts sector’s resourceful response to the 2008 financial crash is now the very thing that makes it vulnerable to the Covid-19 crisis, with theatres closed and income from tickets and bars dropping off a cliff.
"Funders like Arts Council England are being proactive and helpful; now we need a commitment from the government to a rescue plan and a public funding package that will enable our sector to survive the shutdown."
Creative Industries Federation chief executive Caroline Norbury said: “The Arts Index makes for shocking reading - a steep decline in public and private investment in the arts, with the sector now more reliant than ever on earned income from box offices, cafes, bars and gift shops - all of which are now closed.
"Worryingly, there has also been a 20% decline in arts subjects studied at GCSE – at a time when the World Economic Forum has repeatedly said that creativity will be one of the most needed skills this decade."