London Theatre posts record 2008

Published January 23, 2009

Figures released today reveal that London theatre enjoyed a record-breaking 2008 as audiences flocked to musicals, plays, opera and dance performances in the capital.

Both attendances and box office revenues reached new levels as the sector proved resilient in challenging economic conditions.

A staggering 13,807,286 theatregoers attended a London performance in 2008, up 1% on the previous record set in 2007, while box office revenue totalled £480,563,674, up 3% on 2007’s record figure, generating record VAT receipts for the Treasury.

More specifically, musical attendances rose 1%, while plays dropped 1%, though enjoyed a strong final quarter. It proved a good year too for dance, opera, performances and entertainments which collectively rose more than 5% year-on-year.

London theatre was not immune to the economic downturn, with a slight lessening of demand in the second half of the year.  However, a strong Christmas period pushed year-end results to unprecedented levels.

Today’s figures relate to the 52 theatres represented in membership of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) which include all the commercial West End venues together with the major grant-aided London theatres.

Commenting on the results, Nica Burns, President of SOLT, said: “It was a quite remarkable year. Behind these figures are many very talented, hard-working people putting on and selling world-class shows that people actually want to see. There’s a lot of economic doom and gloom out there, but it would seem people still want to be entertained and stimulated in numbers.”

Chief Executive of SOLT Richard Pulford added: “These figures are good news for the performing arts, and for the UK economy. Theatregoers are out there spending money not just at our box offices but in hotels, restaurants and shops in the capital. 2009 will undoubtedly be tough, but we start the year with the Theatre Capital of the World in good health.”

Today’s announcement comes as London theatre builds towards the peak of its annual awards season, celebrating the record-breaking shows that made 2008 so successful. The Critics’ Circle Awards will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday, while the Laurence Olivier Awards, London theatre’s most prestigious accolades, will be handed out on 8 March. Nominations for the Laurence Olivier Awards are to be revealed at the beginning of February.

View graph of attendance and revenue figures since 1986.