Theatreland Box Office breaks £500m mark.

London’s West End celebrated its most successful ever year in 2009 with box office receipts totaling more than £500 million for the first time.  The figures presented by the Society of London Theatre show that audiences reached a new high of more than 14 million despite the recession.  Total revenue was up by 8% on the previous year and audiences up by 6%.

Unusually, the increases seen in 2009 were driven by plays, up 26% on the previous year, and opera and dance, up 7%; whilst musicals suffered a 2% decline on 2008 figures.  This is led by a number of highly successful plays including War Horse and Calendar Girls.  The results make for unexpected reading as I for one expected plays to suffer a decline, with recession audiences favouring populist shows and feel-good musicals.  As quoted in The Stage, SOLT president and chief executive of Nimax Theatres Nica Burns said that she was happy to “eat her words” having earlier in the year predicted a drop of as much as 10% in overall revenues.

We should however still be wary that the effects of the recession may be felt more as the economy enters growth and potential audiences begin to spend again; at which time, holidays and other large purchases previously postponed, may take precedent of their spending.  I fear that the figures for 2010, presented next January, may make for more concerned reading.  That said, with the opening of the much awaited sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, and possibly other high profile shows, London’s Theatreland may well be able to defy the recession.

theatreJunki © 2010

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