Independent theatres fear closure due to dwindling Christmas ticket sales

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As many as two in five independent theatres are worried they could close for good as Christmas ticket sales have dropped for smaller venues. 

According to research from services platform GoDaddy, theatres with less than 300 seats could lose more than £845m (€979m/$1bn) in ticket sales compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, as three in five British residents slash spending on cultural activities.

Roughly 80% of smaller venues are hosting Christmas productions, just over half of which are traditional pantomimes. However, there are concerns about the falling number of attendees, with theatres saying their ticket sales have not yet returned to pre-COVID levels. The research from GoDaddy suggests that most smaller venues hope to generate as much as 25% of their revenue for the year during the festive period.

The research also revealed that Christmas ticket sales are down by almost a third compared to pre-pandemic levels, with just 40% expecting to attend a local venue’s festive production.

Luke Mallison, executive director of Bristol Improv Theatre, told Sky News: “It’s really easy for the arts to be the first thing you cut out of your life, it’s the first thing to go when there are funding cuts and spending cuts.

“But it is such an important part of your wellbeing, life, and lifestyle to continue doing that. Especially, with a place like ours which is independent, where we are very reliant on people continuing to come through the door.”

Mallison also said that traditionally shows had been done on a profit share basis, but this year Bristol Improv Theatre has had to pay a certain rate no matter how many tickets have been sold.

GoDaddy’s research surveyed more than 2,000 consumers and found that 71% of Brits went to a show at an independent theatre in 2019, but this number fell to 57% in 2022.

There is also the issue of spending money elsewhere when it comes to attending a show – even if a guest purchases a ticket, they might not necessarily spend money at the bar to cut back.