The Society of London Theatre (SOLT)’s 2022 sales data for its member venues, which includes all commercial West End locations and London’s major subsidised theatres, has shown that ticket pricing stayed consistent last year, despite rising costs.
It is the first time SOLT has released a full set of annual figures since 2019, after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns disrupted data reporting in 2020 and 2021.
Despite rising costs, including the increase in energy bills, the average nominal ticket price has only risen by £2.21 (€2.50/$2.70) since 2019, according to the data. However, the average price has actually fallen in real terms when adjusted for inflation from £52.17 in 2019 to £48.11 in 2022.
The reopening of restored and refurbished venues as well as fewer ‘dark’ weeks in venues contributed to a 7.9% increase in total capacity compared to 2019. The number of overall individual performances also increased by 4.7% and a combination of these factors have contributed to a 7.1% rise in attendance in 2022.
This increased attendance has seen nominal revenue increase by 11.6% to £892,896,521 in 2022. However, adjusted for inflation since 2019, real revenue has fallen by 1.1%.
And although there has been an encouraging increase in attendance in the West End, UK-wide theatre audience levels have not fully recovered since the pandemic.
“London’s theatre industry has made some progress in recovering from the pandemic – and while we are seeing green shoots of recovery, we must be aware that theatre makers are facing more challenges than ever before,” said Eleanor Lloyd, president of SOLT and an independent theatre producer.
“We are still grappling with the enduring impact of long periods of low or no income during COVID, enormous increases to energy bills, rising supplier costs and ongoing industrial action on the transport networks which impacts both our audiences and workforce. It has never been more costly or more difficult to put on a show.”
Claire Walker and Hannah Essex, co-chief executives of SOLT, added: “It is clear that there is still a significant appetite for live culture – but as the cost of living and energy crises continue, and as Government and local authority funding decisions impact arts organisations nationwide, there is no doubt that challenging times lie ahead. With little increase in the average price of tickets, it is fantastic to see that theatres are still dedicated to bringing world-class live entertainment to as broad an audience as possible, in spite of the challenges they are facing.
“It’s not been an easy year, and challenges remain. There’s no doubt the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief has made a vital contribution to the ongoing recovery of West End Theatre. We continue to call on the Government to ensure that the current level of relief is maintained to enable the sector to get back to growth in London and throughout the UK.”