Theatres in London have enjoyed a bumper 2017, bringing in the highest box office revenues since records began.
The Society Of London Theatre announced today that in 2017 alone, over 15 million people attended the theatre in the UK’s capital, an increase of 5.35% year on year. Box office revenue was also up 9% on 2016. That’s the highest total since records began in 1986.
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The total box office revenue for the year was £705 million.
In addition 77.5% of theatre seats were filled over the course of the year.
A strong first and second quarter propelled 2017 to success, despite a disappointing final quarter which marked a fall in both attendance and revenue. This has been attributed to the fact that initial performances of Hamilton were delayed due to theatre renovations taking longer than expected.
Musicals are still the most popular thing to see on the West End. Musicals like Wicked, The Lion King, and Book Of Mormon brought in 8,744,590 attendees and revenue of £436,611,108 in 2017.
The next most popular category was plays where Harry Potter And The Cursed Child and Angels In America drew big audiences. Attendances for plays were up by 7% to 4,468,105 and revenue grew up 16% to £176,436,089.
Unfortunately, not all news in the Society Of London Theatre’s report is positive.
Certain art forms, specifically, opera and dance performed less well than in 2016. Combined, opera and dance performances brought in total audiences of 1,881,878 people. That represents a decrease of 7% since 2016. However, evidently those who do go to see opera and dance are paying more as revenues were up 1% to £91,959,731.
There’s also bad news for theatre-goers themselves. One of the reasons why revenues increased so much may have been due to steadily inflating ticket prices. The average price paid for a ticket to the theatre in London cost £46.71. Last year, the average ticket cost was £45.
In addition, there were less choices of London theatre productions in 2017. There were 258 new productions hitting the West End in 2017; 18 less than 2016 and the lowest number since 2011. Even then, there were only two more new productions in 2017 than there were in 2011.
A reason to celebrate?
The Society Of London Theatre’s president Kenny Wax said about the report:
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“The box office figures are a testament to the creative strength of London theatre and cements the city’s status as the world’s theatre capital.
“The industry has many reasons to celebrate but must remain cautious as we look ahead to the rest of 2018. It is heartening to have seen growth in audiences for both plays and musicals, however, the year is a tale of two halves with the industry operating in a tougher climate in the final two quarters.”
Certainly, in 2018 there’s a lot to look forward to. Tickets to Hamilton are already sold out for the foreseeable future (though you might still be able to get some if you follow our guide) and there are not one, not two, but 19 productions of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Macbeth.
Still, 2018 will have to perform very well to match up to 2017. Unfortunately, there aren’t any big Broadway plays (in the vein of Hamilton or Book Of Mormon) opening on the West End any time soon.
However, there are rumours that Tony-winning musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Waitress are due to make their London debut in 2018. Those two could definitely spur theatre box offices onto success this year.