Box-office sales surge as theatre defies downturn

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Box office takings at London's theatres have bounced back from a winter slump thanks to a string of big productions and star performers.

Audience numbers were up 13 per cent between April and June, after a lull earlier in year.

Theatres lost six per cent of their box office earnings and 10 per cent of their audience between January and March. However, the latest figures, released yesterday, showed thattheatreland was on the way to recovery with 2 per cent more tickets sold in the past three months than in the same period last year.

Successful plays such as Kevin Spacey's sell-out production of Richard III at the Old Vic and Danny Boyle's new production of Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, have fuelled the comeback.

Total receipts for 2011 so far are £250.5m, which is still 1.7 per cent lower than the at the same stage last year, but Julian Bird , chief executive of the the Society of London Theatre, said he was cautiously optimistic about surpassing 2010's earnings.

''There's a very healthy raft of shows being announced across the autumn and into the winter,'' he told The Stage.

''It shows that London theatre is giving people something they really want and it shows that people continue to want to spend money on a great night out.''