London's Theatreland saw growth in ticket sales and attendance in 2012 despite Olympic fears


London’s theatres are set for a decade of growth following record advanced sales for 2013. This comes after they “cleared the hurdle” of the Olympics, and Boris’ voice on the tube, to post a surprise boost in audiences and returns last year.

The Society of London Theatre (Solt) today reported that despite the tough economic conditions and the fears over the Olympic effect, box office returns were up for the ninth year in a row.

Mark Rubinstein, president of the trade body which represents the 52 major theatres in central London, called the rise in sales “particularly astonishing” for a year that “we always knew would have exceptional challenges”.

He said: “There is no question theatre is on a high” after revealing that advanced sales for 2013 were breaking new records.

This has been boosted by demand for highly anticipated shows including Broadway hits The Book of Mormon and Once as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Audience starring Helen Mirren, pictured.

Adam Kenwright, founder of London theatre promoter Aka, said that the 2012 figures was a “tremendous result” and added that this year would be “the best year ever in the West End. It will break all records”.

Ticket sales rose in London from £528.3m in 2011 to £529.7m last year. Attendances numbers were up slightly to 13.9m. The sales were boosted by new productions including Top Hat, Sweeney Todd and The Bodyguard, while Matilda the Musical and One Man, Two Guvnors continued to perform to packed houses.

The lull during the Olympics – which contributed to a 9 per cent fall during the quarter over a year earlier – could have been worse, Solt revealed.

Many of the major West End shows pulled performances on the Friday night that coincided with the Olympic opening ceremony, and the warnings of a transport gridlock meant the area was deserted early the following week.

Julian Bird, chief executive of Solt, said: “We had very direct feedback that over that first weekend the messaging was putting people off from coming into London. The great thing is with our connections and joining with others we were able to get that message right to the very top.”

The theatre group, and other West End parties, negotiated with Transport for London to drop the recorded messages by London Mayor Boris Johnson warning passengers to stay off the tubes and buses during the Olympics.

“Boris’ voice booming on the tube… there was direct feedback it was putting people off. That sort of just vanished overnight,” Mr Bird said. Mr Rubinstein added: “When it became clear that it was easy to get around, people came back.”

The average ticket price fell for the first time in a decade last year, partly because of the series of discounts to encourage people away from the sports and into the auditorium. It was £37.86 from £37.97 on 2011. Mr Kenwright revealed that 2012 saw more first time visitors and audience members under 16 than ever before.

“We have got better about making people aware that you can have a good clear seat at the theatre for little more than a cinema ticket,” Mr Rubenstein said

It was a particularly strong year for plays, with audiences up almost a 10th over 2011. Productions that saw audiences queue round the block included Nick Payne’s Constellations, and Mark Rylance in both Richard III and Twelfth Night.

The vibrant regional theatre has long fed the capital and Solt fears the impact of the cuts from the Arts Council and local authorities. “There is a danger of erosion over time,” Mr Bird said. “It is a big worry. There are many reasons that we think regional theatre is vitally important.”

2012 hits:

The Bodyguard

This new musical opened at the Adelphi Theatre in the autumn based on the film starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. It proved a hit and has now extended its booking period to the end of September

The Lion King

The musical grossed £38.6m as it broke its box office record for the eighth consecutive year. The show, which has headed out on tour, saw 800,000 visitors last year alone.

Matilda the Musical

Matilda earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records after securing seven Olivier Awards. It has the record for the best sales in any week, and over 500,000 saw it last year.

2013 predicted hits:

The Book of Mormon

The creative team behind South Park are bringing over the show that continues to thrill Broadway. It has picked up nine Tony Awards and a Grammy.  It hits the Prince of Wales Theatre in March

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Luke Treadaway was hailed for his performance as Christopher Boone when the adaptation of the bestseller played at the National Theatre. It transfers to the Apollo Theatre at the beginning of March.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Another Roald Dahl classic is getting a musical makeover following the success of Matilda. Warner Bros. is backing this lavish production at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to be directed by Sam Mendes.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas