The stats are in from the Society of London Theatre and 2011 was another success for the West End. The big question is how do you measure success?
Yes, the box office takings were up by 3% BUT attendance was down by 1.7%. I think we need to see if that downward trend in attendance continues, which as ticket prices soar I think will continue. Please don’t get me wrong I’m VERY pleased that the West End is bucking the trend and doing so well in the current climate. It’s also always helpful to remind the Treasury that the West End’s VAT contribution was nearly £90 Million!
One encouraging sign is that attendance at plays is up by 2%. Musical attendance is down again for the second year in a row. That may change this year with Matilda and the arrival of Top Hat and Singin in the Rain. However the swathe of jukebox musicals I think is starting to wear a bit thin with audiences. The long runners of Les Mis, Phantom, Lion King etc. seem to be doing as well as ever. Play’s do seem to be becoming more popular, just this last week I’ve had two friends who are not regular theatre goers ask me about plays to go to, specifying they want to see plays not musicals.
The confusing thing for me is the different views I keep hearing with regards the Olympics and their impact on the West End this summer. Some are saying theatres will close, advance ticket sales are awful and others that it’ll be a huge boost for sales. Who’s to believe?? I think we’ll just have to see what actually happens. I’m not trying to be a naysayer but I don’t think the SOLT figures this time next year will be so rosy.