London theatre in 2019

Published: 8 March 2020
Reporter: Sandra Giorgetti

The end of last month saw 2019 data released by SOLT, The Society of London Theatre, in respect of ticket sales for its member venues.

London’s commercial West End and major subsidized theatres had audiences of over 15.3 million, down by 1.4% from the previous year.

Despite this small drop in attendance a record 80.7% of available seats were filled over 18,364 performances, itself a downward figure, by 1.8%, on 2018.

Of that attendance, there was a 3% rise in audience numbers for plays and a 2% reduction for musicals, accounted for by a number of venues being dark, such as the refurbishment of the 2,000+ seat Dominion Theatre. In total there were 371 dark weeks in 2019, up on 207 from 2018.

The number of dark weeks may equally be responsible for the drop in attendance as cost.

The largest percentage change was in average ticket price which for 2019 was £52.17, up 5.8%. This goes hand in hand with gross box office revenue which went up 4.3% to £798,994,920, handing the Treasury VAT of £133,165,820. Specifically musicals generated £522,692,585 (+3.72%), plays £179,762,530 (+7.47%) and 'other' (opera, dance, performance, entertainment) £96,539,805 (+2.08%).

Kenny Wax, president of SOLT, said, "these figures demonstrate the buoyancy of London’s theatre industry and the city’s status as the world’s leading theatre destination. Our major theatre owners and producers continue to present world class work, while investing in their historic venues to give audiences the best possible experience.

"Audiences remain hungry for a quality live experience, evidenced by the unprecedented percentage of seats filled in 2019. The theatre industry is committed to offering a wide range of affordable tickets, alongside discount schemes, school outreach projects and SOLT audience development initiatives like Kids Week and New Year Sale. It is fantastic to see that over 5 million tickets were available in the commercial West End at £40 and under last year, with only 1.1% at £150 and above."