West End theatre attendance up 7.21% at 16.4 million people in 2022 compared to 2019
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) has revealed West End ticket sales data for 2022 – the first time since 2019 because of the pandemic.
And despite financial challenges, attendance was up in the West End in 2022 compared to before the pandemic in 2019. Audiences grew by 7.21% to 16,420,068 people, against 15,315,773 people in 2019.
Getting people back into theatres following the pandemic, plus rising costs including energy bills, has meant many challenges for theatre owners and producers. However, given the challenges, SOLT is reporting that average nominal ticket prices have only risen by £2.21 since 2019, with the average price actually falling in real terms when adjusted for inflation from £52.17 in 2019 to £48.11 in 2022.
The reopening of venues closed for restoration and refurbishment in 2019 – namely the Sondheim Theatre, where Les Miserables plays, and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, home of Frozen The Musical, plus fewer ‘dark’ weeks in venues, contributed to a 7.9% increase in total capacity (available seats) compared to 2019; and the number of overall individual performances increased by 4.7%. A combination of these factors contributes to the 2022 increase in attendance.
This increased attendance has seen nominal revenue increase by 11.6% to £892,896,521 in 2022. However, adjusted for inflation since 2019, real revenue has fallen by 1.1%.
2022 West End Box Office data – from SOLT
Revenue: £892,896,521 (increased by 11.6% in 2022 against £798,924,990 in 2019)
Adjusted for inflation, this revenue is: £790,022,668 (down 1.1% against £798,924,990 in 2019)
Capacity: 20,463,603 (up 7.9% from 18,968,776 in 2019)
Number of performances: 19,224 (up 4.7% from 18,364 in 2019)
Attendance: 16,420,068 people (up 7.21% from 15,315,773 people in 2019)
NOTE: More venues open and fewer dark weeks in 2022 compared to 2019.
Eleanor Lloyd, President of SOLT and an independent theatre producer, said in a press statement:
“London’s Theatre industry has made some progress in recovering from the pandemic – and while we are seeing green shoots of recovery, we must be aware that theatre makers are facing more challenges than ever before. We are still grappling with the enduring impact of long periods of low or no income during Covid, enormous increases to energy bills, rising supplier costs and ongoing industrial action on the transport networks which impacts both our audiences and workforce. It has never been more costly or more difficult to put on a show.”
Claire Walker and Hannah Essex, co-CEOs of SOLT, said:
“It is clear that there is still a significant appetite for live culture – but as the cost of living and energy crises continue, and as Government and local authority funding decisions impact arts organisations nationwide, there is no doubt that challenging times lie ahead. With little increase in the average price of tickets, it is fantastic to see that theatres are still dedicated to bringing world-class live entertainment to as broad an audience as possible, in spite of the challenges they are facing. It’s not been an easy year, and challenges remain. There’s no doubt the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief has made a vital contribution to the ongoing recovery of West End Theatre. We continue to call on the Government to ensure that the current level of relief is maintained to enable the sector to get back to growth in London and throughout the UK.”