The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) has released 2022 ticket sales data for its member venues, which include all the commercial West End and London’s major subsidised theatres. This is the first full set of annual figures published since 2019, as the onset of the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns disrupted data reporting in 2020 and 2021.
2022 has been widely recognised as a financially challenging year for businesses across the UK, and the theatre industry has been no exception.
Despite rising costs – not least significant increases in energy bills – producers and theatres have worked to ensure that productions remain accessible to as many people as possible. The average nominal ticket price has 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, as well as fewer ‘dark’ weeks in venues contributed to a 7.9% increase in total capacity (available seats) compared to 2019, with the number of overall individual performances increasing by 4.7%. A combination of these factors contributed to a 7.1% increase in attendance in 2022.
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%.
Although there has been a slight, yet encouraging increase of attendance in the West End, UK-wide theatre audience levels have not fully recovered since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
2022 SOLT Box Office headlines:
1.Real (adjusted for inflation) revenue: £790,022,668 (down 1.1% against £798,924,990 in 2019)
2.Capacity: 20,463,603 (up 7.9% from 18,968,776 in 2019)
3.Number of performances: 19,224 (up 4.7% from 18,364 in 2019)
4.Attendance: 16,420,068 (up 7.21% from 15,315,773 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:
“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.”