Economics of Theatre

Theatre is a vital part of the UK’s fast-growing creative industries. A recent study conducted on behalf of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) & UK Theatre suggests that the UK theatre sector:

  • Generates £2.39bn in GVA,
  • Supports nearly 205,000 workers, and
  • Generates a total turnover of £4.44 billion.

This is made up of just over £1 billion of direct turnover in the UK theatre sector (e.g. from selling tickets for performances, licensing of production rights, managed tours), which generates a further £1.3 billion of turnover in the broader economy.

Theatre audiences also contribute additional spending in local economies up and down the country when visiting a performance. For every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, an additional spend of £1.40 is generated in local economies, adding up to £1.94bn per annum of extra value added to local economies by theatre audiences.

And for every £1,000 of turnover generated by the theatre ecosystem in the UK, there is a positive effect of £1,909 turnover in the rest of the economy.

Pre-pandemic (2018):

  • 34 million tickets were sold for performances in SOLT and UK Theatre member venues.
  • 630,000 performances took place in SOLT and UK Theatre member venues.
  • £1.28bn was generated in box office sales at SOLT and UK Theatre member venues.

UK theatre also continues to drive inbound tourism, with two times the number of visitors seeing a theatre production than see a sporting event. 9% of overseas visitors saw a theatre production in 2019, with visitors who plan a trip to the theatre likely to be higher spending than average.

Economic Impact Assessment of the UK Theatre Sector (June 2023)

SOLT & UK Theatre commissioned research and strategy consultants Sound Diplomacy to conduct a review of the economic impact of the UK theatre sector. This culminated in the Economic Impact Assessment of the UK Theatre Sector report, which was published in June 2023.

The report contributes significantly to the sector’s evidence base, highlighting:

  • The economic impact of theatre
  • The impact of audience spending
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector, and
  • The distribution of theatre assets across the UK.
Theatre Tax Relief

Since it was first introduced in September 2014, Theatre Tax Relief (TTR) has been pivotal in supporting theatrical productions across the UK.

We estimate that at least £163 million was invested into theatrical productions in 2021-22 as a result of £38 million of Theatre Tax Relief. This is a return of over 4 to 1 for the public purse.

SOLT & UK Theatre are campaigning to maintain TTR at the higher rate of 50/45% in perpetuity. SOLT & UK Theatre are also keen to work with HMRC to improve guidance and ensure the effective rollout of recent changes to TTR legislation.

For more information on our work on Theatre Tax Relief, visit our dedicated page.