The recent figures published by SOLT showed a small decline in UK Theatre Sales, which is not necessarily indicative of a trend, but nevertheless something to be mindful of as the cultural sector as a whole continues to face challenges both in funding and in ensuring it is front of mind for potential audiences. You can view the full press release and further details online.
Further detail to unpack these stats would be useful, for instance around touring figures, or genre, to get a clearer idea of what these figures mean “on the ground”. While the figures show that the average ticket price is increasing, we know that a lot of regional theatres are wary of over-pricing and are trying to keep prices accessible, for sustainability reasons. There is more incidence in the sector of demand-based pricing, which may account for the average price being higher, but that shouldn’t affect overall sales.
We know from members who work in regional theatre that there can be a battle with the perception of ticket price by their audiences. Anecdotally, shows that break the £20 mark are hard sells without a ‘name’ to draw in the crowds, but pantomime continues to be a key source of income for many theatre venues.
Pantomime hit record income in 2016, as reported in The Stage. The #myfirsttime hashtag on Twitter shows that many people’s first experience was indeed pantomime, with many people who now working in theatre having had their interest ignited in that way. As a “gateway” to culture, pantomime should not be underestimated, and while there are challenges faced by Theatre in attracting more people to engage, there are also opportunities. The Office of National Statistics claims that UK disposable income went up 2.3% in 2017 (ONS stats), so potentially this means more income available to spend on entertainment, and focused marketing activity can help bring more of those audiences and income through the door.