Now that the Government like out City Council have opted for the word “culture” rather than “arts” it is perhaps worth looking at the perceptions there are about Theatre. You often hear people saying that theatre and the arts are recession-proof and that they will survive as if survival was all that they should be about.
But statistics are appearing like never before and it is hard sometimes to get a handle on them. Yes, the London West End seems to be booming with people spending more than stg£500,000,000 on theatre and show tickets. Yet, overall in Britain almost 50 theatres have applied for emergency grants from ACE (Arts Council of England). ACE run a programme called “Sustain” to support such theatres and some venues got up to stg£1 million in such emergency aid.
In Ireland we do not have such a fund and there does not seem an outcry to have such, either.
The Society of London Theatres (SOLT) carried out major research in 2008 and 2003 and found that three-quarters of London audiences believe that theatre tickets in the capital represent good value for money. In fact only about 2% had negative things to say about the standard of performances. 81% felt strongly about transaction fees being charged as well as booking fees. 10% complained about toilet facilities and 14% complained about the comfort of seating.
In 2003 only 17% of tickets were bought via the internet, now it is 48%. Critics will be reassured to learn that 35% cite reviews as the reason they decided on a particular show. Word of mouth is still strong at 57%. Surprisingly press coverage, including previews, features, adverts and reviews account for 48%.
Some curious results of the SOLT survey is that less than half of theatregoers spend money on programmes and drinks. 63% of London audiences use the Underground to get to shows. 14% of theatregoers are Daily Mail readers. 40% of theatregoers had watched a theatre-based TV reality show. No wonder we have shows like Over The Rainbow – the Search for Dorothy and now the search for Toto the dog.