LONDON (Reuters) - Theatre-goers in London and film fans across Britain shrugged off economic worries in 2011 and spent more on movies and plays than in 2010, official figures published on Tuesday showed.
The British Film Institute reported that UK cinema admissions last year rose 1.4 percent to 171.6 million, and box office earnings increased by five percent to 1.04 billion pounds ($1.6 billion).
The top earning movie of 2011 was “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2,” the eighth and final installment in the J.K. Rowling wizard series which raised 73.1 million pounds.
In second place was awards darling “The King’s Speech” which sold 45.7 million pounds’ worth of tickets last year, just ahead of “The Inbetweeners Movie” which earned 45.0 million.
The success of The King’s Speech and Inbetweeners helped boost the share of British independent films in the overall box office takings to a record 13.5 percent.
The amount spent on UK-based film production edged higher to a record 1.26 billion pounds in 2011, according to the BFI.
On London’s stages the picture was similar with total ticket sales rising 3.1 percent to a fresh record of 528 million pounds in 2011. But attendances fell to 13.9 million, down nearly two percent on 2010.
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT), which released the figures, said the drop in audiences was partly due to the closure of several theatres for the installation of major new productions.
“Despite the prevailing rigors of the economic climate, theatre-goers have acted with their feet and wallets and shown just how much they value a trip to one of our world-class shows,” said Mark Rubinstein, SOLT president.
“We can confirm buoyant box office advances for 2012, a year in which we look forward to welcoming millions more national and international visitors through our theatre doors.”
London hosts the Olympics Games this summer and Queen Elizabeth celebrates 60 years on the throne, leading to predictions of high numbers of visitors from abroad.
However, theatre owner and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has warned that the Olympics could seriously dent West End earnings and that advanced bookings were well down on normal levels.
“Nobody’s going to go to the theatre at all,” he said in December.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato