August 6, 2009 / 11:11 PM / 10 years ago

London theatre booming despite recession

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London’s theatres are booming despite the recession as audiences are boosted by the trend for cash-strapped Britons to holiday at home.

Record numbers of customers are flocking to shows in the capital, the Society of London Theater said on Friday.

Total attendance for the year to July 18 was up 2.5 percent from the same period last year and box office receipts were up 3.5 percent.

Nearly 7 million visits were made to London theatres in the first half of the year.

“Today’s figures are a real cause for celebration — not just for the theater industry, but for the London economy generally,” said Richard Pulford, the society’s chief executive.

All types of production are doing well, with a strong performance by plays putting to rest fears that they were falling out of favor as musicals dominated the West End.

Last year over 13 million people attended London theatres, so matching those figures was expected to be difficult against the backdrop of the economic crisis.

Attendances were down 5 percent in the first quarter, but came storming back in the second quarter with an increase of 8 percent, the society, which represents the major London theatres, said.

Audiences have been lifted by the trend for budget-conscious Britons to holiday at home rather than travel abroad, the society said.

The drawing power of stars such as Jude Law and Helen Mirren also helped.

Musicals remain the most popular attraction with 61 per cent of theatergoers attending London productions. However plays are also posting excellent results, with audiences up 19 percent year-on-year.

“Oliver,” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Sister Act” are among the most popular musicals while “Calendar Girls,” “Hamlet” and “Waiting For Godot” were some of the favorite plays, the society said.

Reporting by Alex Wainwright; Editing by Paul Casciato

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