The Society of London Theatre (SOLT), the governing body overseeing the world-renowned West End theatre district, has recently published post-lockdown statistics for 2022 that are nothing short of remarkable.
According to the data, audience attendance levels increased by 7.21% compared to 2019, with 16,420,068 attendees across the year. This remarkable increase in audience participation can be attributed to the full reopening of the West End, which took place in 2022, following the pandemic-induced lockdowns in 2020. Additionally, the available seat capacity during the same period increased by 7.9%, resulting in fewer “dark weeks” when the venues were empty and not welcoming patrons.
Despite the impressive audience figures, SOLT has also reported that West End revenue was down by 1.1% adjusted for inflation, with a nominal revenue increase of 11.6% due to the turbulence of inflation over the last year. Nevertheless, SOLT emphasized that the average ticket price has only risen by £2.21 since 2019. Adjusted for inflation, there has actually been a real-terms fall in the average ticket price, from £52.17 to £48.11. This has resulted in a more affordable experience for theatregoers, encouraging more people to visit the West End.
The West End now, is not only a thriving hub for the performing arts, but it is also a significant contributor to the UK’s economy, generating billions of pounds annually. In addition to its cultural and economic impact, the West End is a source of employment for many, with numerous individuals working in the theatre industry, from performers and stagehands to marketers and administrators. The positive post-lockdown statistics published by SOLT are not only a testament to the resilience of the West End community but also to the importance of the arts in society, offering a much-needed source of entertainment, inspiration, and joy during challenging times.
SOLT expressed their satisfaction with the encouraging figures, given the long-term impacts of the pandemic. However, they did caution that the same pattern of recovery is not being observed across the UK.
The incredible performance of the West End theatre district, despite the many challenges posed by the pandemic, demonstrates the unwavering spirit of the theatre community and its audiences. It is hoped that these figures will inspire the rest of the country to support their local theatre’s and revitalise the UK’s cultural scene.