British theater has huge year

Attendence, sales hit record highs in 2007

Legit attendance in the British capital hit a record high in 2007, rising 10.3% to 13.6 million and generating ticket sales of £469,729,135 ($926.3 million).

In a bumper year for tuners, attendanceat musicals rose by 19% to 8,937,754. Despite that competition, plays also rose by a more modest 1% to 2,951,805. However, the figure for amalgamated totals for opera, dance, music and other performance pieces was down by 8% to 1,741,251.

Trade org the Society of London Theater (Solt) released the figures covering the 53 Central London theaters today.

Big earners at the West End box office included “Dirty Dancing,” “Wicked,” “The Sound of Music,” “Grease,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and “Billy Elliot.”

“This is obviously excellent news for the industry, for all those who work in it, and for the U.K. economy,” said Solt prexy Rosemary Squire. “It’s a costly business, however, putting on world-class theater, and we’re investing more and more in productions to meet public expectations. However, for the moment, I think we can all celebrate an ongoing success story.”

The boost in attendance — 1.25 million people –was greeted as a positive start to Solt’s 100th anniversary celebration, but in the wake of this month’s cuts to national arts funding, Solt chief executive Richard Pulford echoed Squire’s note of caution.

Last year was “something of an annus mirabilis for London Theater, with many new productions that caught the public imagination,” said Pulford, adding that, in the current economic climate, “we’re going to have to work very hard to maintain this level of success.”

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