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London theater on the rise

Stage companies post strong figures

LONDON

Attendance at London theater during the first quarter of 2012 was up 11% compared to last year’s record-breaking year while revenue was up 13% at £139,565,479 ($220 million), according to official figures from the Society of London Theater (SOLT).

Plays showed the strongest rise in revenue, up a remarkable 26% to $53.1 million for the quarter. That was helped in part by the SRO success of “One Man, Two Guvnors” at the 1,400-seat Adelphi Theater before its transfer to the 898-seat Theater Royal Haymarket.

Tuner revenue was up 7% to $125.1 million, and “others” — entertainments, dance shows and other productions that fill neither category — were up 17% at $41.7 million.

The robust box office also reflect the fact that there were fewer dark weeks, with 376 more performances vs. the 2011 quarter.

SOLT prexy Mark Rubinstein was understandably buoyant and is upbeat about the coming months. “Obviously we don’t yet have the full data in for the second quarter ending this month, but that’s also looking good,” he told Variety. “I think we’ll probably end that period up on last year as well.”

His prediction for the second quarter runs counter to expectations with the U.K. economy in recession. And the second quarter of the year is traditionally tough for London legit, not least because the arrival of good weather encourages Brits to escape into the sunshine.

This year there have been some high-profile casualties, not least the stage preem of “The King’s Speech” which, despite good reviews, shuttered early after only 55 perfs.

“Nobody expects this year to be a major record-breaker because of the Olympics, but it won’t be the blodbath that people initially predicted,” Rubinstein said. “SOLT has been working at finding and maximizing the opportunities and mitigating the threats.” Efforts include the operation of extra discount TKTS booths and the availability of theater info in the city’s Olympic Village.

Meawnhile, SOLT’s Kids Week initiative, whereby anyone under 16 can go to a show free when accompanied by an adult, sold a record 42,232 tickets on its first day, according to Rubinstein.

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