Brits don’t just like going to the movies; they’re heading to the theater in greater numbers than before, too. “Hamilton” and other hits, particularly musicals, helped drive an uptick in box office receipts and attendance in London’s West End and across the U.K. last year, according to figures from the organizations Society of London Theatre and U.K. Theatre. The numbers landed Wednesday, in the same week that cinema admissions data showed 2018 was the best for moviegoing in nearly 50 years.
Combined data from the two theater organizations show the number of admissions to stage productions last year exceeding 34 million nationally, with ticket revenue of nearly £1.28 billion ($1.66 billion). Productions in London accounted for a record £765 million of the total gross and a record 15.5 million admissions.
Growth in London outpaced the rest of U.K. Theatergoers in the British capital gravitated to musicals in greater numbers, with 2018 attendance up 8.2% year-on-year at 9.5 million and box office up 15.4% at £503 million. The number of people going to straight plays fell by 6.5% to 4.2 million, and revenue slipped 5.2% to £167 million.
The average price to see a stage production hit £49.25 ($64). Still, the Society of London Theatre said 77.5% of available seats in London playhouses were filled throughout the year.
“Increasingly, people seem to want to invest in high-quality cultural experiences, and the West End is benefiting from this trend,” said Kenny Wax, president of the society.
He also sounded a note of caution about the coming year. “We must be cautious heading into 2019, however, as the combined effects of some theaters going dark for renovations, major musicals closing and an uncertain political climate might have an impact in the coming months,” Wax said.
“Hamilton” opened at the refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre at the tail end of 2017 and went on to win seven Olivier Awards, the West End’s equivalent of the Tonys. Long-running musicals such as “Wicked” and “The Lion King” also continued to perform strongly, while Agatha Christie’s whodunit “The Mousetrap,” the world’s longest-running play, has now entered its 67th year. It debuted in the West End the same year that Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, ascended the throne, in 1952.