The West End has beaten its own box office records again in 2006, with attendances, ticket sales and advance bookings higher than last year’s record-breaking 2005 figures, according to statistics released by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) today, (See News, 1 Feb 2006).

The figures - which are compiled from all major commercial and subsidised theatres in central London - show a total of 12,357,153 trips were made to see a London show, 0.48 percent more than the previous record set in 2005 (See News, 7 Jul 2005).

In 2006 total ticket revenue topped £400 million for the first time in the West End's history, with a total of £400,802,809 and advanced ticket bookings totalled £57 million, more than doubling the figure for 2005.

Blockbuster musicals such as Wicked and Dirty Dancing contributed to a strong second half of the year as forward bookings rocketed and hugely anticipated shows found they didn't need to discount (See The Goss, 31 Oct 2006).

Commenting on the figures, SOLT President Rosemary Squire said: "At the six month mark, the industry was braced for a very tough 2006 with audience numbers – and in particular visitor numbers to London – still depressed from the difficult days of the previous year. That the industry has bounced back so spectacularly gives us great hope for the future – and a great boost to the London economy."

The revenue figures do reflect that some shows have managed to escape the need to discount their tickets - the average West End top ticket is now routinely £50 plus booking fee, with some even scaling the £60 mark – but the average price paid for a ticket in the West End is still just £32, up £1.00 from 2005. A SOLT spokeswoman said, “Ticket prices have gone up, as they do every year, but I think this year it is mainly because there were so many eagerly anticipated shows that sold well and didn’t need to be discounted.”

SOLT Chief Executive Richard Pulford added: "These figures – and in particular those for the last six months – show that there is still an incredible public demand for quality theatre in the West End."

- by Caroline Ansdell