During the past year, a total of 13,992,773 visited a West End theatre, despite what SOLT president Mark Rubinstein termed the "exceptional challenges" posed by ongoing economic difficulties and the impact of the London Olympics. This marked an attendance increase of 0.56% year-on-year and the fourth year running that box office receipts for the West End have topped half a billion pounds.
Musicals continued to dominate the West End landscape, accounting for 7,970,042 attendances, but 2012 was definitely the 'year of the play', with attendances up nine percent.
Hits largely came from the subsidised sector, including the Royal Court's transfers of Posh, Jumpy and Constellations, the Globe's ensemble productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III and the continued success of the National Theatre's War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors.
Mark Rubinstein, president of SOLT, said: "I am delighted that for the ninth year running we are able to report year-on-year growth in ticket income for London Theatres. It is particularly astonishing that we are able to report increasing sales - of over half a billion pounds - for a year that we always knew would have exceptional challenges."
Sales were boosted in 2012 by major new productions such as the Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre, Sweeney Todd and The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre, and the start of the Michael Grandage season at the Noël Coward.
Rubinstein added: "Against the background of a tough economic climate, London theatre continues to buck the trend, offering dazzling, world-class entertainment, which has audiences from both home and abroad flocking to the West End to catch exciting new productions as well as much-loved long running favourites. With the combined box office advance sales breaking new records we are looking forward to another year of success stories for our theatres."
And there is good news for the year ahead: according to SOLT press material, "advance sales grew considerably throughout the final quarter showing huge audience confidence in the current productions and anticipation for the new shows that are to open in 2013."
SOLT's box office figures are compiled on behalf of the industry and relate to 52 major theatres, both commercial and grant-aided, in central London.
London Mayor Boris Johnson responded to the SOLT figures by saying he felt the Olympic and Paralympic Games provided a "massive boost for London".
He added: "They attracted visitors from across the globe and raised our city's profile internationally, not only for sport but also for our cultural attractions, helping to create jobs and increase growth in the cultural sector. We were also pleased to be able to work so productively with London's theatres and SOLT on the Olympic cultural programme."
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