Theatre generates £2.6 billion a year for the UK economy, which far outstrips the minimal amount of subsidy (£121.3 million) allocated to the industry, according to new research released by Arts Council England (ACE).

In addition to ticket prices, the boon emerges from the ancillary expenditure associated with theatregoing. For every visit to the theatre, every audience member spends an average of £7.77 on food, transport and/or childcare.

This figure rises to £53.77 per audience member for visits to West End shows. Overall, the economic impact of the West End, calculated at £1.5 billion annually, accounts for well over half of the total for the UK.

According to ACE, the new research, conducted by University of Sheffield, is the most comprehensive study ever taken of the economic impact of theatre in this country.

It’s released at the same time as a second report, conducted by pollsters MORI and showing the positive effects – in terms of employment opportunities, diversity, morale, planning and the quality of programming - of ACE’s “National Policy for Theatre in England”, which saw a record 72% increase in public funds for theatre in 2003/2004 (See News, 8 Mar 2001).

Commenting on the findings, Sir Christopher Frayling, chair of ACE, said: “These important pieces of research show that with relatively little public subsidy, theatre can contribute an enormous amount to our economy and society.”

- by Terri Paddock