Page last updated at 08:22 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Record year for West End theatre

Shows like Hairspray helped box office figures

West End theatres enjoyed another record-breaking year in 2008 despite the economic downturn, figures reveal.

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) said box office takings increased by 3%, totalling more than 480m.

Audiences were also up 1% on 2007, reaching 13.8m as musicals, plays and dance performances proved popular.

SOLT said attendances weakened in the second half of the year as the economic crisis gathered momentum, but a strong Christmas period boosted the figures.

"Last year was a record breaking year, we didn't expect to surpass it or match it," Nica Burns, president of SOLT, told the BBC News website.

Affordable tickets

"The bottom line is we have very good shows on, full of creative talent both on stage and backstage. It shows we really are the theatre capital of the world," she added.

Ms Burns said that new shows including Zorro, Hairspray and High School Musical and a strong drama season with productions of Twelfth Night and Rain Man helped to boost figures.

She added that despite the current economic downturn, it need not be expensive to go to the theatre.

"If you are on a tight budget you can shop around and find a ticket that's affordable," she said.

"Unlike Broadway we have a much wider spread of tickets - balcony seats are within most budgets and you can often pick up a good seat at a good price," added Ms Burns.

The figures relate to the 52 theatres represented in membership of the Society of London Theatre which include all the commercial West End together with the major grant-aided London theatres.

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