The cost of theatre tickets is main reason people don’t go

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
March 06, 2024, 10:10 AM GMT+0

While three quarters of Britons are willing to go to the theatre, fewer than half have been in the last 12 months

In recent days actors Ralph Fiennes and Andrew Scott have spoken out against high theatre ticket prices in London’s West End.

Speaking to the BBC, Scott expressed his concern that the artform will remain elitist if young people can’t afford to go:

“No matter how zeitgeisty or how modern you think your play is, if you are having to spend £150, no person between the age of 16-25 or beyond is going to be able to afford that. That is frustrating to me.”

While the two actors were referring to theatres in London specifically, new YouGov research in both the capital and wider country shows that ticket prices are by far the biggest barrier to attendance.

While 77% of Britons say they would be willing to see a show at the theatre, only 31% had done so in the last 12 months. In London, 73% expressed willingness to go to the theatre, but only 41% had done so in the last year.

So what are the main reasons people aren’t attending? We asked those who either hadn’t been to the theatre in the last 12 months, or said they were unwilling to go in general, to choose up to three main reasons why. By far the most common answer is the price of tickets – two thirds in London (67%) and a majority in the country as a whole (57%) say this is a primary reason they have not or will not go to the theatre.

In a distant second place, at 23%, is the belief that theatres don’t show the kinds of things that they want to see. This figure was 17% among London-based non-attendees.

Others cited logistical concerns – for 20% in both the capital and the wider country the amount of effort required to get to a theatre was a top issue, while 16% said they lacked the time to do so.

Andrew Scott’s concern about alienating the young from the theatre may be well-founded. While ticket prices are by far the most likely main reason all age groups give for not going to the theatre, 18-29 year old non-attendees are more than twice as likely to say that “the theatre isn't for people like me” (25% versus 12% all non-attendees).

Under-30s who are skipping the theatre are also more likely to cite a lack of time as a main reason for not going (29%, compared to 16% of all non-attendees).

See the national results here and the London results here

Photo: Getty

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