Delving into the intricacies of the theatre industry, Ticketmaster has conducted a comprehensive survey featuring a substantial sample of 3,000 UK adults. These participants have attended at least one theatre, play, or musical performance in the past 12 months, with a noteworthy one-third being Ticketmaster customers.

Get ready for a series of insightful articles in the weeks ahead as we explore key opportunities in the theatre industry. From optimising premium sales to understanding the impact of celebrity casting and delving into audience behaviour, social media dynamics, and strategic offers, these articles provide actionable strategies. This series acts as a gateway to a deeper narrative, offering valuable insights into audience preferences and industry trends. Stay tuned as we equip you with the tools to navigate the strategic landscape of 2024, ensuring you’re well-prepared for success with invaluable insights.

New research from Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticket marketplace, reveals that a younger generation of theatregoers is focused on star attractions, social media and shorter running times – but the traditional Christmas pantomime is still top of the tree for festive entertainment.

Surveying over 3,000 theatre and musical goers across the UK, the research pinpoints intriguing patterns in audience behaviour as well as theatre’s enduring appeal as a social event for friends and families.

Leading the charge for change are the under 35s, drawn by the promise of seeing their idols live on stage. Nearly half (46%) of under-35s book theatre tickets based primarily on the casting of celebrities, with almost as many (43%) wanting the reassurance of seeing stage adaptations of popular films or books rather than original productions.

Strikingly shorter attention spans mean that audiences are prioritising snappier shows: 57% of under 35s tend to avoid marathon plays. The ideal length of a performance for this age group is under 2 hours (1 hours, 56 mins) – almost 10 minutes less than all theatregoers.

These younger fans discover the hottest shows in town on social media: 78% use this as a primary source of information about what’s on, a sharp increase from Ticketmaster’s 2013 theatre research, which saw only 2-3% of all theatregoers utilising social media as an information source. Social also keeps the conversation going, with almost 70% [of under 35s] – as well as half of all theatregoers – engaging in comments, photos, or videos before, during, or after a performance.

As the festive season approaches, however, traditional forms of live entertainment remain popular – especially locally. The iconic pantomime is thriving, with half of all theatregoers planning to attend a panto this Christmas, with three-quarters likely to bring children under the age of 15 along. Local theatres emerge as the preferred choice for pantomimes, capturing 39% of attendees, while only 15% opt for the glittering lights of the West End.

The interaction of performers and audiences in pantomime may account for their popularity more broadly: 1 in 4 (23%) of audiences agree that they are more likely to attend a show where they can sing along, and 13% of all theatregoers have dressed up in costume for a show.

There is, however, a time and place for audience participation: some of the panto-style behaviours are manifesting themselves at other shows in an unwelcome way. In 2023, nearly 70% of those attending have experienced disruptions due to audience behaviour. The roll of dishonour includes mobile phone usage (41%), obstructed views due to fellow audience members (41%), loud talking, laughter, or inappropriate heckling (38%) and taking photos or videos during the performance (17%). Half of all attendees (51%) admitted to contributing to these disruptions themselves.

Despite generational differences, theatre appears to cement bonds between loved ones. Ticketmaster’s survey found that 43% of theatregoing Brits attend performances to spend time with or socialise with their family, 65% attend with their partner/spouse, and 47% with their wider circle of friends. This appears to have significantly increased since 2013, where a 42% attended with their partner/spouse and a mere 14% with their family. However, the allure of the theatre also becomes a setting for a romantic rendezvous as 15% of all theatregoers report enjoying a date night at a performance, rising to 22% among 34-44 year olds. 

Andrew Parsons, Managing Director of Ticketmaster UK, said: “Theatre remains a vibrant and evolving part of British culture and it’s striking to see how audiences’ tastes are shifting with a new generation. Whether it’s licence to sing in the aisles or sharing experiences after the show with friends on TikTok, it’s clear to see that the magic of treading the boards is alive and well in the UK. And with the festive season fast approaching, pantomimes are high on the agenda – cementing the fact that age-old traditions still have a place in British hearts.”

Andrew Parsons

Managing Director of Ticketmaster UK

Discover more about our recent findings by checking out the other articles in the Behind the Scenes series here or visit Ticketmaster’s Theatre Guide.

Curious to discover how Ticketmaster can enhance your 2024 strategy? Get in touch with us.

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