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  • Two in five independent theatres fear closure without strong Christmas sales
  • Attendance at Christmas shows such as pantomimes set to drop by a third this year against pre-pandemic times
  • Small theatres could lose out on more than £845m in ticket sales this year vs 2019 as three in five Brits scale back on cultural activities due to the cost-of-living crisis
  • 90% said driving Christmas online ticket sales is important to their long-term financial health
  • GoDaddy and the Society of Independent Theatres launch initiative to help theatres improve their online presence and drive more web sales
  • The Bristol Improv Theatre one of the first independent theatres to benefit            

Two in five small theatres in the UK fear closure unless they command a strong Christmas season, according to a new study by GoDaddy and the Society of Independent Theatres.

Research conducted among independent theatres* – those with fewer than 300 seats – found that almost 80% of smaller venues are hosting festive productions, with 42% staging a traditional Christmas pantomime, but many are concerned about dwindling audiences as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies.

The sector has faced a tough couple of years, with venues were forced to close for long periods of time during the pandemic. Three quarters (75%) of theatres say their ticket sales have still not returned to pre-Covid levels, and most hope to generate around 25% of their revenue for the year during this festive period.

Research among more than 2,000 consumers** by GoDaddy, the company that helps entrepreneurs thrive, lays bare the issues that many theatres are facing. Seven in ten (71%) Brits visited an independent theatre in 2019, a number which falls to 57% in 2022.

Meanwhile, Christmas sales are set to drop by around a third this year against pre-pandemic levels, with just 40% of people expecting to support their local venue’s festive production, compared to 60% who did so in 2019. Three in five (61%) people say they have had to cut back on cultural activities due to the cost-of-living crisis.

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This has had a significant impact on revenues for independent theatres, with around £845m*** in lost ticket sales this year, compared to pre-pandemic levels. Three quarters (75%) of venues say customers are buying fewer tickets, and four in five (88%) are concerned for their long-term future.

There are also ramifications for local economies as 77% of theatre-goers also spend money with pubs, bars, restaurants, taxi firms and transport companies as part of their visits. This could be worth around £2.5bn**** to town centre trade in 2022 alone. This impact is not lost on Brits, with 60% saying that local, independent theatres are a crucial part of community life.

To support the sector in driving more festive trade, GoDaddy has launched a new initiative for the Society of Independent Theatres’ members, aimed at helping them increase their online presence and to maximise online ticket sales. Nine in 10 (92%) independent theatres said driving online ticket sales at Christmas is important to their long-term financial health, yet three quarters (75%) still rely on word of mouth to sell tickets.

One of the theatres that GoDaddy is supporting is The Bristol Improv Theatre in Clifton, Bristol, which is receiving a new website.

Luke Mallison, Executive Director of Bristol Improv Theatre, said: “Arts venues were some of the hardest hit during Covid – among the first to close in lockdown and the last to re-open. Now the cost-of-living crisis has brought about new challenges. Against this backdrop, it’s vital for theatres such as ours to stand out online and maximise sales and donations through our website. That’s exactly what we’re aiming to achieve with GoDaddy’s help.”

Ben Law, Head of GoDaddy UK, said: “Independent theatres are not just local cultural landmarks, they are also microbusinesses that are a vital part of their local economies. The arts sector has faced a torrid couple of years, and GoDaddy is proud to support the everyday entrepreneurs that keep these important community institutions running. We understand that that times are tough, but encourage anyone who can support their local theatre this Christmas to do so. They’ll be sorely missed if they are gone.”


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