Theatre audiences are growing?
Words: Desta Wondirad, Sub-editor: Asma Qureshi
With the prevalence of television and cinema you’d expect the theatre industry to be staggering, but in fact in recent years it’s been booming. The theatre was once reserved for the upper class with their monocles, fancy moustaches and crisp tuxedo’s. However, members of all walks of society have started to embrace the art form, in the past few years, attendance has been stubbornly increasing in the face of all our cinematic advancements. So why do people still love the theatre?
Onepoll.com, a marketing research company, has found that of the 1000 people polled 48.4% go because they like the show and a mere 3.6% because they want to work in the theatre industry. With screenplays like Book of Mormon, the Olivier award studded adaptation of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the awe-inspiring feat of War Horse, there are plenty of shows and stories that captivate, inspire and lure in new audiences and hopeful theatre buffs.
Onepoll.com found that ‘over 55s are mostly attracted to the show itself (62.25%) whereas 18-24s prefer to go just to socialize (29%). Other popular reasons to go to the theatre included the person/star in the show (13.1%) and to heighten cultural awareness (8.9%)’. For young adults the theatre does not seem like the obvious place to socialize but in fact many people find the theater more conducive for socializing than the cinema. The intermission gives space for people to talk among themselves about the show and have drinks and snacks.
Among the many differences between cinema and theatre, perhaps the most obvious one is that the audience shares the same space as the actors, enjoying the absence of a screen between them. Despite the stage, a theatre audience member is basically in the same room as the star of the show and the emotion and force of the actor conveys more strongly as you and the star hold that brief micro-second moment of eye contact. That feeling can be exhilarating.
When asked why they love going to the theater: Will, 24, from Surrey said, “It’s a beautiful experience that me and my family love. You can feel the acting, not just hear or see it…. the temperature of the theatre seems to rise during the climax”; Becky, 30, from London said, “I love the theatre because the plays are real, there’s no special effects or cinematography, it’s just raw emotion”.
The Society of London Theatre’s 2013 headline figures show the total theatre attendance of that year to be 14,587,276, a 4% increase from the year before, and total revenues to be £585,506,455, an 11% increase from the year before.
These figures still don’t compare to cinema’s 165.5m attendees from 2013 but considering the proliferation of cinemas in the past few years, and the 3897 cinema screens in the UK, the figures aren’t surprising but the theatre’s resilience is quite impressive.
The theatre can sometimes be overlooked in the face of Imax and 4D where they attempt to bring the screen to life with technology. However, the theatre does not require 3D glass and giant curved screens to come to life; it is breathing and pulsing with every soliloquy and song. Theatre will never cease to exist