Two in five independent theatres fear they could close permanently as Christmas ticket sales drop

Two in five independent theatres fear they could close their doors for good this Christmas amid a cost of living crisis that has seen attendance drop by as much as a third.

Small theatres – those with fewer than 300 seats – could lose out on more than £845m in ticket sales this year compared with 2019 as three in five Britons scale back on cultural activities.

The sector has already faced a difficult few years, with venues closed for long periods of time during the pandemic.

Some 80% of smaller venues are hosting a Christmas production – 42% of which are traditional pantomimes – but there are concerns about dwindling audiences.

Three-quarters say their ticket sales have not returned to pre-COVID levels, and most hope to generate around 25% of their revenue for the year during the festive period, according to research from GoDaddy.

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Christmas sales are down by about a third this year against pre-pandemic levels, with just 40% of people expecting to support their local venue’s festive production, compared with 60% who did so in 2019.

“It’s really easy for the arts to be the first thing you cut out of your life, it’s the first thing to go when there are funding cuts and spending cuts,” Luke Mallison, the executive director of Bristol Improv Theatre, told Sky News.

“But it is such an important part of your wellbeing, life, and lifestyle to continue doing that.

“Especially, with a place like ours which is indepen