Celebrities hike up ticket prices – is this outpricing theatregoers?

9th February 2024

Theatres are still feeling the blow of the pandemic and continue to find creative ways to grow theatre audiences, draw in crowds, and increase ticket sales. Casting celebrities has been a positive and foolproof strategy to achieve this outcome. However, getting big names on the London stages comes with a huge hike in ticket prices.

According to The Stage, top ticket prices increased by 20% between 2019 and 2022 to an average of £140.85, and these prices continue to soar.

Some shows, such as Cabaret, charge as much as £300 for a seat. This is one show that continues to draw in big names at the Kit Kat Club almost on a rotation, having revealed model and actress Cara Delevingne is next to join the cast.

You may remember in 2022 C*ck with Jonathan Bailey had us all up in arms as tickets were at an all-time high of £400 each.

More recently, Hollywood A-lister, Sarah Jessica Parker, and her husband Matthew Broderick are performing in ‘Plaza Suite’ at The Savoy Theatre. Tickets sold like hotcakes and the remaining seats are selling from £125 up to £395.

Just announced is Spider-Man star Tom Holland who will play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet this May - will these tickets be at similar pricing?

These are all fantastic shows with famous faces you wouldn’t normally get to see, but can theatres really justify these prices? Do we pay more for the privilege of seeing these celebrities?

Yes, we do. As much as we get angry and complain about these extortionate prices, we are willing to pay them. Perhaps it’s to see only the celebrity or just to boast about seeing a sold-out star-studded show.

Theatres do of course offer seats at the lower end of the scale. These are limited in number and almost always with a restricted view, but they do still get snapped up. Last year, the cheapest seats cost an average of £25.44, a 12.8% increase on 2022. Not bad if you want to see a famous face or even part of it!

There’s no denying that many people feel a buzz and excitement of having celebrities on stage and it’s understandable of theatres wanting to recoup money lost from the pandemic. However, as David Tennant said last August: “the price of West End theatre tickets can be ludicrous.” Sir Derek Jacobi even criticised saying these costs make theatre an “elitist pursuit”.  I agree. Bringing stars to the stage may attract new audiences, but it is also keeping others out.

Prices for shows that have a stellar cast with no Hollywood A-listers, TV stars, etc are also seeing price increases. Not as dramatic as some, but they are reaching higher price points.

I appreciate what theatres are doing here, but we have to be incredibly careful about not outpricing loyal theatregoers and discouraging a more diverse audience. Theatre after all is for everyone.

With the cost-of-living crisis, people are all having to prioritise where they spend their money. It’s likely many will not prioritise activities, like going to the theatre, over the necessities. In these difficult and uncertain times, we all need a place to escape for joy, contentment, and headspace. Theatre can be that place, but not at these costs.

There was much discussion during lockdowns and after about how theatre needed to change in order to make it more accessible for audiences but also for anyone wanting to make a career in theatre. With theatre playing it so safe how does anyone new get a look in? That includes writers, directors and actors.

This is why The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company and our community theatre company, Pepper’s Ghost, are dedicated to keeping our ticket prices low.

Pepper’s Ghost is producing the inspirational play ‘Not A Game For Girls’ by Benjamin Peel, which will be at Stantonbury Theatre from 16-19th May. Tickets cost between £12 and £15.

‘Not A Game For Girls’ involves a talented local cast and creative team that we want to support and showcase throughout the production, as well as encourage local people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy our local performance and experience the magic of theatre. We also support new playwrights and help make their work and stories visible through a variety of local platforms. It’s vital to keep ticket costs down if we want local artists and creative talent to be seen.  

If Hollywood stars continue to take over the West End and ticket prices continue to skyrocket, our industry will run into trouble. Some audience members seem able to spend a fortune on going to the theatre at the moment, even in the cost-of-living crisis, but how long will that continue? Many are already outpriced.

How are we expected to create theatre for all if only a small proportion of our audience can afford it? We might have to rethink this strategy and start lowering ticket prices.