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  • Cinema broadcasts stimulate theatre attendance in London

Live cinema screenings of National Theatre performances, NT Live, have had no negative impact on the number of people attending regional theatre productions in England, according to new research from innovation foundation Nesta.  These findings counter the view that live simulcasting of performances is depriving theatres of audiences.

Working in partnership with The Audience Agency’s Audience Finder programme, they found that outside the capital, cinema broadcasts have had no impact on theatre-going over the next 12 months. In London – where there is a large potential market – there was a 6.4% increase in local theatre attendance in areas nearest an NT Live screening in the year following.

The researchers analysed more than 28 million theatre tickets sold by 54 performing arts venues in England between early 2009 and late 2013. The National Theatre provided date and location information for the 12,000 cinema screenings of their performances at 482 cinemas during the same period. The findings are based on comparing theatre ticket sales to residents in different areas over a period of time, with the proximity of those locations to NT Live screening venues.

Hasan Bakhshi, director of creative economy at Nesta, comments: “Far from cannibalising theatre audiences our findings suggest that NT Live has on average grown audiences for local theatre in London and has had a neutral impact regionally. Cinema-goers at NT Live productions are a captive audience for theatres – regional venues should consider how they can convert these into greater ticket sales. ”

David Sabel, director of broadcast and digital at the National Theatre, says: “Alongside a huge expansion in live touring – this year and next, NT productions are making 80 visits to UK cities – NT Live has further enabled hundreds of thousands of people around the country to experience our work and that of our partner theatres.  We believe that the more great drama people are able to see, the more they are likely to want to go to the theatre; so it’s great to see that Nesta’s latest research confirms that live broadcasts are a valuable complement to the live theatre experience.”

Anne Torreggiani, joint executive director at The Audience Agency, adds: “Working on this research has been a revelation, it has opened our eyes to the potential streaming can create for engagement. It has helped us to understand more about the power of the big data set we are building on behalf of the cultural sector to illuminate opportunities.”    

The findings will also be shared with Audience Finder participants at audiencefinder.org and a working paper available on the Nesta website.

Past research by Nesta on the impact of National Theatre Live is also available to view here.

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There is a view that live simulcasting of performances could deprive theatres of audiences: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-27761568

Audience data used in the findings were drawn from the Audiences Agency’s Audience Finder data set, supported by Arts Council England. Organisations participating in the latest research were:

The Albany, Arts Depot, Barbican, Battersea Arts Centre, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Birmingham Hippo, Bluecoat, Bridgewater Hall, The Broadway, Barking, Bush Theatre, Camerata, Contact Curve, Deda, Derby Live, Derby Theatre, ENO Coliseum, Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham, Halle Lakeside Arts Centre, Lincoln Drill Hall, Liverpool Everyman, The Lowry, Lyric Hammersmith, Mayflower Theatre, National Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Octagon Theatre, Bolton, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, The Old Vic, Orange Tree Theatre, The Place, Polka Theatre, QUAD, Rich Mix, Royal Court Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Northern College of Music, Sadler's Wells, South Holland Centre, Southbank Centre, Spitalfields Music, Stamford Arts Centre, Stratford Circus, Terry O'Toole Theatre, Theatre by the Lake, Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Tricycle Theatre, Trinity Arts Centre, Unicorn Theatre, Unity Theatre, Watford Palace Theatre, York Theatre Royal

Of this list of performing arts venues, 38 venues showed at least some theatre over the 2009-2013 period; the remaining 16 venues are included in the analysis as a control group.

A local theatre was defined as one within 30km of an audience-member’s home.

National Theatre Live

National Theatre Live is the National Theatre's groundbreaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world. Since its launch in 2009, the broadcasts have been experienced by over 2.7 million people in 1000 venues around the world, including 500 in the UK.

About Nesta: (www.nesta.org.uk) is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales with a company number 7706036 and charity number 1144091. Registered as a charity in Scotland number SC042833. Registered office: 1 Plough Place, London, EC4A 1DE

The Audience Agency (www.theaudienceagency.org)

The Audience Agency is a national consultancy with strong regional roots working with cultural organisations to grow audiences in England and Wales.  With offices in Manchester and London and a network of Regional Directors across England, The Audience Agency provides unparalleled service built on in-depth knowledge and understanding of the cultural sector. Generating insight and evidence to inform individual and organisational decision-making and to help to grow a more sustainable cultural economy.

Audience Finder (www.audiencefinder.org) is a programme delivered by The Audience Agency with the aim of supporting cultural organisations in reaching more people, new audiences and greater efficiency.  Funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, it is a combined data-sharing and capacity development programme.  Analysis combines customer and behavioural data fed from box office systems, online interactions and a primary research survey exploring motivations and opinions.  Much information will be made available as open data. The box office data-sharing platform is developed by Baker Richards in partnership with Jacobson Consulting Applications Inc. of New York.

For all media enquiries please contact Laura Scarrott in Nesta’s press office: [email protected] / 0207 438 2697