Cinema broadcasts stimulate theatre attendance in London

Research finds that National Theatre Live has no negative impact on Regional Theatre-going

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 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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