Tuesday 28 August 2012 | By Chris Cooke
Fringe ticket sales down just 1% overall, according to Society estimates – theatre venues and free shows report good year
Edinburgh Fringe ticket sales were down about 1% year-on-year overall this August, the Fringe Society organisation estimated yesterday afternoon, which is a less significant decline than some had predicted, though there were 6% more shows in 2012 than 2011.
According to a Scotsman report, some bigger venues and promoters had reported ticket sales were down in excess of 25% at the start of the Festival, despite unusually good weather, as the lure of the Olympics kept many locals away. Things did pick up in Week Two though, and some shows and venues enjoyed a good final week too. That said, according to The Scotsman, the Underbelly, Stand, Assembly and C venue operations have all admitted that ticket sales slipped overall, while the Traverse, Gilded Balloon and Pleasance said their sales were on a level or up compared to 2011.
Paid-for comedy shows seemed to suffer most, especially at the start of the month, partly because of the Olympics, but probably also due to the sheer size of the comedy section of the Fringe – which has seen particularly significant growth in recent years – and the number of free comedy shows on offer at a time when ticket-buyers are looking to save money.
Certainly theSpace venue operation, with its theatre-centric programme, was reporting a good year, revealing at the start of the third week that sales were up 6% at its theatres. Creative Director Charles Pamment told ThreeWeeks: “We’ve had record figures of audiences this year. Last Saturday, August 18, our bar at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall took 70% of our total 2009 income in just six hours! And we had 24 sell-out shows in eight hours of performance across our theatres”.
Meanwhile Alex Petty, who heads up one of the free show strands, the Free Festival, said his venues’ audience figures were the same as 2011, while boasting that his programme had received more critical acclaim than ever before. Petty told ThreeWeeks: “With our investment and professional approach to management and partnerships with Edinburgh businesses we have managed to create hub venues like the new ‘Free Sisters’, the biggest ever free venue, that has been likened many times to The Pleasance this year with its six performance spaces around a vibrant courtyard – and that is set to grow further in 2013″.
Also providing an upbeat conclusion to a Festival that proved trickier than normal for some, Fringe Society CEO Kath M Mainland told reporters last night: “I’m delighted to say that the Fringe is in fantastic health, with over 1.8 million tickets issued and many thousands of audiences attending over 814 free events across the city. The Fringe has shown its resilience in responding so positively to the unique challenges of 2012. The loyal and enthusiastic audience has once again been treated to the most amazing cultural experience and has been both entertained and challenged again and again by a programme of spectacular work across all artforms and from all around the world”.
“For performers, the Fringe is one of the most exciting and important ways of developing their careers and showcasing their work. This year, more performers and artists have come to the Fringe than ever before, with an estimated 22,457 performers from 47 different countries calling this stunning city home for the past month. I would like to thank them on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who visited the Fringe in 2012 for showing us their incredible talent and courage by bringing so many extraordinary shows and events to our capital city in this amazing year”.
While many of Edinburgh’s summer festivals, like the Fringe, reached their climaxes this weekend, the Edinburgh International Festival continues for another week, with its annual fireworks concert formally ending the city’s festival month next weekend.