London theatre takings edge up despite 2012 Olympics

* West End robust in 2012 despite Olympics, economy

* Revenues at record, attendance 14 million

* Worries over cuts to regional theatre funding

LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - London's theatres earned 530

million pounds ($830 million) in 2012, a marginal rise on 2011,

and although the Olympic Games had a noticeable impact on the

West End during the summer it was not the "bloodbath" one

leading producer had predicted.

Figures released on Tuesday by the Society of London Theatre

(SOLT) showed 2012 gross ticket sales at 52 major theatres in

the capital rose 0.27 percent on the year before while

attendances, at 14 million, were up 0.56 percent.

The increases would have been greater had it not been for

the London Games, SOLT officials said, with public attention

surrounding the opening ceremony dampening demand and warnings

of transport disruptions putting off theatre-goers.

London's flamboyant Mayor Boris Johnson was singled out as a

factor, after his recorded messages warning of travel congestion

on public transport during the Games were quickly dropped when

the concerns proved unfounded.

"I don't think most of the (SOLT) members were relishing the

Games and the impact of the Olympics was viewed with

trepidation," said SOLT president Mark Rubinstein.

"It's surprising, amazing, wonderful we are standing here

today saying 2012 was another record-breaking year."

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the most influential

theatre impresarios in Britain, had predicted a box office

"bloodbath" during the summer due to the Games.

Rubinstein said there was a sizeable drop in takings during

the third quarter of the year due to the Olympics, but that

overall the figures were better than many had predicted.

In outright terms, the revenue figure was a new record,

while attendance was not far from its 2009 peak of 14.3 million.


Producers showed restraint, perhaps with an eye on economic

gloom in Britain and much of Europe, with average ticket prices

last year at 37.86 pounds compared with 37.97 pounds in 2011.

Musicals dominated the West End again, accounting for eight

million attendances, a fall of three percent on 2011, while play

attendances were up nine percent at 4.1 million.

Hits last year included the Royal Court's transfers of

"Posh", "Jumpy" and "Constellations" and the success of the

National Theatre's "War Horse" and "One Man, Two Guvnors".

While London showed resilience in the face of competition

from the Olympics and a stagnant economy, there was greater

concern for regional theatres, some of which face major spending

cuts from central government and local authorities.

Newcastle City Council in northern England, for example,

announced it planned to cut all funding to arts organisations in

the city, and other regions including Derby and Darlington have

been badly hit.

Rubinstein said cuts to arts spending in the regions could

have a devastating impact on theatres which were "part of the

ecosystem" of British stage and helped make the West End great.

"We need to support those theatres and make sure the

politicians support those theatres," he said.

Advance ticket sales for 2013 suggested another strong year

ahead, he added.

Julian Bird, SOLT's chief executive, also announced that

commercial channel ITV would broadcast the Olivier Awards for

West End theatre on April 28.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)