Audiences for ENO shows continue to decline, according to figures published by The Stage today. Their headline 'ENO box office up 18%' disguises some less palatable truths, sneaked out amidst the distractions of Christmas.
Comparison of the year to March 2013 against the corresponding period in 2011-12 throws up worrying results. The headline rise in seats filled of 9% to 205,000 sounds impressive. But it needs to be viewed in light of the increased number of performances, which rose from 115 to 132. Those figures imply a fall in the average audience per show from 1,635 to 1,553, or 5%, and a corresponding drop in the proportion of seats filled from 71% to 66%.
Box office receipts grew 18% to £9.7 million. As the figures above show, half of this was due to the rise in total audience numbers, leaving half to be accounted for by (presumably) price rises. Again, on a per-show basis the rise is less impressive, working out at less than 3%.
The average ticket price (£9.7m divided by 205,000) was £47, or less than half the top price. Presumably discounting has something to do with this.
After the previous year's deficit of £2.2 million, one piece of good news is the overall surplus of £2.7 million. However without the a one-off Arts Council 'Catalyst' grant of £3 million, this would have been a £300,000 deficit. And because the figures are incomplete, we don't yet know how much of ENO's other funding is unsustainable.
ENO haven't yet made their full accounts public. When they do, there may be further questions to be answered.