The Edinburgh Fringe has suffered only a marginal decline in ticket sales this year, according to preliminary figures.
Although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of reduced houses, officially the festival sold an estimated 1,857,000 tickets this year – just one per cent down on the same figure last year,
However there was also six per cent increase in the number of shows, meaning the audience were spread more thinly.
However, the figures are nowhere near as bad as the worst fears of the Olympics driving audiences away. At the start of the festival, Edinburgh Comedy Award producer Nica Burns said the festival could be considered a success if it suffered just a five per cent sales slump.
There were 42,096 performances of 2,695 shows in 279 venues, making it the largest ever arts festival in the world.
The box office figures do not track attendance at the growing number of free shows, for which figures are never available.
Kath M Mainland, chief rxecutive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: ‘ 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.’
This year was also the first that the revamped Assembly Rooms in New Town was run by The Stand’s owners. They reported that 98,836 of the 151,000 available tickets were issued, equating to a 66 per cent capacity across the board. Top sellers included Stewart Lee, with just fewer than 12,000 tickets sold.
The venue said it had seen ticket sales rise 20 per cent from week two to week four, indicating the Olympics had kept audiences away when the two events clashed.
And at Just The Tonic, which runs the Caves and Tron venues, promoter Darrell Martin said: ‘Our venue is up on both number of tickets released and the money taken per seat.’
It has also been announced today that the next chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society will be Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, the principal and vice chancellor of the University of Edinburgh. Many of the university’s buildings are used as festival venues.
He replaces Baroness Elizabeth Smith – widow of former Labour leader John Smith – who stepped down this month after 17 years in the job, saying: ‘It is time for some fresh thinking.’