What’s happening with Panto and Christmas show audiences post-pandemic?

January 2024



Arts and cultural events continue to increase booker numbers post pandemic, but the cost-of-living crisis that followed is affecting some artforms more than others. Panto and Christmas shows are among those that are particularly affected.

Whilst we see people returning, this is not to the same capacity as before 2020 and there are differences between who is returning and who are new bookers.

Panto and Christmas show bookers declined slightly in 2019-20 and then more post-pandemic, with unique bookers currently standing at 71% of pre-Covid sales. This is a similar, but more pronounced, trend as that seen in other artforms.

Unique Bookers
Fig 1. Unique bookers for Panto/Christmas Shows

There is a 30% reduction in bookers for Panto and Christmas Shows compared to only a 20% reduction for all theatre productions combined. So why are Panto/Christmas shows doing relatively worse? When breaking this down to look at the numbers of tickets sold to different Audience Spectrum segments, there is a similar overall distribution, although with levels lower than for theatre in general. There are some notable differences between segments, however, particularly Experience Seekers and Dormitory Dependables.

Fig 2. Comparison of proportion of tickets purchased by Audience Segment segments between Panto/Christmas shows and all theatre
Fig 2. Comparison of proportion of tickets purchased by Audience Segment segments between Panto/Christmas shows and all theatre

The relative difference between the Audience Spectrum groups is the same for theatre goers as it is for just Christmas Shows and Pantos, with one exception being Experience Seekers and Dormitory Dependables. For theatre overall, the number of tickets sold to Dormitory Dependables is a higher proportion of pre-Covid figures than the number sold for Experience Seekers (83%, compared to 71%). This pattern is reversed for Panto and Christmas Shows. Tickets sold to Experience Seekers for these festive season productions are at a higher level than those sold to Dormitory Dependables (54% compared to 50%). The difference between Commuterland Culturebuffs and Metroculturals is also higher for Panto and Christmas Shows than for theatre overall.

Fig 3. Percentage new bookers for Panto / Christmas Shows by Audience Spectrum Segment
Fig 3. Percentage new bookers for Panto / Christmas Shows by Audience Spectrum Segment

We need to be careful not to just think these are retained bookers, however. Around a quarter of bookers for Panto and Christmas Shows hadn’t booked in the years before Covid – and this proportion varies by segment. As many as 28% of Trips & Treats and Frontline Families are new bookers in 2022-23 compared to pre-pandemic, which is the highest compared to all other Audience Spectrum segments. On the other hand, only 18% of Home & Heritage are new bookers and 82% are returners, the highest for all Audience Spectrum segments. This makes intuitive sense, given that Trips & Treats and Frontline Families contain a higher proportion of young families, who are therefore more likely to be attending panto for the first time.

Want to know more about Panto/Christmas show audiences? Then join our Artform Network

We are launching a series of Network Reports that aims to deliver audience insight on certain artforms, whilst enabling professionals who have an interest in those artforms to meet and share ideas around understanding and using the analysis.   

As a member of an Artform Network, you will get the opportunity to see artform-specific insight and profile it against your own data – adding essential context for decision making and planning.  You will also benefit from the ability to meet with and discuss this insight with industry peers in facilitated sessions which aim to offer to bring the data reports to life and make it meaningful.  These Networks will provide an ability to turn insight in to action. 

The first Artform Network to be launched is the Panto/Christmas Show Network. Membership is open to anyone interested in the Artform, whether they have their own data set to profile or not. Membership is £275.00 + VAT per year, running on an annual renewal basis. 

Members of this network will have access to: 

  • Summary Report of key Artform data trends, to include a Your Data in Context appendix report for organisations with their own data to profile. 
  • Further Insight Drops across the year. 
  • Opportunities to meet, discuss insight and share ideas across the Network.  

Or get in touch for further information by contacting Rosanna Cant at rosanna.cant@theaudienceagency.org

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