By Emily Goddard

National Theatre War HorseFebruary 4 - London's theatres took £530 million ($834 million/€616 million) in 2012, defying the Olympic downturn experienced by so many other industries to achieve their ninth successive year of record box office returns and avoid the "bloodbath" predicted by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The figures, released by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), show that 2012 gross ticket sales at 52 major theatres in the city rose by 0.27 per cent on the previous year, while attendances were up by 0.56 per cent to 14 million – not far from the 2009 peak of 14.3 million.

However, the results did reveal that box office and audiences were down during the Olympic period, when these fell by 10 and six per cent respectively, owing to public attention surrounding the Opening Ceremony dampening demand and warnings of transport disruptions according to SOLT, but this was offset by a particularly strong first half of the year.

"I don't think most of the [SOLT] members were relishing the Games and the impact of the Olympics was viewed with trepidation," said Mark Rubinstein, SOLT President.

"It's surprising, amazing, wonderful we are standing here today saying 2012 was another record-breaking year."

Musicals dominated the West End, accounting for eight million attendances, a fall of three per cent on 2011 and play attendances were up nine per cent at 4.1 million, while last year's hits included the Royal Court's Posh, Jumpy and Constellations and the National Theatre's War Horse (pictured top) and One Man, Two Guvnors.

Rubinstein also highlighted the success of SOLT's Kids Week, which offered discounted tickets to children during the summer period, in selling 129,000 tickets – more than ever before.

Meanwhile, average ticket yield was down by £0.11 ($0.17/€0.13) over the year – from £37.97 ($59.78/€44.06) in 2011 to £37.86 ($59.54/€43.92) – marking the first time since records began in 1986 that the average ticket price paid has fallen from one year to the next, while the level of VAT paid to the Treasury was its highest ever at £88.3 million ($138.9 million/€102.5 million).

Advance ticket sales for 2013 suggest another strong year ahead.

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