Mobiles phone use 'unacceptable' at the theatre, says survey

Theatre Mobile phone use is a definite no-no for audiences

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Checking a mobile phone during a performance is considered the least acceptable behaviour in a theatre, according to new survey.

The State of Play: Theatre UK report said theatregoers aged 25-34 were most guilty of checking their phones during a play.

More than a quarter of people surveyed admitted they had done it at least once.

The report said 63% of the UK population attended a show last year.

The research, unveiled on Thursday by Ticketmaster, was conducted online among more than 1,000 people who had been to the theatre at least once in the past three years, and 400 from abroad.

On codes of conduct, more than half (52%) thought it was acceptable to dress casually at the theatre, though this increased significantly among 16-19 year olds (72%).

And although just over one in eight considered whispering unacceptable at the theatre, eight out of 10 admitted to having done it at some point during a performance.

Social media has a significant presence alongside professional reviews. Close to one in four (24%) "tweet" about the performance they are about to see or have already seen, increasing to nearly half (47%) of 16-19 year old attendees.

The report identified an appetite for experimentation among theatregoers, with 36% saying they would rather go to a new performance of a limited run than a show which has been running for more than two years.

Les Miserables Les Miserables is one of the shows most respondents knew

The cost of attending the theatre remains the main barrier to entry among non-attendees (27%) and theatre-goers (35%). The majority of attendees pay between £30 and £59 for tickets.

Most theatre attendees have been to at least one musical (75%) or play (72%) in the past year. Fewer (38%) have been to a dance performance and even less (27%) have been to the opera.

Just over one in four (26%) of theatregoers recognise they have been to subsidised or publicly funded theatre, though this is higher among UK residents (29%) and significantly higher (47%) within the North East.

Long-standing musicals are highly popular among theatre attendees, with near universal awareness for the Phantom of the Opera (94%), Les Miserables (93%) and The Lion King (92%).

Once has the biggest proportion of those aware of the show planning to attend in the future (59%), followed by The Book of Mormon (43%) and War Horse (58%).

"There are some fascinating results and some really encouraging ones - UK theatre is hugely popular and audiences appear to be younger and more experimental than one might expect," said Alistair Smith, deputy editor of The Stage.

"But there are also some other findings in the report that might give producers and programmers pause for thought - price is still too often a barrier to entry, and the subsidised theatre sector is clearly not getting the message across to audiences about the benefits of public subsidy."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Mobile phones are a recent invention and we all managed perfectly well without them. Yes, they're occasionally useful but really not essential. People who use them in the presence of a 'captive' public (in theatres, cinemas, restaurants, trains, buses etc.) are thoroughly anti-social and selfish - and should be told so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    As the parent of a small child, I rarely get the chance to go out. On the rare occasions my wife and I do manage to escape to the cinema for a couple of hours, I don't think allowing me the privilege of having my phone on (silent mode and discretely positioned) in case the babysitter needs to contact us in an emergency should cause such an uproar. It's not all about FB and Twitter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Ban their use in theatres, cinemas, the dinner table (personal gripe) and anything else in which they can be a nuisance or prevent you from engaging with the company of people you are in.

    Just to clarify I'm a young person who loves my phone but there is a time and place for it. Your important text is probably something trivial, your e-mail is probably spam and don't get me started on Tweets!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    A lot of moaners just want something to complain about.
    I go regularly to the theatre and the cinema and have rarely if ever been inconvenienced by other people's phones.
    As for people checking their phones, why on earth should that bother me? I mean, if they check their watch it is not a problem, is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Stuffy old nonsense. 1/4 of respondents admitted to checking their phones so it's hardly the action of a disruptive few. You could probably come up with a survey where a large percentage find eating and drinking unnacceptable during performances (yet probably as many people do), whispering to their companion (also common). The theatre needs to adapt or die, not rely on public subsidy.


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