Melbourne’s Theatres Have Major Impact on Economy

The results are in, and over the 2014 and 2015 season Melbourne’s iconic East End theatres (Princess Theatre, Regent Theatre, Comedy Theatre, Forum Theatre, Athenaeum Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre) have contributed over two-thirds of a billion dollars to the Victorian economy.


It has been a huge couple of years for theatre in Melbourne featuring a rotating door of the world’s biggest musical hits and some new Australian premieres alongside huge audiences for music and comedy at the Forum and Athenaeum. The 14-15 season featured the Australian premieres of Les Misérables and Once, the arrival of new Australian show Strictly Ballroom and the return of The Lion King creating huge flow on impacts to the local economy with audiences taking advantage of Melbourne’s world-class restaurants, hotels and retail offerings while travelling to see shows.

The report, by Ernst & Young, discovers that the theatre district has pumped $692 million into the local economy, providing an economic impact of $226 million (new money entering the state) and also created 3000 jobs in the theatre industry. Compared to the rest of the entire Victorian performing arts, more than a quarter of the tickets sold during this season were for one of the East End Theatre venues which hosted 1.5 million patrons from Victoria, interstate and international destinations at over 1700 performances.

The report also acknowledges uncertainty around the future economic impact of the theatre district, highlighting a number of ageing buildings, changing patron expectations and increased interstate competition may present challenges over the next few years. But this doesn’t faze Marriner Theatres CEO, Jason Marriner; ‘We recognise that we have significant challenges ahead. All the theatre managements view themselves as custodians just as much as business owners, and we’re doing all we can to ensure these beautiful buildings are around for generations to come.’ And they are certainly preparing for this time with a recent renovation to the Princess Theatre designed to enhance the customer experience with new bars, more standing room and better access to facilities.

This report comes at a time when Melbourne is in the middle of a jam-packed period of theatre offerings. Matilda the Musical is selling-out the Princess Theatre. Singin’ in the Rain has just concluded a Melbourne season at Her Majesty’s opening in Sydney last night. A new Australian production of Little Shop of Horrors had audiences talking at the Comedy Theatre and the ever-popular family favourite The Sound of Music continues to enchant at the Regent Theatre until the end of the month. Plus many great shows are in the pipeline for Melbourne with upcoming seasons of We Will Rock You and Avenue Q alongside two new Australian premieres for the fabulous Kinky Boots and the international phenomenon Book of Mormon!

While the report may have highlighted a couple of challenges, these theatres certainly seem ready for a vibrant future.