Theatres in London, in Broadway and in Athens beat the downturn in 2008 and enjoyed record figures in their annual revenues for the second year in a row.

The global financial crisis was feared to cause a significant plunge in arts given that the recession could theoretically be a strong rival of the artistic world.

However, in London's West End 13.8 million tickets were sold during 2008, according to the Society Of London Theatre, with a rise of 10.7 million pounds comparing with 2007.

Musicals accounted for most of the growth, although plays also enjoyed a record year in London.

In New York's Broadway, the Theatre Facts revealed the majority of theatres ended the year in the black, with 940.9 million dollars outpacing expenses.

With those showing deficits, the shortfalls were diminished as compared to previous years.

Even for the considerably smallest market of Athens - the homeland of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides - theatre still plays a major role within the audience’s entertainment options.

Most of the Greek theatres enjoyed an average 70% attendance, with comedies being slightly the most preferable.

Caution is urged for 2009

The 2008's halcyon days of theatre were followed by the early signs of downturn in 2009.

As the recession deepens, theatre managers express fears that the financial difficulties will drag the once beloved habit into an inevitable collapse.

According to Reuters, the New York Metropolitan Opera Manager, Peter Gelb, has already cut senior and administrative staff salaries by 10 percent and cancelled three planned revivals of operas to reduce costs.

In Greece, the tickets are now sold at a discounted price and the productions had to dramatically minimise their costs to survive.

As New York Times report, the Bolshoi Theatre has cancelled a tour of Mexico and a new production of Othello planned for April, citing budget cuts as it faces a financial crisis.

Is theatre ahead of sales in quality?

The measures the theatre managers have taken appear now to be an excessive need for the theatres in an attempt to survive.

However, could these measures lead to a down slope in the production’s quality and eventually to the theatre’s death?

Even though the financial support is crucial, we should certainly be aware of hyperboles.

According to The New York Times, the Moscow theatre’s general director, Alexei Iksanov, said: "It would be naive to believe that culture will be financed as before."

"We need to understand this as something inevitable, without hysteria or panic."

However, theatre and arts in general have survived through all the hazards, primarily because the main ingredient wasn’t the funds, but the will to artistically embrace the reality and the need to view the world from a different angle, far beyond any difficulties.

As Rachael Worby, the Pops Conductor of Pasadena arts scene in California, highlights for the Associated Press: "The more depressed a whole nation or people are, the more important it is to keep the lively arts alive."

She adds: "I think that ultimately arts are the source of what can make you sure that life in fact is worth living."

Photo by Raquel Villanueva
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