Oh yes it is – record box office sums as Scottish panto packs the house

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Theatres across Scotland have had their best winter for years as families flock back to the panto to raise morale and spread Christmas cheer during a time of economic crisis.

The management of Aberdeen’s main theatrical venue was especially jubilant yesterday after this year’s pantomime production smashed through the £1 million barrier in ticket sales for the first time in the theatre’s history.

The production of Jack and the Beanstalk at His Majesty’s Theatre has already attracted a 10 per cent increase in ticket sales, despite the economic gloom.

And the unprecedented demand has led the theatre’s owners, Aberdeen Performing Arts, to open up the theatre’s balcony section – adding hundreds of additional seats – for the shows scheduled in the run up to Hogmanay.

The panto, which stars actress and comedienne Elaine C Smith and Aberdeen panto stalwarts Alan McHugh and Jordan Young, is due to end its record-breaking run on 8 January. Duncan Hendry, the chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts, said: “Ticket sales for Jack and the Beanstalk have done incredibly well.

“This is the first time we have broken through the £1 m mark for pantomime and the fact that box office income for the show has been going up by 10 per cent, per year, over the last few years, in a very difficult economic climate, is testimony to the quality of this must-see family event.”

He added: “The trend looks as if it will continue in 2012 with over 5000 tickets already booked for next year’s panto Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Other success stories included Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre, home to one of Scotland’s best established pantomimes.

The production of Cinderella at the venue has sold slightly over 79,000 tickets with four and a half weeks of the run left to go. This represents an increase of 13 per cent or 5,700 tickets from last years’ sales. By contrast, in 2009-10 the entire run of Jack and the Beanstalk sold a total of 85,464 tickets.

A spokesman for the King’s Theatre said the gloomy economic outlook was responsible for the increased enthusiasm for comedy theatre for the whole family.

“The King’s Pantomime is a long standing Edinburgh family tradition. With household income increasingly stretched, people are looking to spend wisely. With Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott once again at the helm of this year’s festive capers, laughs – in these ever darkening financial times – are guaranteed and are proving just the tonic for a bleak winter.”

Similar celebrations were underway at theatres in Dundee and St Andrews, the latter of which had enjoyed its best year ever in terms of sales.

James Brining, chief executive and artistic director at Dundee Rep Theatre said: “Christmas is always a busy time of year at Dundee Rep and this year is no exception. Our Christmas show Cinderella, opened 29 November and runs until 31 December performing in front of enthusiastic audiences.

“We are delighted with tickets sales so far and are confident that we will achieve our financial target.

“Our school performances have played to full capacity and our overall attendance is up.”

Chief executive of St Andrew’s Byre Theatre, Jacqueline McKay, said: “I am pleased to say that this year’s pantomime, Aladdin, is set to become our best selling production ever.

“Last years pantomime broke our box office record and this one has been ahead of target throughout the run which is fantastic news and shows the reputation our pantomime has developed.”