The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe were celebrating record box office returns in their 70th years as the annual fireworks finale lit up the city.
New Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy revealed ticket sales had soared by 7.7 per cent to almost 2.5 million ahead of the final performances being staged across the city despite a slight drop in the number of shows and venues in its programme.
The Edinburgh International Festival made £4 million in ticket sales for the first time and reported a 10 per cent hike in box office business.
Ms McCarthy took over as chief executive of the Fringe in March after previous boss Kath Mainland presided over seven successive years of growth in its ticket sales, reaching 2,298,090 last year. When the 2016 Fringe programme was launched in June it emerged there were almost 200 fewer performances and 45 fewer productions – the first such contraction in modern times.
However, an additional 177,053 tickets were issued for Fringe shows this year, bringing the total sold to 2,475,143.
The box office boom for both events – which attracted a combined audience of nearly three million people – will endorse International Festival director Fergus Linehan’s decision to bring his debut event in 2015 forward to coincide with the Fringe for the first time in almost two decades.
Last week Ms McCarthy suggested she would resist growing calls to bring her event forward in the calendar to coincide with school holidays because of the benefits being aligned with the EIF brought.
She said: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has once again been a spectacular success, welcoming performers and audiences from across the globe. We hope all those who attended ticketed shows, as well as the thousands of people who attended the 643 free shows, truly enjoyed their Fringe experience.
“The Fringe plays an essential role in the global arts community, providing a platform for artists from around the UK and the rest of the world to showcase their work and make new connections. With 48 countries represented in the programme, the breadth and diversity of talent on offer has been astounding.”
An extra £400,000 has been generated in ticket sales for the EIF, which is expected to boast an overall audience of more than 440,000 when the fireworks attendance is included. Some 27,000 of those came from the free opening event, Deep Time, which saw the side of Edinburgh Castle rock transformed by digital projections charting its 350 million year history. Attendance at paid-for events also rose by at least 4,000.
Mr Linehan has won widespread plaudits for embracing contemporary music acts in his line-up, including home-grown acts such as Karine Polwart, James Yorkston, Mogwai, Young Fathers and the Grit Orchestra. However, ticket sales for classical concerts at the Queen’s Hall this year broke all previous records.
Mr Linehan said: “At the end of three incredible weeks, all that remains is for us to thank the hundreds of artists and hundreds of thousands of audience members who continue to make the Edinburgh International Festival one of the wonders of the arts world.
“It has always been a place for people of all nationalities to meet and exchange ideas and we’ve seen that everywhere across the city these past three weeks.”