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The Digital Front Row: Understanding online and digital theatre audiences

Nov 30, 2023


The Digital Front Row: Understanding online and digital theatre audiences provides an understanding of audience perspectives on the use of digital media in theatre and how and why audiences are choosing to engage, or not engage, with these innovations.  

The report offers current insights into the motivations and barriers for audiences when engaging with online theatre (the streaming or recording of live performances for online viewing) and digital theatre (a live theatre performance that incorporates digital technology as an essential part of the performance).  

The findings provide guidance for theatre companies and performers looking to understand and engage theatre audiences through the use of digital technologies. 

The Digital Front Row adds to Creative Australia’s growing body of work on digital engagement in the arts, including In Real Life: Mapping digital cultural engagement in the first decades of the 21st century and the Audience Outlook Monitor research, as well as previous research on professional artists, arts participation, Web3 and music exports. 


Key findings

  • Nearly all theatregoers attended traditional theatre in the preceding 12 months (97%).   
  • Just over half of theatregoers attended performances both in-person and online in the preceding 12 months (53%) and 44% attended in-person only.  
  • Online theatre audiences see this form of engagement as convenient, accessible and affordable. However, audiences commonly feel that online theatre cannot provide the same multi-sensory experience as in-person attendance.  
  • 38% of theatregoers who have not yet engaged with online theatre would consider it in future.  
  • For digital theatre attendees, digital elements are largely not a driver of performance choice. Audiences typically view digital technology as a tool to enhance traditional live theatre rather than creating a new type of theatre. 
  • Younger theatregoers are most likely to have experienced digital theatre.  
  • 68% of digital theatre audiences say they would be willing to pay more for productions featuring digital elements.   
  • Active audience use of technology during a performance is seen as a distraction for many theatregoers who prefer immersive, non-interactive experiences.  
  • Those considering digital theatre often feel uncertain about what to expect and the effort that might be required of them. Audiences say they are more likely to feel comfortable attending digital theatre if they have full control over their level of active interaction with a performance.