Research Article

The audience of public and private theaters
Social characteristics, profiles of interest and ways of cultural participation

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Private theatres play a marginal role in public cultural debates, but they have a larger number of visits each year than publicly funded theatres (“Schauspielhaus”). In which ways the audiences differ in social characteristics, interests and cultural engagement is analyzed in the article, based on German audience and population surveys. It turns out that large overlaps exist between the audiences and that the differences in characteristics are gradual rather than basic. People who attend performances in private theatres are somewhat older and have a somewhat lower education than people who go to a “Schauspielhaus”. Moreover they are somewhat less interested in the high culture and less culturally engaged. Compared to the general population the theater audience as a whole is slightly above average in age. It is not known to which extent private theatre audiences have a greater share nowadays in theatre audiences than in earlier years. There are some indications that they might have undergone the same transformation in relationship to age as the publicly funded theatres: from an overrepresentation of the younger to an overrepresentation of the older ones.