A great year for panto? Oh yes it definitely was...

Tracy Shaw and Marcus Patrick starred at the Kings

Tracy Shaw and Marcus Patrick starred at the Kings

Heaven on Earth writer Sara Jeffs with Russell Watson

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THEATRES are celebrating a bumper panto season after record crowds flocked to their festive shows.

Sales of tickets for Cinderella at Southsea’s Kings Theatre’s were up by three and a half percent from last year.

An estimated 33,000 audience members watched the production.

That makes the show, which starred Coronation Street actress Tracy Shaw, the theatre’s most attended since The Kings Theatre Trust Ltd took over 12 years ago.

Sandra Smith, group bookings and promotions manager for The Kings said: ‘We always produces a traditional, family panto that seems to be popular and loved by everyone.

‘There’s a lot of doom and gloom about at the moment, so its given people an extra incentive to come to our latest production.

‘It’s pure escapism. Every year we try to make it better and all our hard work seems to have paid off. I’m proud of the record that has been set.

‘Ticket prices on average went up by 50p this year but that didn’t affect sales.

‘It was to accommodate for the quality of this year’s performances.’

Meanwhile, around 17,000 people flocked to see Beauty and The Beast at Ferneham Hall, Fareham – a 20 percent increase in numbers from the year before.

Box office takings for the panto, which starred Ian ‘H’ Watkins from Steps and Steven Pinder from Brookside, totalled £200,000 – £10,000 short of an all time record set by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 2009.

Councillor Connie Hockley, executive member for leisure and community, said: ‘Though the country’s economy is still struggling, the strength of the show and the pull of its stars still managed to secure receipts well beyond expectations.

‘The average capacity was 70 per cent with many of the matinees in the week leading up to and after Christmas selling out.’

The tiny Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, in Havant, saw 628 people come to see its 10-show panto The Adventures Of A Bear Called Paddington at Christmas.

Kate Saunders, museum and heritage officer, said: ‘Our takings aren’t in yet but we’re delighted with the amount of people who turned out.’

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