Diverse and discerning: Research improves understanding of live immersive experience audiences

Audiences who are attending immersive experiences are more representative of the UK population than those of ‘traditional’ arts and culture.

Immersive Experience Network event in an underground theatre space.

The Immersive Audience Report 2024 has found that audiences who are attending immersive experiences are more representative of the UK population than those of ‘traditional’ arts and culture.

The report, which is published today (Tuesday 25th June), is the first comprehensive mapping of live/location-based immersive experience audiences in the UK.

The research found that audience members for live immersive experiences discern preferences between different styles of immersive experience but are always seeking tangible real-life experiences that are value for money and can be experienced with friends.

Dr Joanna Bucknall, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Drama and Theatre at the University of Birmingham and Immersive Experience Network Co-founder, who led the research said: “We surveyed 2000 UK adults who have attended an immersive experience in the last year, to find out who is going to these experiences, what they enjoy and how they find out about new performances. For artists, producers and companies in this space, the Immersive Audience Report 2024 provides a helpful insight into the national picture, helping us to understand our audiences better.”

The report found that the ‘typical’ audience member for an immersive experience is a well-educated individual aged 25-44 with no children based in London, the Southeast, Northwest or West Midlands. However, it also found that immersive experiences were attended by a more ethnically diverse audience than traditional cultural experiences, as well as being widely attended by people with families showing the opportunities for accessible family experiences.

The immersive experience sector is in the enviable position of attracting younger and more diverse audiences, something that traditional arts and culture struggles to do. it would be a real missed opportunity not to invest in these audiences for the benefit of the entire UK arts and culture sector and beyond.

Dr Joanna Bucknall, University of Birmingham and Immersive Experience Network

The report continues the Immersive Experience Network’s work to define the different genres of immersive experience and offers insights into the audiences attending each genre. Escape rooms came out on top as the most popular immersive experience, with 65% of those surveyed saying they had gone to one. This was followed by immersive and experiential art and themed attractions (both 38%), immersive and interactive theatre (37%), scare attractions (33%), and location-based virtual reality and augmented reality (28%). The least popular immersive experiences were transmedia and alternative reality games (22%), live-action role-play (18%) and immersive audio experiences at just 12%.

Specifically for immersive theatre, there is an untapped audience, with 4 out of 5 people who said they hadn’t been to an immersive theatre performance yet, stating they would like to in the future. This is also reflected in audiences saying they would consider higher ticket pricing for immersive theatre shows compared to other immersive genres.

Dr Bucknall added: “Escape rooms have exploded in popularity recently and provide a great entry point into the immersive arts sector. Our research has found that the audience for immersive performances is ethnically reflective of the UK population as a whole and attracts more diverse audience members compared to the traditional arts sector, and the audience is more spread out across the country. Support from funding bodies and government is essential if the immersive experience sector is to make the most of this potential.”

However, the report outlines, accessing this funding is a real challenge for immersive professionals because live immersive experiences often don’t fall into the traditional culture categories, and the immersive sector is still not always considered ‘culture’ by arts and culture funding bodies.

Dr Bucknall concluded: “The UK is a global leader in the immersive sector and to remain so will need to be recognised as a credible and valuable part of the wider creative and cultural industries ecosystem. By providing more support to this innovative and vibrant industry we will be able to produce better shows and experiences, providing audiences with high-quality culture and added security for those working in the sector.

“The immersive experience sector is in the enviable position of attracting younger and more diverse audiences, something that traditional arts and culture struggles to do. it would be a real missed opportunity not to invest in these audiences for the benefit of the entire UK arts and culture sector and beyond.”

Notes for editors

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