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Estonian theatre in numbers 2018

01.09.2019 12:15

Visiting theatres

1.2 million people visited Estonian theatre performances this year. In 2018, the average number of performances per day was 18, and the average number of theatregoers was 3265 per day (with an average of 178 viewers per performance). 6695 performances were given (3474 of them in Tallinn), and 70% of them were on stationary stages. 999 828 (84,4%) theatregoers visited theatres in seven theatre towns (with 50,5% of all theatre visits in Tallinn), 184 545 (12,8%) visitors watched performances in counties outside theatre towns (and 33 681 or 2,8% viewers saw Estonian performances abroad). 64 productions were performed abroad in 25 different countries. Estonian theatres visited festivals and gave guest performances in theatres in Finland, Russia, Germany, Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, China, etc.

Theatres in Estonia

An average of 50 companies per year produce new performances in Estonia. 26 theatres and theatre companies received support from the budget of the Ministry of Culture in 2018. These include state subsidised repertory theatres, municipal theatres, non-profit small theatres, foundations and dance companies. 11 of them have stationary repertories (incl. one with three genres – spoken-music-dance theatre, and one with two genres – music-dance theatre). This number also includes Russian theatre. The rest are project-based, private theatres or production houses. There are 7 cities or towns in Estonia that have theatres (Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Viljandi, Rakvere, Narva, Kuressaare). In 2018, there were more than 200 stationary and non-stationary locations for performances.

Financing (All the numbers below are based on Estonian Theatre Statistics 2018)

Estonian theatres can apply for direct assistance and project based assistance from the state budget, and it is also possible to apply for funding from the Cultural Endowment of Estonia for financing the staging of productions. The state support forms 60% of all income for theatres, (in fact, 8% of that support in 2018 was direct investment into the renovation of theatres) the profit that theatres get from selling tickets is on average 20%, and local governments contribute 3%.


In 2018, 582 productions were on repertoire, 211 (36,4 %) of them were new productions. 41.5% of last year’s repertoire was written by Estonian authors. Most foreign authors were from Russia with 48 playwrights represented, followed by Great Britain with 39, USA with 23 and France with 20 authors (Sweden 17, Germany 15, Finland 6, Lithuania 2, Latvia 1). The most preferred genre of the spoken performances was drama with 76,7%, followed by comedy with 19,7%, tragicomedy was only 3% and 0,5% were poetry performances.

Performance formNumber of Productions
Puppet and object theatre34
Other (mixed type and circus)74

There were 77 summer productions (performed from the end of May until the end of August, mostly outside of the theatre buildings, in nature, parks, manors or farm houses, castles, etc.) in 2018, of which 51 were new productions. Summer theatre performances have become very popular, and their numbers are increasing every summer. They are produced by both repertory theatres and projects brought together especially for summer performances.

The most directed genre in Estonian music theatre is opera, and it is the audience magnet as well (33,6%), however, musicals attracted the largest audience numbers (47,9% of all musical theatre visits).

Within recent years, dance theatre – both modern and classical – has gained more popularity, contemporary dance constitutes 65% of the performances, however, 70% of the public prefers classical dance.

In the 2018 repertory for children and teenagers, there were 146 productions, of which 41 were new. There are six theatres in Estonia, part of whose target audience is always children and youth. All the other repertory theatres and a few private theatres also produce performances children and youth, even though their main target audience is adults.

Co-productions and Theatre Series Tale of the Century

There were over 40 productions in the Estonian theatre repertoire that were made in co-operation between different theatres or organisations, the 14 international co-operative projects included. And 13 productions that were made as a gift for Estonia's 100th birthday. All Tale of the Century productions were created in cooperation between at least two theatre companies – one big and one small – bringing together 24 organisations within the project. Playing through the history of the republic, the project was, in a way, making history itself – it is, beyond doubt, the largest production ever undertaken in Estonian theatre, both in terms of the number of participants and the time frame. The productions series premiered between August 2017 and August 2018 in chronological order and the whole series could be seen all together at the Tale of the Century theatre marathon at the Draama Festival in Tartu, in September 2018.