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Formally, the Estonian theatre system is made up of national, local government, private and amateur theatres.

Based on 2020 data, 65 performing arts institutions participate in theatre statistics, 24 of them received budget funding through the Ministry of Culture. The bulk of the subsidies are allocated to institutional theatres with their own theatre buildings, permanent staff and year-round stable performance activities.

8 theatres operate as foundations established by the state or with participation of the state, and 1 (Estonian National Opera) as an institution of public law, compared to earlier when they were state institutions governed by the Ministry of Culture. 2 theatres operate as local government institutions (City Theatre participates in statistics, there is no data pertaining to Viljandi Puppet Theatre). In 2020, another 53 non-profit private theatres and 3 performing arts centres were operational.  

Theatre institutions’ operations are regulated by the Performing Arts Institutions Act (RT I 2003, 51, 353) and the National Opera Act (RT I 1997, 93, 1558). The Performing Arts Institutions Act provides the definition of a performing arts institution, the funding and organisation of activities of a performing arts institution, and the basis for reporting. The content of the National Opera Act’s provisions is identical to the Performing Arts Institutions Act.

The state supports theatre activities independent of the form of ownership of the theatre, with the goal to maintain the total attendance level at a minimum of 800 000 visits a year and the average ticket price not above 1% of the average salary. On average, 4600 performances are given each year on account of the funds allocated from the ministry’s budget, 160 new productions are completed, more than 1700 people are employed and close to 900 000 visitors served.

Not only performing arts institutions receiving state subsidies provide annual overviews of their activities through the Estonian theatre statistics database, but also all other institutions and organisations active in the field of theatre.

The deadline for repertoire data is February 15 every year and 01 April for economic data.

The Estonian theatre festival Draama provides a regular overview of Estonian art of theatre, international theatre festivals NuQ Treff Festival, Baltoscandal, SAAL Biennaal, ”Midwinter Night’s Dream” and NU Performance Festival are organised biennially, and the Estonian performing arts overview festival draamamaa.weekend, Birgitta Festival, Saaremaa Opera Festival, ”Golden Mask” in Estonia, Tallinn Comedy Festival and festival NAKS by the Estonian Centre of ASSITEJ are organised annually.

Due to the emergency situation in 2020 did 16 festivals, like Baltoscandal, draamamaa.weekend, Draama, NU Performance Festival, and a number of thematic festivals take place, but with amended programmes. 9 festivals were cancelled or postponed.  

After the first full lock-down of the country in March 2020, 15 theatres provided an online programme, which spectators from across Estonia could enjoy. Theatres offered recordings of previous stage productions, reading out books, video meetings with actors and directors etc. for online viewing from March to May.