Dublin Theatre: An Economic Analysis of the Abbey Theatre

JEL Classification H20 and H32

John W. O'Hagan

Department of Economics, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland


This paper attempts to apply some simple economic analysis to a single national cultural institution, namely the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The first point made is that the Abbey operates within an active and fairly large theatre market in Dublin. Second, it is seen that the Abbey accounts for more than half of all direct State funding to the theatre in the country and that the reasons for this relate to the its flagship role for the arts in Ireland, with the possibility of large public-good type benefits that such institutions can generate. The effects of this state funding on the pricing levels charged in the Abbey are looked at, the conclusion being that the subsidy appears to be reflected in higher-quality and more innovative output rather than lower prices.


The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Majella Brereton in compiling most of the statistics referred to in this paper, to thank the Arts Council of Ireland for their generous funding of the study, and to thank John Fingleton and Alan Matthews of the Dept. of Economics, Trinity College Dublin, for their comments on an earlier draft.