The Ecosystem of Finnish Performance

The Finnish theatre and performing arts industry (theatre, dance, and circus) is made up of national performance institutions, state subsidized theatres, dance and circus companies, as well as of a wide range of independent theatres, dance and circus companies, and production houses. In addition, there are a great number of sporadically active performance groups, more than 500 amateur theatres, and a small number of commercial theatres that are not included in the statistics. Helsinki is the central theatre district along with Tampere and Turku.   
Public events were prohibited in Finland due to the Covid 19 pandemic in January 2022, and while they were again permitted in February, they were highly restricted in terms of occupancy. The final restrictions to public events were finally lifted throughout the country by the end of March 2022.  

Financial structure

Repertoire theatres and established smaller theatre, dance, and circus companies make their revenues from the state (through grants from either the Ministry of Education, or the Arts Promotion Centre), local government and private funding, as well as from ticket sales. There is a greater variation in the sources of income and a higher share of self-generated revenue within the free groups in comparison to those of state funded companies.   
The performing arts sector is a labour-intensive sector. Personnel expenses make up the largest share of the organizations’ total expenses, while companies that own their venues have relatively high property costs. Therefore, economic pressures and a reliance on box office revenue will often encourage risk-averse artistic decisions.   
During 2022 the state support for the Finnish performing arts field increased by 7 % to 131 million euros. The new law on the promotion of the performing arts which came into force on January 1, 2022, increased the state-supported organisations’ person-years by a few percentages. The municipal aid to performance increased by 1,9 %. The revenue generated by the organisations themselves increased by 35,6 % from the previous year to 71,1 million euros.  


Most of the large companies in Finland are repertory theatres with a permanent ensemble. During 2022 the state-subsidized organisations employed personnel for 3 736 person-years (+ 549). The intermittently employed personnel’s share of these person-years was 32 %.  
The number of artistic visitors at state-funded drama theatres has steadily increased from 29 % in 1992 to 50 % in 2022. The number of artistic visitors at the state-subsidized theatres was 7 430, a higher number than in the years before the pandemic. The so-called free field employed permanently 78 people, an increase of 38 % from the previous year.  


The number of plays written or directed by women has for the first time since the data collection started been the same or surpassed the number of plays written or directed by men. However, the larger the stage it is still more likely that the play has been directed by a man (54 %). The number of works made by working groups through collective processes continues to increase. 
The average salary for a female employee at a state-subsidized Finnish theatre is 164,63 euros less than the average for a male.   
It is possible to identify both horizontal and vertical job segregations: women and men are still predominantly engaged in gender-specific professions, whereas men dominate in higher-paid professions (as company directors and the like).  


The structure of Finnish theatre repertoires has remained the same. City theatres function as repertory theatres that offer a variety of productions, while new writing or devised performances continues to be at the centre of the free groups. Performances based on Finnish works are played almost twice as many times as performances based on foreign works at the state-subsidized theatres and the National Theatre, while 56 % of all productions are based on a Finnish work. 90 % of the repertoires of the free groups were based on Finnish works. 
3 534 performances and 49 premieres were cancelled during the season of 2021-2022. 19 of the premieres would have been first performances in Finland. 
The repertory profiles of the city theatres and those of independent theatre and performing arts companies differ from each other. Devised performances and other nonmainstream forms and genres (including e.g., puppetry, avant-garde productions, site-specific and socially engaged practices) dominate the repertoires of independent groups and companies, whereas especially musicals have an important role on the repertoires of city theatres.  


Public events were prohibited in the beginning of 2022, and later allowed but heavily restricted. In addition, audiences were affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and for some time theatre was furthest from their minds. But in the end the number of theatre, dance and circus performances grew by 22 % compared to the year before, and the number of spectators by 89,9 %. The number of spectators for theatre, dance and circus amounted to 2,8 million in 2022, though it varied between 3,7 and 4 million in the years before the pandemic. The number of paying spectators for streamed performances shrunk significantly. Only 22 of the state-funded organisations and the free theatre groups offered streamed performances in 2022, compared to 78 organisations the year before.  
Though Helsinki and the capital area continue to dominate the statistics, other regions in Finland have in addition to professional performances also vibrant amateur theatres with high spectator numbers.

You may also be interested in

News Statistics