THREE theatres tipped for financial ruin only a few years ago are now claiming to boost a town’s economy by £3m year - even though they did not make a penny of profit.

A new report has shown that Worthing Theatres generated £3.5m in ticket sales, catering and merchandise from 2015 to 2017.

However the theatres only just broke even - according to figures published by the council at the end of last year.

The town’s theatres looked set to close a few years ago with council documents revealing the Pavilion Theatre, Connaught and Assembly Hall were all in poor economic health.

The Connaught was set to be permanently closed in 2012, the Assembly Hall set to be sold for redevelopment and the Pavilion Theatre upgraded in the hope of rescuing the town’s fortunes.

But keen to show the town’s theatres are prospering, Worthing Borough Council hired tourism marketing agency Blue Sail to produce a report showing that for every £1 they spent on theatres, £7 was returned to the economy.

They said shows like David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny are boosting ticket sales.

Despite not showing any profit yet, Worthing Borough Council’s executive member for customer services, Councillor Heather Mercer said, “This report confirms what we have always said; that our investment in culture and in particular theatres pays dividends.

“People wouldn’t question spending on many other services, and rightly so, but I wonder how many actually make such a return on our investment.

“This is down to the hard work and talent of our theatres team who really have turned the venues into must-go destinations.”

The three theatres were almost half a million pounds in the red three years ago, but almost broke even last year - making a loss of £25,0000 - compared to losses of £484,000 in 2013/14.

The new research, paid for by the council, also claimed theatre goers spent a further £3m in restaurants, shops, bars and parking.

The report looked at ticket sales and catering profits - as well as the “ripple effect” of spending with other services.

The council did not reveal how much they paid Blue Sail.