The New Year’s Honours list released today includes a knighthood for Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre, for services to drama.

Hytner, who has held the position at the theatre since 2003, said he was “flattered” to receive the honour.

The openly gay 53-year-old has been praised for broadening the appeal of the theatre’s productions, staging the hugely successful History Boys by Alan Bennett, the 2006 film adaptation of which he directed, and fostering West End hits such as War Horse.

Hytner’s tenure has been occasionally controversial, his choices including Jerry Springer: The Opera, a production which went on to inflame the religious right when it was screened by the BBC, leading to a record number of complaints.

On receiving the news or his honour, for services to drama, he said: “I’m delighted and flattered.”

Hytner was born in Manchester in 1956 and educated at the city’s grammar school before studying English at Cambridge. He worked at Exeter University’s Northcotte Theatre, and returned to Manchester to take up a position as associate director at the Royal Exchange Theatre for four years, before moving to a position at the National Theatre in 1989.

There his directorial credits have included Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III, a staging of the Philip Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and Mother Clap’s Molly House. In film, Hytner directed The Crucible, The Object of My Affection, and the 1994 adaptation of Bennett’s play, The Madness of King George, starring Nigel Hawthorne.

Other honours include a knighthood for the actor Patrick Stewart, and a CBE for Phillida Lloyd, the director of the Mamma Mia! film adaptation.