West End theatres remain closed until 2021
Producer Cameron Mackintosh confirms his West End shows will stay closed until 2021 and a new report predicts financial 'devastation' for the theatre industry
Despite valiant efforts at bringing shows online, with venues remaining closed, and months of tickets to refund, theatres all around the UK are in an increasingly dire situation. New research from Oxford Economics predicts a combined revenue drop of £74 billion and 'devastation' for the UK's creative industries, with the performing arts among the worst affected.
The study projects that the theatre industry will lose £3 billion in revenue, which is a drop of over 60%. And research from The Society of London Theatre shows that, without intervention or support from the government, job losses will exceed 200,000, leaving 70% of employees and freelancers without work.
Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre, said: 'the impact of Covid-19 on the theatre industry has been immediate and devastating; with every UK venue now closed. Covid-19 has removed the sector’s trading income entirely at a stroke and thrown its business model into crisis. In order to rescue the performing arts sector, we call on government to: sustain the workforce; catalyse the recovery; and review insurance and liability policies to ensure this valuable asset is protected and enhanced for the future.'
Prolific West End producer Cameron Mackintosh has confirmed that his hit shows Les Misérables, Mary Poppins, Hamilton and The Phantom of the Opera will not open until 'as early as practical in 2021', leaving it likely that the rest of the West End, producing theatres and smaller venues will have to follow suit.
The exact opening will be subject to changing guidance on social distancing, but there will be a delay of several months to remount each show and to generate enough advance sales revenue as audiences gain enough confidence to book tickets.
As a result the production company and its parters Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, who represent one of the biggest employers in the theatre industry, are beginning the consultation process over company-wide redundancies and re-structuring.
'This decision is heart-breaking for me,' Mackintosh says. 'Despite the government engaging with the desperate pleas from everyone in the theatre industry, so far there has been no tangible practical support beyond offers to go into debt which I don't want to do… This has forced me to take drastic steps to ensure that I have the resources for my business to survive and to enable my shows and theatres to reopen next year when we are permitted to.'
He added: 'The commercial theatre provides billions of pounds of revenue to the economy. It is time this is recognised and the government takes action to ensure this priceless resource at which the British people excel is helped to survive.'