Some of the biggest shows in London’s West End, such as Les Miserables and Hamilton, will stay closed until 2021.
Four shows produced by Cameron Mackintosh’s company will leave their stages empty until at least January after coronavirus forced the closure of theatres in March.
The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, along with multi-award-winning Hamilton and Disney musical Mary Poppins, will all stay shut.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing that he was convening a team of industry professionals to work out the best way to get theatres open again.
In a statement, Mackintosh’s company blamed the lockdown restrictions and uncertainty over when they will be lifted for having to take the drastic measures.
It also announced it is looking at possible redundancies as a result of closing the shows.
Cameron Mackintosh said: “This decision is heart-breaking for me, as I am sure it is for my employees, as everyone who has worked with me over the last 50 years, on or off the stage, knows how much I care about what I do and how I do it.
“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.
“Their inability to say when the impossible constraints of social distancing will be lifted makes it equally impossible for us to properly plan for whatever the new future is.”
The company said that even once social distancing measures are lifted, it could take months for bookings to be taken, customer confidence to grow and shows to rehearse.
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A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told Sky News it was “completely untrue” that the government had not provided support to the industry.
“We are providing unprecedented assistance including a year’s business rates holiday, government loans, the Job Retention Scheme that hundreds of theatres have already received support from, and the Arts Council have provided a £160m emergency response package,” said the spokesperson.
“We are committed to getting the curtain up at venues across the country as soon as it is safe to do so and are working directly with the sector on detailed advice and guidance on reopening.”
According to a DCMS report from 2019, more than 200,000 people are directly employed in the arts industry in the UK, with the Arts Council saying it contributes £2.8bn a year to the economy.
Source : Sky News