Many Theatres and Production companies due to perform shows this December have been dealt a crippling blow. New COVID-19 Tier systems assigned by the Government have left shows facing financial jeopardy and audiences confused about what to do about their seasonal family booking.
Today, new Tier system restrictions were announced for each region throughout the UK. Many productions have now been informed that they cannot re-open as planned. Show planners are calling for audiences to be patient and to await contact from their ticket provider regarding cancelled show dates. This echoes pleas from theatre companies throughout the UK at the start of the pandemic for audiences to re-arrange tickets wherever possible and to resist asking for refunds at a time when theatres need audience support more than ever.
Greater Manchester is just one region that has been placed under strict Tier 3 rules, coming into effect following National Lockdown which ends on 2nd December 2020. The Lowry, one of Greater Manchester’s most visited performance venues, is one venue which will be highly affected by the sad news. Following the announcements, The Lowry has placed a notice on its website stating that their building will remain closed until at least Thursday 17 December.
Earlier this month, hit show ‘Six; The Musical‘ announced that they would be re-opening shows from 4th December at The Lowry, and 5th December at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End. Along with this, West End socially distanced performances were extended until 18th April 2021. As a result of the latest extension of restrictions, tickets for their Lowry performances up until 17th December are no longer available for booking and ticket holders are being advised to await contact from their ticket provider.
In 2019, West End Musicals rake in nearly £800m revenue.
Productions, such as Six, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and The Play That Goes Wrong, based in London’s West End, which brought in a record-breaking almost £800m in revenue last year, will go ahead as planned. This news comes after it was announced that London is to remain under lesser Tier 2 restrictions, despite the region’s much-debated “R-rate” being considerably higher than that in Greater Manchester.
Many theatres have remained closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, despite the government insisting that they are allowed to open at various points since. The problem for many companies lies in the fact that productions can rely on ticket sales of 70% minimum in order to meet overheads alone, before profit. Making theatres covid-secure often means reducing audience sizes to as low as just 30%, which means re-starting shows is just not an option for many commercial venues and production companies.
Productions in Tier 3 areas are currently living in hope that local infection rates will drop further, allowing Andy Burnham’s call for the region to be placed under Tier 2 restrictions in 2 weeks to be answered and venues to re-open safely.