Insiders say the situation is “extremely bleak” after audience confidence over the Christmas period vanished due to the Omicron variant and the Government’s Plan B.
Ninety-eight per cent of theatres stage either a festive show or pantomime and in many cases this accounts for around 40 per cent of revenue for the year.
The Daily Express’s Raise The Curtain campaign has pressed the Government to act and a further £30million has been plunged into a fresh emergency cultural recovery fund, with venues scrambling to submit applications by Wednesday.
But with dozens of big shows forced to repeatedly cancel performances due to cast members needing to isolate, many productions could fall short of breaking even.
One top source said theatres had been left “on the brink”, adding: “Christmas has been a disaster. We lost a large amount of shows due to cast members being forced to isolate.
“The only people attending are those who should have been at cancelled shows. There is no new money coming in – cash flow is a mammoth problem.
“In London there are no tourists and in the regions people are staying home. Without urgent help the future is bleak.”
The crisis has led to West End productions such as The Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins reducing their weekly schedules by two shows a week.
Producer Kenny Wax said it had been “a terrible Christmas” with wide-scale refunds.
Royal Shakespeare Company executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “Our box office income is down.
“This continues to be a time of crisis for the sector.”
Theatre cannot survive more Covid cancellations, says BEN JACKSON
The day Omicron hit the news, our London sales immediately dropped 30 per cent and refunds immediately started being processed for visitors from Africa.
What followed was the Government’s switch to “Plan B” – a move which saw the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing in theatres, shattering theatregoers’ confidence even further.
In December, we saw 32 per cent of our bookings cancelled.
London theatres typically operate at 70 per cent capacity per annum when they are fully open without restrictions. At this level, they make a small profit.
Now forced closures and reduced capacity have put the entire industry and its venues, actors, costume makers and lighting companies at risk. It has also impacted businesses that depend on theatres like hotels, restaurants and attractions.
Face masks, limiting capacity and introducing temperature checks are more likely to put people off going to the theatre.
These measures discourage people from attending by suggesting that theatres threaten public safety.
I believe that government policy is stuck in the past.
The theatre industry cannot survive more cancellations as a result of the pandemic.