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Theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh says West End and Broadway shows will be ‘last to go back’
UK-based theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh believes theatres in London's West End and on New York's Broadway will be closed until next year as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.
Mackintosh, whose Delfont Mackintosh group owns eight London theatres, said in a BBC Radio 2 interview that theatres are unlikley to reopen in early phases of social distancing rules being eased, advising that theatres “are going to be the last to go back” after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Performances in London's West End are currently cancelled until 31st May, with closures likely to be extended on a rolling basis while operators await further guidance from the UK Government. Broadway, which has been closed down since 12th March, will remain closed until at least 7th June.
Sir Cameron, who has produced a series of global hit productions over the last five decades, said West End and Broadway would come back eventually, explaining that “it takes months and months to get huge shows like the kind we do up and running.”
He added that he was already preparing to open shows in other parts of the world from September, noting that the Phantom of the Opera has just reopened in South Korea.
He advised "all major producers are all talking to each other on both sides of the Atlantic. The truth is, until social distancing doesn’t exist anymore, we can’t even plan to reopen.
“From the moment social distancing has gone, it will take us four to five months to actually get the actors back together, to redo the mothballed theatres - it is a huge, huge thing. Each big musical has about 200 people working on it, in that one building.”
He went on to say "we will be back, but we need time to get back. If we don’t hear (about lockdowns being lifted) in a few weeks, I think the truth is we won’t be able to come back until early next year. I think that’s quite clear.
“And the longer it is until we can say social distancing is gone, the longer it’ll be for the theatre to come back.”
Going on to say that the idea of spacing audiences out in a bid to maintain social distancing rules would be a “horrible experience”, Sir Cameron added "we want the audience to feel safe, and we want the actors to feel safe. An audience going together, spaced out, would be a horrible experience.
"It’s the experience that makes it so unique … we can never do it with social distancing.”
A total of 41 theatres are located in the Broadway district in Manhattan and support nearly 90,000 jobs. 31 productions were cancelled on the opening day of the shutdown alone, with concerns increasing about the financial impact for stakeholders.
Images: The Queens Theatre in London's West End (top, courtesy of Official West End) and Sir Cameron Mackintosh (right) with MTI Australasia Managing Director, Stuart Hendricks at the announcement of Music Theatre International expansion in Australia in 2015 (below, courtesy of MTI).
21st April 2020 - Arts and sport set to be impacted by Virgin Australia’s administration
16th April 2020 - Coronavirus hit arts industry needs $750 million rescue package
17th March 2020 - Australian Arts and Cultural Organisations respond to Coronavirus
14th March 2020 - Sydney Theatre Company responds to advice on Coronavirus
16th April 2015 - Cameron Mackintosh to expand in Australia with Melbourne office opening
24th March 2015 - Les Miserables producer slams inadequate Sydney theatre provision
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