Furlough close down will see more theatres shut

The tapering furlough scheme will see more theatres permanently shut, warns the Theatres Trust today.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme introduced at the start of the lockdown in March has been a lifeline to many theatre operators, but the Chancellor’s announcement that from August employers will be expected to increase their contributions until the scheme ends in October is sounding alarm bells.

Already four theatre operations, including Southport Theatre (pictured) and the Nuffield in Southampton, have gone out of business, and trust director Jon Morgan warns there could be many more “unless the government provides urgent support for the sector.

“While tapering of the furlough scheme makes sense in other parts of the economy as businesses reopen, theatres remain closed and the majority will be unable to operate viably with social distancing measures in place” he said. “We are calling on the government to extend the Job Retention Scheme in its full form to protect our nation’s enviable theatres and the people who work in them, until such a time as theatres can reopen fully and safely.”

Research by the trust shows that of the 581 theatres that are charities in the UK, 59% had less than three months operating costs in reserves and research by UK Theatre/SOLT identifies that 70% of theatres will run out of money by the end of 2020. “Increased employer contributions will make redundancies throughout the sector inevitable and the ending of the scheme and resulting liabilities will close theatre businesses” Morgan said.

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