English theatres and concert halls can reopen from July 4, but are not allowed to host live shows, while the Australian live industry is expecting further funding from the government…

England reopening

Theatres and concert halls have today (Tuesday) been given the green light to reopen in England from July 4, though live performances will not be permitted due to concerns over transmission of COVID-19.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the news as part of a range of new measures, including confirming that the two-metre distancing rule will be dropped in favour of a “one-metre-plus” approach from July 4. Cinemas can also reopen from that date.

Johnson said in a statement to the House of Commons that “specific guidance” would be given to theatres and other arts venues, with the target of restoring “live performances as soon as possible”.

Theatre insiders said that the autumn is the industry’s general target for re-opening, the Daily Telegraph reports.

However, theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh, who owns eight West End venues, said he believes theatres will be closed until next year after rejecting the notion of their reopening under social distancing rules. He added that even under the new one metre plus rule, theatres will continue to face significant revenue losses due to smaller audiences.

Several concert halls have already been streaming shows without an audience, including Wigmore Hall, which has broadcast classical concerts on the BBC.

Following the announcement, UK Music chief executive Tom Kiehl has urged the Government to “act swiftly” to ensure the music industry was not treated like “a forgotten relative”.

He said: “There is a real risk that music will be left swinging in the wind unless the Government moves quickly to agree a detailed plan with the sector to reopen.

“We cannot afford for music which is so culturally, socially and economically important to be treated like some kind of forgotten relative while so many other sectors are being given a blueprint for them to emerge from lockdown.”

Meanwhile, cinemas will be able to reopen with measures in place next month, with Showcase and Vue looking to allow audiences in from July 4, while Curzon and Odeon are aiming for a similar date.

Cineworld, the world’s second largest cinema chain, is aiming to open all it’s cinemas in the US, UK and Europe by July. Screens in the UK will be open on July 10.

In order to maintain distancing rules, cinema ticketing systems have been updated to allow friends and family to sit together while ensuring a safe distance between customers from different households. In addition showing times will be staggered to regulate crowding.

Theatre Tokens

The Society of London Theatres (SOLT) has announced Theatre Tokens will be available to redeem online at The Lowry in Salford via Quaytickets and SeatGeek.

Theatre Tokens, which were first established in 1984, have no expiry date and are the only nationwide theatre gift card and voucher scheme.

The vouchers, which are redeemable at over 260 theatres, have helped introduce new audiences to theatre, with over 355,000 tickets purchased each year through the scheme.

Nathan Naylor, head of Theatre Tokens, said: “With box offices the length of the country currently closed to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the work of Theatre Tokens is more vital than ever.

“Online redemption allows audiences an easy and safe way to redeem Theatre Tokens for future productions, whilst staff are busy undertaking the mammoth task of refunding patrons for cancelled performances to date. We hope that The Lowry will just be the first of many theatres to help us offer this online option to audiences.”

SeatGeek’s managing director for EMEA Entertainment, Charlie Sefi, said: “We hope that this new, industry first, integration allowing online redemption of Theatre Tokens will not only make life easier for box office staff, but also encourage higher sales of show tickets, by embracing consumers’ drive towards online purchasing and giving them a seamless user experience.”

Australian aid package

Australian live entertainment and arts organisations are expecting another targeted aid package following talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week.

The support under consideration includes a dedicated grants fund to help entertainment businesses and support for artists to resume touring.

Morrison spoke to 16 industry executives from tour companies, promoters, record labels, publishers, music export, road crews and artists, who were each given 60 seconds to make their case to the prime minister.

Many highlighted the need for funding for domestic arts and job retention schemes, as well as the need for state borders to reopen, and how the current physical distancing measures for venues is impractical.

The Australian government has so far provided a A$27m package, announced in April, for regional organisations, indigenous arts and music industry outreach outfit Support Act and the Australia Council’s repurposing of $5m in existing funding for small, quick-release grants.

Territories have unveiled their own support packages, with Victoria having committed more than A$51m across the sector and the New South Wales government assuring $50m for a “rescue and restart” package.

Earlier this month, Live Performance Australia proposed a A$345m plan to support the arts and entertainment industry.

The Australian national cabinet agreed to more substantial caps on events in the third stage of eased restrictions in July as part of new relaxed physical distancing rules. The move would allow for outdoor ticketed events of up to 10,000 attendees.

In addition, leading live sports and entertainment businesses in the country have joined forces to create the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), which will look to ensure fans can return safely to events following the shutdown of the industry due to COVID-19.

Image: Andrew Dupont