Nimax Theatres, the owners of six London West End venues, will open its doors in October to host a programme of socially distanced shows.
The company, which was founded in 2005 by theatre producers Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer, owns and operates the Palace (pictured), Lyric, Apollo, Garrick, Vaudeville and Duchess theatres.
The six venues will host shows with reduced capacity audiences and will therefore run at a loss.
Comedian Adam Kay is set to kick off the series at the Apollo with his show This is Going to Hurt, from October 22 to November 8. The performance will open with a free night for NHS staff.
Details of other shows will be announced over the next fortnight, and the events will continue to run until social distancing ends and Nimax’s regular shows, which include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Magic Goes Wrong, can return.
The producer of Nimax’s biggest long running show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Sonia Friedman said: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will definitely return to the West End once social distancing has ended, the Palace Theatre can safely and viably play to full capacity 8 times per week, and we have a government backed insurance scheme.
“Whist we are desperate to be back as soon as possible, given the sheer scale, expense and complexity of our magical show we will need many months’ notice to reignite our huge production, build a box office advance and give everyone enough time to plan.”
The move comes six months after its venues were shuttered because of COVID-19. Nimax claims it will be able to host about 20,000 customers a week, despite reduced capacities.
The company’s chief executive, Nica Burns, said: “Although with reduced capacities it is not possible to make a profit, we will be earning a contribution to our costs.
“With the furlough support scheme ending on 31 October, this income will help us retain Nimax’s highly skilled, experienced workforce and give work to some of the talented tapestry of freelancers onstage and backstage.
“We will also be able to support some of the many teams and businesses which together give our audiences a night to remember. Our theatre community cannot wait to get back to work safely.
“It’s extremely heartening that theatreland is starting to gear up again. The people you see on stage are the very tip of the theatre iceberg – behind the scenes are hundreds of hard-working staff, from electricians to stage managers to lighting techs to box office to carpenters, huge numbers of whom fell between the gaps of government support.
“I’m very proud to return to the West End, following the extraordinary efforts of Nimax to do so in a way that’s safe for staff and theatregoers alike, and doubly proud to open the run with a free show for NHS staff, who can clearly do with a night out more than anyone.”
The announcement comes off the back of theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber last week stating that theatres are “at the point of no return” as the sector continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, Lloyd Webber, who was joined by the chief executive of LW Theatres, Rebecca Kane Burton, stressed the importance of naming a conditional reopening date for theatres.
The composer, who has written a number of hit musicals including Phantom of the Opera, told MPs that reopening theatres would not be economically viable with social distancing in place.