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Manchester’s new drive-in theatre can operate under all tiers

A new drive-in theatre is set to open in Manchester in 2021 to offer a COVID-safe way for culture lovers to attend events.

The DriveINSIDE theatre, which will be permitted to operate even in Tier 3 restrictions, had to postpone its original launch in autumn due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Theatre-goers will be greeted by a ‘theatrical drive jockey’ who will guide them to their dedicated, isolated area in the 800-capacity covered outdoor venue.

Ticket prices are per seat with a discount for three seats or more per vehicle. Visitors will be asked to leave their vehicles on the driver’s side to manage social distancing from other guests.

A four-week run of shows will begin in March, with creators Beyond Theatre hosting more than 30 productions to live audiences.

National Theatre

London’s National Theatre has launched a new pay-for-plays streaming service following a run of plays it streamed on Thursday nights over the summer.

The new service will cost £9.98 (€11/$13) a month (£99.98 a year) or £5.99-£7.99 for a single play. The former service showed 16 productions resulting in 15 million views in 173 countries.

Rufus Norris, the director of the National Theatre, said, according to the Guardian: “We had extraordinary figures which showed there was an appetite for this work.

“It has been an extraordinarily difficult time for this theatre and for all theatres and we’ve had to make some very painful financial decisions and if there is a way of serving an audience but also bringing some income into the theatre, that is a sensible thing to do.

“The primary objective, even within that, is that a lot of the money that we bring in is immediately fed back to the artists who made the work and our partner theatres. As we know the freelance artists, on who this industry entirely depends, have been facing huge difficulties at this time so any income we can get to them is going to be crucial.”

The streaming service will offer productions from National Theatre Live that were broadcast to cinemas, as well as offering a selection of plays from the NT’s archive being released online for the first time.

Les Misérables

Cameron Mackintosh, the owner of two UK theatre firms and producer of West End shows including Hamilton, has laid out the damaging effects the new tier system has had on commercial theatre.

The new three-tier system, which goes into place today (Wednesday), has impacted the theatre impresario’s upcoming Les Misérables staged concert, which sold 757 socially distanced tickets.

However, as London has been placed in tier 2, thousands are now facing disappointment as the new rules require a capped audience capacity of 1,000 or 50 per cent, whichever is lower. That means around 150-200 patrons per booked performance are now losing out, with fewer than 600 allowed per show at the 1,074-capacity Sondheim Theatre.

In an email to ticket-holders that will be missing out, Mackintosh said: “The financial implications of the Government’s new directive have put a massive strain on this production which was, in any event, designed to simply break even under current circumstances. It is now almost certain to make a substantial loss.

“It is worth pointing out that despite some misleading press stories, the entire commercial sector of the British theatre has received less than 1% thus far of the much vaunted £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. None of the leading producers, including Cameron Mackintosh Ltd, have been given any help to get through this unprecedented disaster.

“Yet the commercial sector is responsible for generating over 80% of all revenues across the theatre industry as well as contributing huge sums to the general economy and Exchequer.”

Image: Beyond Theatre