Nimax Theatres to open all six West End theatres in sequence from October 22nd 2020 with social distancing under COVID-19 Secure government guidelines.
Nimax Chief Executive Nica Burns said: “On the six-month anniversary of the last performance in the West End I am delighted to announce that we will be switching on all our lights and re-opening with a special season of fantastic entertainment. First up from 22 October to 8 November at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue is This is Going to Hurt written and performed by ex-NHS doctor Adam Kay. His first performance on Thursday 22 October is a free performance for NHS staff only. Tickets are on sale now at www.nimaxtheatres.com as is registration for NHS staff to enter the ballot for their free performance.
Our programme of special shows will reopen each of our six theatres prior to the return of our brilliant long-running shows. Details of this special season of shows will be announced over the next fortnight.
Our biggest show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will definitely return once social distancing has ended and the Palace Theatre can play to full capacity. Also returning are Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo theatre), Magic Goes Wrong (Vaudeville theatre) and The Play That Goes Wrong (Duchess Theatre).
For our special season, our theatres will open with social distancing plus robust risk mitigation to comply with current government COVID-19 Secure guidelines. 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 31st 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.
As culture secretary Oliver Dowden wrote this week, ‘…theatre is a lynchpin of London’s West End and its absence is painfully reflected in its deserted streets.’ Even with reduced capacities at our theatres, we can entertain over 20,000 customers a week who we hope will re-energise the beating heart of our city, particularly the cafes, bars and restaurants that are an essential part of the fabric of the West End. Ticket sales for those venues that have managed to open so far, both outdoor and indoor, have been strong and we cannot wait to welcome audiences back safely.”
Adam Kay says: “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.”
Why is Nimax opening at a loss?
Like all businesses, we looked at our business strategy post-October 31st when the furlough scheme ends. As part of this, we looked at the financial and human cost of large-scale redundancies. We preferred to put the potential redundancy monies towards employment rather than unemployment. When we then fully open, we will have our fantastic workforce in place saving the cost of recruiting again. With this plan, we will not be making a profit but we will be earning a contribution to our costs post-furlough which will enable us to achieve 4 key aims:-
Jobs: We will be able to save the jobs of Nimax’s experienced, highly skilled and valued full-time theatre staff teams as well as central management staff teams. We will also be hiring front of house and performance staff. Total jobs 355 plus.
In addition, a significant number of freelancers will benefit and freelance jobs will be created or reactivated: actors, musicians, creative teams, stage management, wardrobe plus affiliated sector businesses such as marketing, press and technical hire companies.
Everyone in the theatre community is desperate to get back to work. We would like to thank our fantastic staff team and all our freelancers who were working in Nimax Theatres when the theatres closed. We would also like to thank the three theatre unions BECTU, Equity and the MU who are working collaboratively across our industry to help us reopen.
- Assist the stimulation of London economy: Even at a reduced capacity, we will be attracting a significant number of customers into the West End stimulating the local economy in our area, particularly cafes, bars and restaurants.
- Fulfilling audience demand: We will be helping to fulfil a pent up demand of audiences who wish to return to theatres as demonstrated by the latest SOLT UK Theatre audience survey from Morris Hargreaves and McIntyre, where 72% of audiences surveyed said they were looking forward to the thrill of seeing something live. We can’t wait to welcome them to experience a fantastic night out.
- Consumer confidence: We want to help build up consumer confidence with a return to central London and indoor entertainment spaces. We are proud to display the new industry See it Safely mark to show that our venues are compliant with the latest government guidelines.
Why can Nimax Theatres open when other theatres cannot?
The economics of our business model: we are the smallest of the 4 large West End theatre owning companies. The smaller the theatre and the shows it presents, the lower the costs. Hamilton, The Lion King, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella are very expensive to run (both show and theatre) on a weekly basis. Conversely, costs for The Play That Goes Wrong in our smallest theatre, the 500 seat Duchess, are substantially lower.
Looking forward, what are the key issues for theatres to open fully?
Government-backed insurance scheme: it is vital for the theatre industry to have a government-backed insurance scheme for business interruption cancellation which includes COVID risk. The insurance market is currently refusing to cover for this. The government needs to help as they have helped the Cinema and TV industry with an already agreed government-backed insurance scheme.
Agreement of stage 5 government COVID-19 Secure guidance: This will allow theatres to open fully but safely without social distancing. The entire industry will be able to reopen at this point. As reigniting the regions and the big shows takes a minimum three to six months this needs to move swiftly.