Nimax Theatres have announced that they will re-open all six of their West End Theatres in sequence from 22 October 2020 with social distancing.
This news item was amended at 5.5pm with new information. For accuracy, we posted the original release this morning as it was sent to us. What you see below in BOLD are those bit that have just been amended and now change the nature of the story!
Nimax Theatres Chief Executive Nica Burns has announced that Nimax will open all six West End theatres in sequence from October 22nd 2020 with social distancing under COVID-19 Secure government guidelines.
Please note that Nimax has issued a subsequent statement and additional information has been added to our original post here in bold!
Nica 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.
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 by their producers over the next fortnight.”
The producer of Nimax’s biggest long-running show, the renowned 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.”
Nica Burns continues:
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.
Nica Burns, chief executive of Nimax, and her team have drawn up a 100-page guide for each of the six theatres to reopen with a socially distanced audience and adherence to the government’s Covid-19 secure guidelines.
The removal of many seats will give audiences more legroom. “Anyone who is tall is going to be happy,” Burns said. “When we put all the seats back at the end of the social distancing they may think: hang on a minute, oh no they’ve put the seats back.”
People can buy up to six tickets online, or on contactless devices at the theatre, and will have to fill out a health questionnaire before they arrive. If anyone feels unwell, Nimax will offer a refund or a change of date until 10am on the day of the performance. Temperature checks and masks will be compulsory, with hand sanitation points around each theatre.
Before the coronavirus, audiences would often crowd into corridors before getting to their seats. Burns said this will be a thing of the past. Staff will ensure that one-way systems are followed, marshall audiences to their seats and ensure social distancing for lavatory queues. Click-and-collect interval drinks will reduce queueing at the bar. There will be more exits to “eliminate bunching”.
The return will put pressure on other theatre groups to outline their own plans. While Andrew Lloyd Webber, the owner of seven West End theatres, has been praised for his efforts, including trial performances at the London Palladium, Cameron Mackintosh has been criticised for insisting that his theatres will stay closed until spring 2021.
To avoid job losses among the 355 workers at Nimax Theatres, Burns has not been taking a salary and senior managers have all agreed to a quarter pay cut. The theatres will operate at half-capacity but will still make a loss because the business costs £750,000 to operate each month.