Sam Mendes has a plan to save the UK’s theaters. The film and stage director, who won a Tony for his helming of The Ferryman in 2019, has outlined his vision for a rescue package to prop up the country’s venues that have been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown.
Writing in the Financial Times, Mendes called the current situation the “biggest challenge to Britain’s cultural life since the outbreak of the Second World War”.
“The country’s theatres and actors, musicians and music venues, dancers and dance spaces, concert halls and opera houses are all under threat. The theatre needs a plan, and I believe we have one,” he continued.
Mendes states the “continuance of social distancing makes the prospect of reopening simply impossible” for theaters, in contrast with films in cinemas which he believes could still have “a relatively successful socially distanced commercial run”.
He suggests that as theaters cannot re-open in the short term, a package must be created to sustain the workforce of freelancers and self-employed artists. In the long-term, he outlines a ‘Cultural Investment Participation Scheme’, which includes a three-year increase in tax relief for the sector, and an opportunity for the government to become an ‘angel’ investor in theatrical productions, with the potential for returns.
“This is not a request for a handout, or for long-term life support. It is an offer for the government to become partners in a successful business,” he adds.
The 1917 director also suggests that some companies that may have increased profits during the coronavirus could financially assist with saving theaters. He directly calls on Netflix and Amazon for help: “It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime et al – should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die. Is there anyone among those people willing to use a fraction of their COVID-19 windfall to help those who have been mortally wounded?”
“If so, I hope you’re reading this, and that you are able to think of the arts landscape as more than just a ‘content provider’, but instead as an ecosystem that supports us all,” he concludes.