London’s West End will remain closed for at least the next two months.
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) on Tuesday confirmed that theater closures have been extended from May 31 to June 28. The organization, which represents venues across London’s theater district, underlined that “this does not mean theaters will reopen on June 29.”
“If further cancellations are necessary, they will continue to be announced on a rolling basis. Different theaters and productions are likely to reopen at different times,” said SOLT, which also advised ticketholders to await correspondence from venues in order to arrange refunds, credit notes or exchanges.
The extension comes weeks after a deal was struck between SOLT and U.K. actors union Equity, ensuring that West End performers who are currently under contract will be able to continue on those pre-existing terms, and can restart rehearsals or performances with revised dates, once the shutdown ends.
Talks are ongoing between industry groups and the government, which is expected to ease lockdown measures and announce a tentative schedule for industry reopenings in the coming week. However, it will take time for the theater world to get back on its feet. Unlike film and TV, which can slowly begin again in smaller operations, theater thrives with live audiences, which will take time to nurture post-COVID-19.
The extended closure comes just days after leading theater producer Cameron Mackintosh said major musicals may not be able to be staged until “early next year.”
Interviewed by the BBC, Mackintosh — whose Delfont Mackintosh theater chain staged “Dear Evan Hansen,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Phantom of the Opera” in the West End — said it looked as if the West End and Broadway “are going to be the last to go back” compared to many other countries.
“All major producers are all talking to each other on both sides of the Atlantic. The truth is, until social distancing doesn’t exist anymore, we can’t even plan to reopen,” said Mackintosh. “From the moment social distancing has gone, it will take us four to five months to actually get the actors back together, to redo the mothballed theaters — it is a huge, huge thing. Each big musical has about 200 people working on it, in that one building.”