Shakespeare’s Globe Could Close Permanently Due to Coronavirus, U.K. Legislators Warn

Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe theater is facing the risk of insolvency and closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.K. legislators have warned the government.

The Globe is just one of a number of U.K. cultural institutions in jeopardy as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, according to a committee representing the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The theater, located on the banks of the river Thames in London, temporarily closed its doors on March 18, when the country’s theaters and cinemas began closing their doors due to the spreading pandemic.

In written evidence to the DCMS committee, the theater said the current closure has had a devastating impact on its finances and presents the greatest threat to its future since opening in 1997.

Neil Constable, CEO of the Globe, tells Variety: “We are proudly a part of the U.K.’s national identity and landscape, and our survival as an organization largely depends on help from the government to get us through this lockdown period. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has kept us running, but as we receive no regular public funding, like other independent organizations, including the Old Vic, Royal Academy, Royal Albert Hall, we are in a very precarious position financially.”

Constable says the Globe’s free filmed productions on its YouTube channel have been watched by 1.9 million people since they were made available online, demonstrating the “huge appetite” for culture at a time of national crisis. However, he warns the sector “cannot replace income in this way.”

“Together, we are determined to come back after this crisis. However, the arts must be protected and we need urgent financial support to survive in any recognizable form.”

Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the committee, said in a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that it would be a “tragedy” if the London theater were to close.

“Shakespeare’s Globe is a world-renowned institution and not only part of our national identity, but a leading example of the major contribution the arts make to our economy,” said Knight. “For this national treasure to succumb to COVID-19 would be a tragedy.”

He called on the government to “step up now and find more funding to shore up our cultural landscape and safeguard our rich past while giving hope to those whose livelihoods depend upon it.”

Knight added that other theaters and venues are facing a “struggle for survival and an uncertain future” and that lifting the lockdown will not “automatically” mean things return to normal for the creative industries.

The Committee also reported that The Minack Theatre, an open-air venue on the Cornish coast, had provided written evidence that said lockdown coincided with its lowest point in the financial year, hitting an expected rise in visitor numbers for the new season.

Beyond lockdown, the Committee reported that the Theatre Royal Plymouth had noted that social distancing with a limit on seating capacity would prove not to be financially viable for larger scale venues relying on higher attendance figures to cover costs.

Arts organizations are entitled to government support such as the furlough scheme, which was last week extended for another four months, and loans.