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8 September 2020, 12:20 | Updated: 8 September 2020, 13:14
Theatres desperately need financial help and a reopening date before the sector collapses completely, Lloyd Webber warns.
The composer and theatre impresario told MPs that it would be economically “impossible” to run theatres with social distancing.
In a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting, the Phantom of the Opera composer said he spent £100,000 on a pilot project, trialling measures at the London Palladium, in the hope that it could allow the theatre business to get up and running.
He had hoped to show that theatres can open at full capacity safely.
Lord Lloyd-Webber told the committee: “We simply have to get our arts sector back open and running. We are at the point of no return really.”
He went on: “There comes a point now when we really can’t go on much more. Theatre is an incredibly labour-intensive business. In many ways putting on a show now is almost a labour of love.
“Very few shows hit the jackpot in the way a Hamilton, Lion King or Phantom Of The Opera do.”
He added that theatre productions are “not like cinema, you can’t just open the building”.
Lord Lloyd-Webber also said he is confident the air inside his theatres is cleaner than it is outside. “I am absolutely confident that the air in the London Palladium and in all my theatres is purer than the air outside.”
His production of Cinderella might have to open “where people are being a little more helpful”, he said.
Rebecca Kane Burton, chief executive of LW Theatres (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatres), said: “We don't want to open theatres on a socially distanced basis. I have no intention of opening buildings at 30 percent capacity.”
She said recent months had been “devastating and catastrophic” for the sector.
“It’s a really bad, catastrophic time and we need to find a way out of it,” she said. “We need the time to plan. We can’t switch on theatre like a tap. Christmas is hanging on the balance as we speak.”
Several pantomimes and Christmas ballets have already been cancelled, including the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the Scottish Ballet’s Nutcracker tour.