Sam Mendes Calls for Government Investments, Support From Streaming Services to Sustain U.K. Theatres | Playbill

Industry News Sam Mendes Calls for Government Investments, Support From Streaming Services to Sustain U.K. Theatres The Tony- and Oscar-winning director proposed financial measures to support live performance.
Sam Mendes © 2018 Dewynters

In a plea to ensure the livelihood of theatres and performing arts venues in a post-lockdown environment, Sam Mendes laid out steps the U.K. government and entertainment industries giants could take to ensure the art form’s future.

“The theatre needs a plan, and I believe we have one,” the Tony- and Oscar-winning writer-director (The Ferryman, 1917) wrote in his proposal, published by the Financial Times.

After insisting the continuation of the job retention scheme and calling for a package to support freelancers and self-employed artists, Mendes outlined long-term changes that position theatre as a financial investment, including an increase in tax relief from 20 percent to 50 for three years, similar aid for running and remounting costs, and echoing the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre’s Cultural Investment Participation Scheme, which would treat the government as an angel investor and provide it with recoupment benefits for financially successful productions.

“This is not a request for a handout, or for long-term life support,” he maintained. “It is an offer for the government to become partners in a successful business.”

Mendes also noted that streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have garnered usage increases due to quarantine, and that many of the talent involved in this programming comes from the theatre world. “Is there anyone among those people [in the streaming sector] 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.”

Currently, all West End productions are suspended through at least August 2, with some announcing further closures on their own. Many upcoming productions have pushed their production schedules to fall 2020 or beyond.

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