Theatres warn of financial pressure as capacity limits remain until July 19
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Suffolk theatres have been "left in limbo" after the delay of Covid 'Freedom Day' by four weeks meant they will continue to be operating at a reduced capacity.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday the planned lifting of all pandemic restrictions on June 21 would be put back to July 19 amid concerns of the spread of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
Indoor theatres were allowed to open on May 17 as part of the third step on the roadmap out of restrictions, but are only allowed up to 50% of capacity or 1,000 guests.
Wayne Burns, manager of Leiston Film Theatre, said the venue was anticipating the date to be pushed back and did not oversell tickets.
He said: "Prudently, we had kept all our seating plans at the limited number just in case. Some of these shows have been moved five times now.
"We were working towards that date, as were our customers. The general public are feeling ready and confident.
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"Moving shows is not the difficult bit, but it will be a logistical nightmare telling all our customers. It's a huge disappointment.
"We've all put these procedures in place and customers are telling us they feel safe. We're left in limbo."
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Shoel Stadlen, head of communications at Britten Pears Arts, which manages Snape Maltings, warned most theatre events rely on near-100% ticket sales to break even.
He said: "We will make the best of it. Our challenge is to work out how we run our Summer at Snape series of daily concerts in August, where we would normally have audiences of up to 800.
"As it’s not yet clear whether this will be possible, we may have to put less than half that on sale initially and hope to add more following the next government announcement.
"Theatres and concert halls can't keep running at 50% capacity."
Alyson Tipping, engagement manager at Ipswich's Eastern Angles theatre, said it was "crucial" there are no further extensions of Covid measures for the industry.
She added: "We'd never pinned our hopes on June 21. We weren't expecting it to be the moment where things go back to normal.
"Operating at 50% capacity is having a huge impact. It doesn't make putting shows on financially viable."