Theatres could only be a quarter full even with a 1m social distancing requirement, the industry’s leaders say as they warn of an impending disaster.

The heads of all the leading performing arts organisations say today that the public needs to start lobbying the government and parliamentarians to provide “immediate and substantial” financial support to give them a hope of survival.

In a letter to The Times they write that the industry — which employs about 300,000 people, lures millions of visitors to Britain and has £1.3 billion annual ticket sales — is a national success story and vital to the country’s economic prosperity.

They warn, however, that the total loss of box office income is having “disastrous effects on companies, employees and freelancers”.

There have been warnings that 70 per cent of the UK’s 1,000-plus theatres will be bankrupt by the end of the year. Redundancy programmes have also been launched by two of the most commercially successful theatre impresarios, Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Nica Burns, whose companies own several West End theatres each.

In today’s letter the chairs of the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and 66 other institutions say that they are “battling for survival at a time when theatre matters more than ever”.

The letter continues: “Without immediate and substantial financial support theatres and performing arts companies will close and tens of thousands of artistic careers will be cut short.

“Theatre is a national success story, vital to Britain’s economic prosperity,” they write. “It attracted 34 million visitors last year, employs 300,000 people, promotes tourism and generates huge tax revenues, including VAT of £130 million in London alone."

Originally reported in The Times.

Read the full article here.