As theaters remain shuttered in both the United Kingdom and the U.S., Netflix announced late Sunday that they have made a £500,000 donation to initiate the Theatre Artists Fund, a new initiative to directly help British artists affected by the ongoing pandemic.
- The fund, established by director Sam Mendes, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, will donate £1,000 grants directly to freelance and unemployed theater workers who have been affected by the pandemic and are ineligible for government aid.
- The fund is “specifically designed for theatre workers who find themselves at breaking point, for those unable to put food on the table or to pay bills, or for those considering leaving the profession altogether,” Mendes said in a statement.
- The Netflix donation comes soon after the UK government announced a £1.5 billion rescue package for the arts sector, including theaters, museums, cinemas, music venues, and cultural heritage sites.
- Theater has been shut down in the UK since March 16 and has been one of the industries most affected by the pandemic, with UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre finding that 70% of theaters could run out of funding by the end of 2020.
- In the U.S., it was announced last week that Broadway will remain closed until 2021, prompting a renewed outcry from theatrical unions and professionals for government aid to help workers affected by the ongoing closure.
“Playwrights and directors, theatre artists and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with,” Anne Mensah, vice president of original series at Netflix, said in a statement, saying Netflix will “continue to nurture the pipeline of emerging creative talent” so “that the industry can bloom once again.”
The continued closure of theater in the UK has inspired a widespread lobbying effort among professionals warning of the dire effect that the pandemic could have on the UK theater industry, which the Guardian reports brought in £1.3 billion in box office revenue in 2018. In an open letter written in June to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leading government officials, a coalition of top UK cultural figures warned that British theater may be “on the brink of ruin” without government support. “The pandemic has brought theatre to its knees,” the letter notes. “Without government investment, theatres will be forced to close and may never return. The threat of British theatre being destroyed by accident is as real as it is bleak. It would not only be a spiritual tragedy but an economic one.”