The man behind some of Australia's biggest shows believes theatres could remain closed for more than a year.
Producer John Frost, who has been in the business for almost four decades, says even when the green light is given for theatres to reopen, it will be financially unviable for the curtain to go up on the big musicals.
Because social distancing rules are likely to remain, the tickets sales needed to put on the multi-million dollar productions such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, probably won't be possible, he said.
"I can't see us getting back up until at least July next year," he told 9News.com.au.
"Even if the government turn around today and say 'okay we're going to open The Lyric and The Capital in Sydney and Her Majesty's in Melbourne', what they're going to put in place will be the social distancing.
"If the theatre seats 2,000 and my budgeting says I need 1,250 seats to break even, but by the time I do the measuring I'm only allowed to sell 500, 600 seats, it's no good to me."
Mr Frost had some of the most popular musicals on at Aussie theatres when the lockdown was ordered in March.
They included the musical version of classic children's tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was about to open in Brisbane after Sydney and Melbourne; Shrek, based on the family favourite movie and starring Todd McKenney, which was packing in crowds in Melbourne, and new Dolly Parton show, 9 to 5 which was about to open in Sydney.
BIG MONEY AT STAKE
Mr Frost recalls landing in Sydney on Friday, March 13 after opening cult hit, The Book of Mormon in Auckland, New Zealand.
Australia's response to the pandemic ramped up, and bans on gatherings started being rolled out.
"By Sunday we had closed most of the shows. It was a bit of a culture shock. We never thought it would get to that," he said.
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"Each of those shows are worth millions and millions of dollars, we are talking tens and tens of millions."
As well as having their income cut off, millions had to be refunded by the shows in ticket money, and of course, thousands of cast and crew were suddenly jobless.
Most are not eligible for any kind of help, such as the government's Job Keeper payments.
And while Mr Frost said the recessions of the 80s and 90s hit theatre, he has never seen a total shutdown.
Last year, musicals generated $400m in revenue in Australia, and are second in popularity only to music concerts, according to Live Performance Australia.
Almost four million Aussies saw a theatre show last year.
And while Mr Frost said smaller theatres and production companies may not make it – industry bosses are calling for more government help - he's confident live theatre will return eventually.
"It's been around since the Greeks, so it'll survive and it'll come back stronger, but it's going to be a tough trek," he said.
CINEMAS PLAN REOPENINGS
So far only South Australia has mentioned reopening theatres, mooting a possible plan for next month, alongside cinemas.
It is part of it's the states phase of easing of lockdowns, with details revealed this weekend.
However, nationwide, cinemas are working on a possible July reopening - but with new seating arrangements.
Cinemas are part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's second phase of re-openings. It is now up to state and territory premiers when these happen.
Australia's National Association of Cinema Operators, said last week it is planning for July.
However, with Hollywood productions also on hold due to the pandemic, that also depends on movies being available to show.
A spokesperson for Hoyts Australia, which has 50 cinemas, said it is working on how a reopening will work.https://www.instagram.com/p/B-DlDvsquIK/?utm_source=ig_embed&
"We are advanced in preparations to ensure our guests and team members are in the safest possible environment," the company told 9News.com.au in a statement.
"These measures will include additional staff training, temperature checks for staff, additional cleaning protocols, in cinema seat separation - chequerboard style - encouragement for online bookings and cashless payments, and social distancing."
Australia's hundreds of cinemas including big chains and independent screens were shut down in March.
Hollywood director Christopher Nolan has said he wants his new movie, Tenet, to reopen cinemas globally in July.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-when-will-theatres-cinemas-reopen-australia-nsw-victoria-south-australia/7e3333d2-92d6-4083-a102-c72784b971e1