Phantom of the Opera has been postponed in yet another blow to the arts and entertainment industry
The arts, entertainment and live music sectors are calling for urgent action to prevent the industry from collapsing as another major stage production announced it was postponed due to the Sydney lockdown.
- Phantom of the Opera has been forced to postpone shows in Sydney and Melbourne at least until 2022 due to COVID
- The arts and entertainment sector has been left in limbo due to ongoing lockdowns across the country
- Many industry players say more government support is needed
The Phantom of the Opera had already sold its entire season and was due to open in September at the Sydney Opera House before a tour of Melbourne.
But this week Opera Australia announced it would not go ahead, saying the decision was made “in response to uncertainty created by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions imposed by New Zealand governments. -South Wales and the Victorian era “.
“The past 18 months have been shocking,” said Lyndon Terracini, artistic director of Opera Australia.
“It’s a blow. We had sold over 100,000 tickets.
The arts and entertainment sector was among the first to close in March last year and will be one of the last to return when Australia finally reopens – and the industry has urged the federal government to do so. more to save jobs and stop productions from flowing.
“These are devastating times for the industry,” said Michael Cassel, producer of musical hits Hamilton the Musical and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
He warned that the prolonged lockdowns are forcing him to make tough decisions about the viability of these productions.
“Given that this is a business proposition, of course, there will come a time when we say it’s just not sustainable,” he said.
“With the uncertainty of how long we are in there and how long we are closed, we cannot keep these productions supported and put on ice… and The Phantom of the Opera today is unfortunately an example. of what might be on us here in Australia. “
Mr Cassel said he had no choice but to remove all the cast and crew amid the current lockdown.
“Our Harry Potter and Hamilton productions in particular, these cast members, our team, the entire management team, the creative staff, the musicians who work on the show, they’ve all been terminated under their contracts.” , did he declare.
“We brought the annual leave forward to make sure there is money in people’s bank accounts.”
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened in Melbourne in 2019 and has since withstood five lockdowns and strict 50% seating capacities, but the continued viability of productions like Harry Potter and Hamilton with continued lockdowns has been met with concern. worries.
Support for the sector
Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said at 7:30 a.m. the government has supported many large and small productions and will continue to provide grants and loans to them – including COVID disaster relief payments which are currently available.
He said the government has provided “millions of dollars” in funding to Hamilton and Opera Australia.
At the height of the pandemic last year, some artists found themselves ineligible for Government JobKeeper payments for as much work as freelancers.
Then, in June 2020, the government committed $ 250 million to the sector through a creative economy jobs program.
Of this amount, $ 90 million was offered in the form of concessional loans, which will eventually have to be repaid.
In March of this year, an additional $ 125 million was made available through the same program.
State governments have also offered separate funding for artists.
“We have blockages right now and it’s very difficult because it means venues are closed, performances canceled, artists losing their concerts,” Fletcher said at 7:30 a.m.
“This is why it is important that we have the payment of $ 600 for COVID disaster relief available through Services Australia.”
A report released this month by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that Australia’s music industry as a whole fell 39% last year, which equates to a loss of around $ 700 million.
Live music is one of the hardest hit artistic sectors, and musicians depend on concerts and tours for a large part of their income.
Sydney-based musician Ben Lee is preparing to release a locked out single, but the star has had to suspend the usual touring and concert schedule due to the outbreak and continuing uncertainty.
“The risk that’s just financially or, you know, the timing of knowing that we’re going to end up canceling things out, it just becomes this giant burden,” he said at 7:30 am.
On top of that, major insurers are unwilling to support big shows due to the risk of cancellation due to outbreaks and border closures.
“Not all commercial insurers support live shows anymore, and that’s a challenge,” Mr. Cassel said.
Many performers, however, believe that preferential treatment is given to major sporting events while concerts are forced to play at reduced capacity and claim that there are double standards.
“The music industry, especially at the levels that I engage with, we’re mostly talking about 500 people or 1,000 people in a space together, even an outdoor space,” Lee said at 7:30 a.m. .
“It’s clearly not the same level of risk as getting 30,000 people together for a State of Origin game.
“You have to have consistency”
The industry is asking for more government support through grants and funding, as well as certainty over border closures and the restrictions that will be in place after the live shows blockades.
“We need to get some consistency and protocols around national tours and border closures,” said Annabelle Herd, CEO of industry group ARIA.
The arts and entertainment industry has also called for a government-sponsored insurance plan or fund for canceled shows to give organizers the certainty that is currently lacking to book shows.
However, Mr. Fletcher said at 7:30 a.m. that would not be something the federal government would pass.
“Because the decisions that trigger the shutdown of the show are decisions made by state governments, this is the level of government best suited to provide a specific interest insurance-type fund,” he said. declared.
“The state government is the best level of government to put this type of insurance scheme in place, while the Commonwealth has come up with things like the RISE (Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand) fund.”
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