Financial Lifeline for Theaters and Cinemas as Sydney Lockdown Is Extended

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The New South Wales state government is stepping in with A$75 million of emergency aid to the performing arts and music sectors as the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus is causing an extension of Sydney’s latest lockdown.

The sold out “Hamilton” at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, which opened on March 27, has shuttered and is grappling with a A$10 million loss. It could now receive some of the relief money.

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“That (March) opening night feels like another world compared to what we are living now,” “Hamilton” producer Michael Cassel told Variety. Cassel has also shuttered his Melbourne production of “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child” as that city has just announced a five-day snap lockdown as well.

Hamilton has a limited run in Sydney and will move to Melbourne in March. But promoters have refunded around 80,000 tickets.

“It’s hard to plan and manage the commercial aspect of these shows when you don’t know how long you’re closed for,” said Cassel.

Sydney’s star attraction, the Vivid Sydney festival which brings the city’s iconic sights alive in a wash of intricate light displays, attracted 2.4 million visitors in 2019 before cancelation in 2020. It has now again been delayed, from early August to mid-September.

Sydney has closed its cinemas, just Hollywood product has started to be released again.

“The U.S. is opening up and starting to get record box office takings and we are going in the opposite direction,” said Alex Moir, head of marketing for Palace Cinemas, Australia’s largest independent chain. Some 12 of its 17 cinemas nationwide, including Sydney and Melbourne, are now closed. “We’ve been waiting so long for this product. It’s really bad timing.”

For closed cinemas grappling with diminishing box office the federal government is giving 158 independent cinemas across Australia a share in $A8.7 million to keep their doors open, under the first batch of its A$20 million Supporting Cinemas’ Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighborhoods (SCREEN) Fund.

“It’s a significant amount of funding that we are incredibly grateful for,” said Moir.

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