This week saw the publication of OffWestEnd's second report, £9m to save 100 theatres.
The one hundred theatres of the title is the cohort of London-based alternative and fringe venues expected to survive the present lockdown period, and the £9 million the likely reduction in income they will endure over six months of running to limited capacity audiences incentivised to attend by tickets offered at discounted rates.
£9,000,000—it seems a staggeringly large sum and it is by necessity based on averages, but the workings out are laid out clearly and the arguments openly stated.
If it all sounds too much, it is worth bearing in mind two things. The first is that the claims are not exaggerated, for instance taking an average ticket price of £16 with five performances a week and 60% of capacity sold over a 47-week operational year.
The second characteristic to consider is that the figures look at losses against what would have been anticipated income, without accommodating losses from secondary services such as drinks sales or the additional costs to be faced by each venue such as for special cleaning and sanitising, extra staff salaries (for marshalling movement and cleaning) and new cash-free and paperless ticketing systems.
The figures may not be perfect but set against those presented by the Society of Independent Theatres, which represents 54 venues with under 300 seats, they are not unreasonable.
And it is not that these small, vital venues need the proposed £9 million as an isolated lifeline but because the loss of £9 million in the first six months post-lockdown follows a period where they have cumulatively lost income in the region of £13 million from mid-March to mid-September. The loss in the SIT survey is put at £14 million.
I am the last person to advocate comparing apples with pears, but what the reports have in common is that they represent the scenario for small, independent theatres that continuously punch above their weight artistically, take creative risks and fuel the rest of the theatre industry.
It is easy to overlook the importance of individual microcosms of creativity but collectively they employ many thousands of people annually, contribute many millions to the economy in general and the Treasury in particular.
Whilst they facilitate the work of the bigger commercial theatres by nurturing talent on stage and across all jobs and functions, the country's small independent and fringe theatres offer access to arts where there is little or no local provision.
Yes, the cost of saving them is significant, but the cost of losing them is monumental.