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Director Sam Mendes calls on Netflix, Amazon and the government to invest in the arts sector

Mendes has proposed a series of policies that could help fund theatres through the ongoing pandemic

Sam Mendes
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Few would disagree with the statement that theatres are in serious, serious jeopardy. Since all closed their doors in mid-March, staff have been furloughed, reserves have begun to dry up and some have warned of imminent and permanent closure.

Multi-award-winning director Sam Mendes (1917, Skyfall, The Lehman Trilogy), who ran the Donmar Warehouse for 12 years, has laid out a series of initiatives that could help alleviate the ongoing issues in a new and comprehensive article in the Financial Times.

Within the article, WhatsOnStage Award recipient Mendes presents "a recipe for a rescue package" for a "giant economic growth engine". He calls on streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon to help beleaguered venues during this time, stating that: "It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services — Netflix, Amazon Prime et al — should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die.

"Is there anyone among those people willing to use a fraction of their Covid-19 windfall to help those who have been mortally wounded?"

It's an important call to make – especially when Amazon-owned Audible has already made strides into the performing arts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Any money going into the arts from either private business or government, Mendes has said, would be a keen investment rather than simply an act of benevolence. "This is not a request for a handout, or for long-term life support. It is an offer for the government to become partners in a successful business.".

Mendes has also said that private individuals or the government should be able to invest in commercial productions and offset any losses against profits (at the moment this is not possible given tax legislation). An increase in the tax relief rate from 20 to 50 per cent for the next three years would also be vital.

The industry could thrive through the creation of a "Cultural Investment Participation Scheme", whereby the government could share in the profits of successful shows, once they have earned back costs, which could provide "a rich and continuous stream" of income.

He also calls for an extension to the ongoing furlough scheme and a package to help self-employed artists and freelancers unable to work, so that the theatre ecosystem still exists when theatres reopen.

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