Nuffield Southampton Theatres has been placed into administration, it was announced today.
Greg Palfrey of Smith and Williamson, who has been made joint administrator of the venue, said today: "This is a sad day not only for Southampton, of which NST has been a venerable part of the city's cultural fabric for more than half a century, but for the country's theatreland in general. Our thoughts are with NST's 80 staff, the vast majority of whom are furloughed and are understandably anxious about their jobs and NST's future. We will do our best to sell the business and its assets, albeit in testing commercial conditions which have no parallel in modern British history.
"NST, in line with other performance venues, suddenly found itself with unprecedented pressure on cash flow in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak – a flood of refund requests and little in the way of advanced bookings. The government's request on 17 March for the public not to attend theatres, to help prevent transmission, clearly impacted on their ability to trade. This bleak picture is reflected elsewhere – the sector reportedly experienced a 92 per cent drop in advanced ticket sales as pandemic measures kicked in and the fact that there are no known reopening dates.
"However, NST is a well-respected theatre company, with a range of assets, that could survive and thrive. A buyer would need to be patient because no-one yet knows when theatres will reopen or how social distancing measures would impact upon seating and stage and therefore revenues. However, for the right person or company, this presents a rare opportunity to acquire one of the leading and long-established theatre brands in southern England."
NST, which has two venues at NST City and NST Campus is actively seeking buyers.
The City site houses a 450-seat main house theatre, a 133-seat studio, screening facilities, rehearsal and workshop spaces and a bar and restaurant. The Campus space is temporarily closing as part of an extensive university refurbishment programme.