Nuffield Southampton Theatres Trust (NST), which runs two venues in the city, will close permanently it has been announced.
Administrators Greg Palfrey and Steve Adshead, who have been handling the company since it went into administration earlier this year, said that despite 30-plus expressions of interest with 19 non-disclosure agreements signed, potential buyers were unable to meet conditions set by stakeholders. 86 staff members will be made redudant.
Palfrey said: "This is a sad day for the theatre industry in the UK, bringing the final curtain down on nearly 60 years of history of NST as a venerable performing arts institution in Southampton.
"Regrettably, we have no choice but to make all 86 staff redundant, bar a handful retained in the short term to help with us with the administration, as NST can no longer be sold as a going concern. Our thoughts are very much with employees and their families, as well as freelance artists and theatre makers. As administrators we worked with NST's key stakeholders – Southampton City Council, Arts Council England and University of Southampton – to find the best possible outcome.
"The four shortlisted applications were serious about buying NST but were unable to satisfy the stakeholders' criteria for a future operator of Studio 144, which was home to NST City at Southampton's Cultural Quarter."
Southampton City Council, Arts Council England and University of Southampton said: "We have unfortunately not been able to progress discussions with any of the parties. We continue to work together as stakeholders on an alternative, sustainable resolution that builds on the city's cultural ambitions and benefits its communities."
The trust was placed into administration earlier in the year while the lockdown was in full force. The NST 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 NSt Campus space is temporarily closing as part of an extensive university refurbishment programme.
Palfrey added: "We brought serious buyers to the table in a challenging market; the final decision rested with stakeholders. We did everything we could to keep NST alive."
Artistic director Sam Hodges added a glimmer of hope in a comment online, saying that while the Trust may close, the venues themselves may be able to still one day hold performances: "The hard work that was just starting to grow shoots in our new theatre has been brutally cut short.
"However it's worth noting this. Whilst no buyer has been approved through the formal administration process, this doesn't necessarily spell the end of the Nuffield Theatre as a cultural entity in the heart of the city. Conversations are ongoing between stakeholders and interested parties and there is hope yet".
The Government has still not announced any form of sector-specific support for the arts industry, despite it being unlikely that venues will be able to reopen for many months.