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Pantomimes generate huge profits for theatres, but many have been cancelled because of coronavirus

Covid-19’s impact on theatres will last years and will be worsened by cancelled pantomimes, an arts manager has warned.

Pantomime rehearsals usually begin in August, but most venues have called them off.

South Wales cultural boss Richard Hughes said “consumer confidence” would dictate the pace of reopening next year.

The traditional panto makes significant profits for theatres, who use the money to subsidise other performances.

While venues including Mold’s Theatr Clwyd and Newport’s Riverfront have cancelled their pantomimes, others scheduled at Cardiff’s New Theatre and the Swansea Grand have yet to be officially called off.

But without relaxing social distancing measures, the traditional panto is unlikely to be able to go ahead.

‘A sad time for theatre’

The Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl was due to host its 50th panto season with a production of Aladdin at Christmas.

Richard Hughes, chief executive of the Awen Cultural Trust, which runs venues including the Grand Pavilion, decided to cancel all events in March.

Mr Hughes said it was a “sad time” for theatre, but added “we understand why this has got to happen”.

“I think it is important that there is always the perspective that this is all done for the right purpose, which is to combat this virus.

“Going forward it is the uncertainty that is difficult to deal with. There is still no light at the end of the tunnel as to when theatres might return, let alone return without social distancing, and that is the only way that we will really be economically viable going forward.”

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Owen Money was due to perform in Cinderella at many venues across south Wales this year

‘The magic of panto’

In the valleys north of Porthcawl, smaller scale pantomimes are laid on by broadcaster and entertainer Owen Money. He has been playing to sell-out crowds in venues like Blackwood Miners Institute and the Met in Abertillery for years with his company Rainbow Valley Productions.

This Christmas he was due to play the Baron in a production of Cinderella which would be staged 98 times at venues across south Wales, many of which have been cancelled.

He fears audiences may decide not to return next year if panto is called off completely.

“People get a bit set in their ways. They’d say, ‘We didn’t go to panto last year, we won’t bother this year’. I think it will take quite a few years to get back to where we were.

“I just hope they don’t lose the magic of the panto.”

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