Nuffield Southampton Theatres is to close permanently - making 86 staff redundant - after failing to secure a potential buyer to meet conditions set by stakeholders.
The theatre company went into administration in May, after falling into financial difficulty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Greg Palfrey and Steve Adshead, from Smith and Williamson in Southampton, were appointed joint administrators of NST in May.
They received 30-plus expressions of interest, before applications were whittled down to four potential buyers.
Palfrey, national head of restructuring and recovery at Smith and Williamson, 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 us with the administration, as NST can no longer be sold as a going concern.”
He added: “Our thoughts are very much with employees and their families, as well as freelance artists and theatremakers.”
He said the administrators had 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,” he said.
In a joint statement, Southampton City Council, Arts Council England and University of Southampton added: “Having carefully considered the applications we received against the parameters agreed in our shared criteria for a future operator for Studio 144, we concluded that none demonstrated the level of sector and local knowledge, business sustainability or strategic experience required to deliver a resilient and collaborative model for the communities of Southampton, and all contained a significant level of risk.”
They added: “Therefore, 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.”
When theatres were closed in March, NST had to postpone or cancel all future performances following lockdown. This created severe cash flow issues, with staff furloughed while its future was decided.
Palfrey said administrators had brought “serious buyers to the table in a challenging market” but added that the final decision rested with stakeholders.
“We did everything we could to keep NST alive,” he said.
The Southampton Nuffield Theatre Trust operated NST City in Southampton City Centre, and at NST Campus, which went dark in October to undergo a refurbishment. NST City includes a 450-seat main house theatre and 133-seat studio space and NST Campus has a 500-seat auditorium.