Cameron Mackintosh has warned the return of his West End productions could be pushed back to the summer next year, if his box offices cannot start selling tickets by November.
It comes as the producer announces he has "permanently closed" The Phantom of the Opera in both the West End and on tour.
The theatre owner and producer was writing in the Evening Standard, where he warned that more “devastating losses” could be coming in the sector and urged the government for more clarity.
He confirmed he had been forced to downsize his organisation to ensure its survival.
“In early May I warned culture secretary Oliver Dowden and the government that this would be necessary unless we received financial help. Despite the recent announcement of a £1.57 billion rescue fund for the arts, this help still hasn’t materialised. When Covid hit, all eight of my theatres were packed with hit shows including some of my own,” he said, adding: “So, as by far the largest independent employer in the West End, it is not surprising that, as both theatre owner and producer, with no outside investors, I’ve taken a huge financial hit."
Mackintosh said that he and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber had also shut The Phantom of the Opera in London and on tour.
"On top of this, Andrew and I have had to sadly permanently shut down our London and UK touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera, but are determined to bring it back to London in the future," he said.
Previously, the impresario said the show had been closed for an "extended" period of time, to carry out maintenance work.
He said theatre had made him a “wealthy man” but he had already “ploughed back most of that wealth into my business, refurbishing my theatres, keeping my shows in tip-top shape, as well as supporting the livelihood of thousands of talented colleagues around the world”.
“With theatres closed indefinitely, I have had to let go all the actors, musicians, stage staff and freelancers that work for me. My loyal production and theatre management staff have been cut by 60%, reduced to a dedicated team who will look after these priceless historic buildings so they are ready to ramp back up into production the moment the government accepts that social distancing, which I have been totally opposed to from the outset, is no longer a requirement,” he said.
He added he was hopeful that by Easter next year most of his productions and some of his theatres could reopen, so that he could “start re-employing most of the staff” he has “had to let go”.
“But we would need to reopen our box offices in November. If the government is unable to support this, we’re likely to have to push back our reopening to next summer, causing further devastating losses to both the theatre industry and London’s economy, to which I have already contributed more than £1 billion in tax,” he said.
Mackintosh said producers were having to think “very carefully about when they think they have the best chance of succeeding”, warning that if shows “don’t work and pay their way the outlook will be very bleak indeed”.
He said: “Back in early May I expressed the fear that London and Broadway, the world’s greatest centres of theatre, would be the last places in the world to reopen. Sadly this prophecy is coming true: Broadway is likely to be closed until next summer. Consequently, for the first time ever there are very few new shows waiting in the wings to replace the shows that fail. The creative supply line has been ruptured for at least 18 months. London and New York can’t properly function until theatres reopen.”
He urged Boris Johnson to provide details of how the rescue package will be distributed and said theatre needed a “realistic period of time to plan wisely so that the curtain stays up once we reopen”.
“We are fed up of no business, we want to be back in show business,” he said.
His calls echo those of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who last week called on Johnson to provide a date for when theatres can reopen without social distancing.