More than 50 independent, fringe and pub theatres have written to the government asking for financial support to see them through the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that their loss would be a "disaster for the cultural life of the nation".
They are warning that they stand to lose £14 million between March and September this year as a result of lockdown, and are appealing for government to recognise their contribution as the "engine room" of British theatre.
The statement to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport comes from the Society of Independent Theatres, which represents 54 venues in London and around the UK, ranging from 25 to 300 seats.
They are campaigning for government support to help them survive the pandemic and continue to develop and launch the careers of many artists.
The statement said: "In every community across our country, within countless small theatres, studios, halls, cellars, churches, pubs and even attics, theatrical events are continuously unfolding.
"It is in these venues that both emerging and established artists grow in a supportive, nurturing environment. This often happens without any form of central government or local authority support."
It follows a survey of the society’s members, which found the annual turnover of the 54 theatres to be more than £46 million, and their average spend with suppliers to be £26.4 million.
The survey also found that the venues collectively employ 36,200 people, issue 2.1 million tickets a year and host 4,340 productions with more than 21,000 performances.
Their estimated total deficit from lockdown, for the period from March to September, is £14 million, while they claim the estimated total value of the venues to their local economies is more than £233 million. This includes estimated spend in local restaurants and bars, as well as with taxi firms.
"As well as being a launch pad for West End, national touring and international productions, our venues have a very loyal and local audience base who enjoy the close-up atmosphere and interaction that only intimate spaces can provide. Small theatre venues are vital to the performing arts," the statement said.
It added: "The Society of Independent Theatres know the loss of such venues would be a disaster for the cultural life of the nation. We are therefore campaigning for financial support until the curtains can rise again."