Nuffield Southampton Theatres has gone into administration after falling into financial difficulty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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.
Along with other venues across the UK, NST postponed or cancelled all of its performances in March due to the coronavirus crisis.
Greg Palfrey and Steve Adshead, from the South Coast office of Smith and Williamson, have been appointed joint administrators.
They are seeking buyers for the theatre brand and inviting expressions of interest from potential purchasers.
Palfrey, who is national head of restructuring and recovery at Smith and Williamson, said: “This is a sad day not only for Southampton, of which NST has been a venerable part of the city’s cultural fabric for more than half a century, but for the country’s theatreland in general.
“Our thoughts are with NST’s 80 staff, the vast majority of whom are furloughed and are understandably anxious about their jobs and NST’s future.
“We will do our best to sell the business and its assets, albeit in testing commercial conditions which have no parallel in modern British history."
Palfrey said that NST found itself with "unprecedented pressure on cash flow" in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak with a "flood of refund requests and little in the way of advanced bookings".
He added: "This bleak picture is reflected elsewhere – the sector reportedly experienced a 92% drop in advanced ticket sales as pandemic measures kicked in and the fact that there are no known reopening dates.
“However, NST is a well-respected theatre company, with a range of assets, that could survive and thrive.
“A buyer would need to be patient because no-one yet knows when theatres will reopen or how social distancing measures would impact upon seating and stage and therefore revenues. However, for the right person or company, this presents a rare opportunity to acquire one of the leading and long-established theatre brands in southern England."
NST’s board placed the theatre into administration following an independent review into the theatre’s financial situation.
Details on the Charity Commission’s website also show that the Southampton Nuffield Theatre Trust made a loss of £500,000 in the financial year ending March 31, 2019.
Palfry added: "The board stated that it regretted that this action had to be taken and is aware of the impact of this on independent artists and partner companies across the sector at this difficult time; it has kept Arts Council England informed.
"The board remain hopeful that the City venue will be able to reopen to artists and the community alike in the future."