Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Director Sam Mendes calls on Netflix and Amazon to support struggling performing arts sector

The '1917' filmmaker has called the coronavirus pandemic the greatest threat to theatre since the Second World War

British director Sam Mendes is calling on streaming giants to support the performing arts sector. AFP
British director Sam Mendes is calling on streaming giants to support the performing arts sector. AFP

Director Sam Mendes is urging streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime to use a “fraction of their Covid-19 windfall” to support performing arts.

Mendes, who has directed blockbusters including 1917 and Skyfall, has outlined his vision for how the UK’s struggling theatres can be saved following the coronavirus crisis, which has left many of the country’s performing arts institutions on the brink of collapse.

He calls the pandemic the “biggest challenge to Britain’s cultural life since the outbreak of the Second World War”, but adds that while many working in theatre have suffered over the past few months, there are many “whom Covid-19 has made rich".

In an essay for the Financial Times, Mendes writes: “It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime et al – should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die.”

He goes on to call upon industry giants to put a fraction of their boosted profits towards supporting theatres and performing arts programmes. “An ecosystem this intricate and evolved cannot be rebuilt from scratch”, he adds.

The measures have been applauded by other key figures in the industry, with choreographer Matthew Bourne labelling the plan as a “great call to arms".

Mendes has also been prolific in theatre, starting out at the Donmar Warehouse in London before launching his film career with the Oscar-winning American Beauty in 1999.

The director also asks the UK government to increase the rate for theatre’s tax-relief scheme, from 20 per cent to 50 per cent, and invites it to become a “theatrical angel”, following the lead of private investors who take a share of the profits from successful shows.

“This is not a request for a handout, or for long-term life support,” he writes. “It is an offer for the government to become partners in a successful business.”

Updated: June 7, 2020 09:38 AM

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