Belfast’s Grand Opera House has had to revise the programme for its planned reopening due to the impact of covid-19.
The Theatre closed in January 2020 ahead of the pandemic outbreak, and subsequent lockdown, to undertake a major restoration and development project, and was originally due to reopen again in time for the pantomime season in late November 2020. Due to a number of covid-related factors outside of the Theatre’s control, the Grand Opera House Trust has confirmed today that this timetable is no longer achievable. At this stage it is hoped that the Theatre will reopen in March 2021 with a revised performance programme, subject to the government’s covid-19 advice and guidance at that time.
The delays brought about by the covid-19 lockdown and subsequent social distancing measures on site have impacted the original timetable for the restoration project. At the same time, the pandemic has also led to the postponement of various shows that were booked into the Theatre’s programme in late 2020 and early 2021. This means that the pantomime, ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, will not go ahead as planned in November 2020, and instead will move to the corresponding dates in November 2021. Other shows directly impacted are ‘Mamma Mia!’ which has moved to November 2022, and Scottish Ballet’s production of ‘The Nutcracker’, which has been rescheduled to February 2022. The National Theatre’s tour of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ has also been postponed due to covid-19 and is now due to take place in spring 2022.
Customers who have booked tickets for these shows will now be contacted by the box office and offered the opportunity to move their booking or receive a full refund.
Speaking about the necessary changes, Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House said:
“Covid-19 has had a major detrimental impact on all aspects of life, and the arts sector has not escaped. The impact of the lockdown and ongoing social distancing measures has significantly delayed our reopening plans and impacted on our initial programming schedule. Having to postpone the pantomime and these other popular shows is hugely disappointing for all concerned and presents a significant blow to the Theatre’s finances at an already challenging time. I am, however, pleased that we have been able to reschedule the shows into 2021 and 2022 rather than lose them altogether.
“While there are still many uncertainties, we believe we are being prudent in our planning for the future to not only survive this hugely difficult period but to ensure that we emerge strongly from it. After months of detailed financial management and scenario planning we, like other colleagues across the sector, have had to make some assumptions, particularly that by spring 2021, we will not have the same constraints that come with current social distancing guidelines.
“Not surprisingly, we are very keen to open as soon as possible to maximise the investment made in the restoration of this unique and beautiful theatre, and our simple message to customers, and those we engage with through our creative learning initiatives, is that we will do so as soon as it is both safe and viable to do so.”