Sam Mendes urges streaming services to use 'COVID-19 windfall' to keep theatres alive

Tom Beasley
Sam Mendes poses with the award for his work on the film '1917' at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards on February 2, 2020. (Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Filmmaker Sir Sam Mendes has issued a plea to streaming services to use some of their “COVID-19 windfall” to help keep the UK’s theatres alive.

Mendes, who was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director this year for 1917, wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times about the state of play in Britain’s creative industries due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

His career has spanned theatre as well as the big screen, including winning a Tony for The Ferryman and helming the musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Read more: Mendes explains invisible CGI of 1917

The 54-year-old ended his piece with a call to arms, urging streaming platforms to put some of the money they have earned as a result of lockdown binge-watching to good use in supporting creatives who are struggling financially.

Theatre lights on stage. (Credit: Getty)

He wrote: “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.

“Is there anyone among those people willing to use a fraction of their COVID-19 windfall to help those who have been mortally wounded?

“If so, I hope you’re reading this, and that you are able to think of the arts landscape as more than just a ‘content provider’, but instead as an ecosystem that supports us all.”

Read more: Entertainment freelancers offer assistance to NHS

Mendes wrote that “the performing arts need to be saved now” and that urgent action must be taken to mitigate the devastating effects of theatre and cinema closures, caused by the pandemic.

Marquee unveiling of the Jez Butterworth play 'The Ferryman', directed by Sam Mendes, on August 3, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)

During the global health emergency, employees in the creative industries have had to deal with the struggles of being furloughed or, for many freelancers, losing pay altogether.

Some have channelled their skills into helping the NHS and other crucial services, whether by working in hospitals or helping to make protective equipment for medical staff.

Read more: How will cinemas work with social distancing?

As lockdown begins to lift, attention is turning to how cinemas and theatres might re-open safely.

For cinemas, the planned release of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster Tenet on 17 July is their target to welcome the public back into multiplexes.