Coronavirus deals big blow to Iran’s private theaters
Art and Experience: Managers of the private theaters in Tehran conceded that they are on the verge of bankruptcy due to the sudden outbreak of coronavirus in the metropolis.
All theaters were shut down following the government’s call for a national movement to fight against coronavirus.
The shutdown of the theaters came at a time before they had been able to recover from the recession, which had occurred over the past few months as a result of political events in the country and the region.
The private theaters have warned of bankruptcy if they do not receive support from the government. They must pay rent, their staff and various monthly bills for electricity, water, etc. even during this critical time despite the fact that they have been unable to generate income.
“Our theater was open to the public for only 55 days after the first month in autumn,” Davud Namvar, manager of the Neauphle-le-Chateau Theater, told the Persian service of ISNA.
“We have spent the rest mourning and have had other abnormal days and now we’re faced with the coronavirus,” he lamented.
He said he cannot afford to pay the theater’s monthly rent of 900,000,000 rials (over $21,000). In addition, the theater has suffered a loss of 3 billion rials (over $71,000) due to the shutdown of the hall after the outbreak of coronavirus in Tehran.
The manager of the Tehran Independent Theater, Mostafa Kushki, said that there is no doubt about the necessity of the cancelation of performances as the coronavirus is at epidemic levels in Tehran, and he is asking the government to indemnify the theaters against the financial losses.
“Any governmental support will be a comforting pacifier to help us pass through the upcoming months,” he noted.
Actor and director Qotbeddin Sadeqi, who is also the manager of Shano Theater, likewise called upon the government to cover the loss.
“It seems highly probable that the shutdown of theaters will be extended for three months, and this has frightened the Iranian theater community,” Sadeqi explained to the Persian service of Honaronline.
“In my view, the Tehran Municipality, Ministry of Culture and other organizations concerned with this issue should support the private theaters; if not, they will all be eliminated,” he warned.
Mehregan Theater manager Mehdi Alinejad also said, “The managers of the private theaters cover all their operational costs by themselves and are job creators. Therefore we expect the government to help us keep the doors of the theaters open.”
The director of the Board of Trustees at the Iran Theaters Association lamented the lack of force majeure clauses in the contracts signed between theater groups and theaters.
“The present condition in the country is an example of force majeure, based on which all contacts are naturally canceled. However, it has not been clearly defined by organizations such as the Culture Ministry – as the main body of art policymaking in the country. Therefore, organizations do not know how to deal with emergencies,” Shaahin Chegini told ISNA.
After the Culture Ministry ordered the cancelation of all cultural events, film screenings and theatrical performances after the outbreak of the new coronavirus, the director of the ministry’s Dramatic Arts Center, Shahram Karami, announced that the center plans to indemnify all public and private theaters and troupes for their loss caused by the shutdown of the theaters.
However, he did not mention a practical way of supporting the theaters and troupes that suffered serious losses in light of the new virus outbreak.
Meanwhile, financial support is the main appeal the managers of private theaters and troupes have made to the government.
Hamidreza Naimi, one of those directors whose performances have been canceled as a result of the epidemic of the new virus, warned about a post-coronavirus Iran and said that the damage goes far beyond what it seems to be.
Addressing the government in an interview with MNA, he said, “We cannot say that all programs will go as well as they had in the past after a victory over coronavirus. Performing a single play doesn’t matter here, but the tongue and pulse of society are ill. When it is finally announced that the risk of coronavirus has reached zero, can anyone guarantee that people will simply return to theaters and cinemas? Will the society be able to recover its spirit quickly?”
Naimi was scheduled to stage Franco–Belgian playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s “Frederick or the Crime Boulevard” at the main hall of the City Theater Complex on March 27.