‘1917’ director Sam Mendes asks Netflix, Amazon to help theatres stay afloat

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Filmmaker Sam Mendes has urged streaming services like Netflix and Amazon to share a part of “COVID-19 windfall” to help theatres in the UK stay afloat.

Mendes, who most recently directed the Academy Award-nominated war drama 1917, penned an article for Financial Times discussing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the film business in the UK.

Suggesting measures to ensure the survival of theatres, Mendes said there has to be a “rescue package” for the industry, which includes continuing the job retention scheme for staffers and creating a support system for freelance and self-employed artists.

“The performing arts need to be saved now. Not next week, or next month. If they die, an ecosystem this intricate and evolved cannot be rebuilt from scratch. If it stops breathing, it cannot be resuscitated.

“It is the product of decades of capital projects, loyal audiences, and of communities large and small,” the filmmaker wrote.

Mendes took aim at the streaming services for profiting from the pandemic as people all over the world shut themselves in their homes to avoid getting infected from the disease.

“While a huge percentage of working people have suffered over these past three months, there are also many (whisper it) whom Covid-19 has made rich.

“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 added.

Mendes wondered whether the streamers would be willing to share the profits they amassed during the lockdown to help the artistes.

“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,” he wrote.

As part of his measures to help the industry, the filmmaker also urged the UK Government to become a “theatrical angel” as he called for an increase in the rate for theatre’s tax-relief scheme, from 20 per cent to 50 per cent.



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