A recent report published by the Theatres Trust has revealed that nearly 50 theatres throughout the UK are at “a real risk of being lost”. Although the number of theatres on this registry has decreased by seven since last year’s report, the findings are still bleak. Many theatres on the list are situated in areas which are to be developed, but there are no plans to replace or renovate the venues along with their surrounding areas.

Is the fall in number good news?

Last year, 56 theatres were listed on the Theatre Buildings at Risk Register. This year, only 49 are listed. Several establishments have found the funds needed for renovation. Wilton’s Music Hall, for example, was granted over £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. However, seven were removed from the list due to their demolition, and an additional two are facing demolition in the coming months. Four have also been lost due to change of use.

Some theatres appear doomed to remain on the registry indefinitely. Morecambe’s Winter Gardens has been included every year since 1977, and there are no immediate plans for its rescue. Theatres that are located in areas which have been targeted for redevelopment will not necessarily see their own renovation. The Islington Precinct, located in London, has seen the local area revamped, including a new estate being built. However, it has yet to see any investors of its own.

The cost of renovating vs. demolition

A possible reason for so many theatres being at risk is that the owner’s must weigh the cost of renovation against the cost of the demolition and replacement of the establishment. While some theatres only require around £100,000 to be fully functional again, others can cost a significant amount more. The Derby Hippodrome’s restoration has been estimated at over £15 million. Although it had already been partially demolished, it has had to fight off bids, such as replacing it with a multi-storey car park, which are seen by some as a more cost effective strategy.

It is important for theatres to give back to local communities, and try to demonstrate the benefits that they can bring. One venue, The Precinct, is known for providing an arts drop-in facility for youths from the surrounding area. However, should this theatre face demolition, there are no immediate plans to replace the services it provides. As such, many in the local community consider The Precinct to be an indispensable asset of the area.

It is crucial for theatres which are at risk of administration to find the necessary investment to keep their doors open. Many theatres can prove their worth through community projects. If they cannot raise the funds or demonstrate that they do more than put on productions, they will face a real threat of temporary closure or even demolition.