Sam Mendes attacks streaming services for ‘making millions’ during lockdown while theatre industry left ‘mortally wounded’

Bond director says he has devised a ‘rescue package’ for the performing arts industry

Ellie Harrison
Friday 05 June 2020 11:54
Sam Mendes
Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes has written a fierce op-ed attacking streaming services for making “millions” during the coronavirus pandemic while those working in theatre have been so adversely affected in lockdown.

In an article for the Financial Times, titled “How we can save our theatres”, the James Bond director called for Britain’s powerhouse cultural sector to be given investment, not charity. He said he had devised 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,” he wrote. “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.”

Railing against how companies such as Netflix have profited from people staying at home during the pandemic, he wrote: “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.

“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.”

In April, Netflix announced a staggering rise in subscriptions, with some 15.8 million people around the world signing up for the service in March, the month lockdown began in many countries.

Performing arts spaces, meanwhile, have been closing their doors and are less able than other entertainment venues, such as cinemas, to stay afloat with social distancing measures in place.

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