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British entertainment, left in the dark, seeks state insurance assistance



(Reuters) – British theaters and live music venues say the show will only continue if the government provides an economic backstop, as the COVID-19 pandemic means they can no longer obtain commercial insurance.

While indoor venues for live performances are not yet open throughout the UK, theaters and concert halls in England have in theory been open to socially distant audiences since mid-August.

But only a handful have opened and cite insurance as one of the many barriers. , as insurers have excluded COVID-19 from the cover they provide.

This means that a theater has no protection against cancellation or legal action by anyone in the audience or players who become ill or from a lockdown due to COVID-1

9.

Some small theaters continue regardless and hope for the best, but for tours, festivals and big names it is a deal-breaker and has reached live performances all over the world, including on Broadway.

"You are not going to get a sponsor, ticket sales, finance, TV licensing or big stars unless they are guaranteed," said James Davies, head of emergency preparedness and entertainment at insurance broker EC3.

A survey by the Society of London Theaters in May showed only 12% of organizations thought they would get the insurance they needed to reopen.

"The only thing no one can get insurance for right now is COVID," said Phil Bowdery, president of Concert Promoters & # 39; Association, one of several industries. Bodies that run on state aid.

"We take care of all normal insurance – we ask the government to be a partner."

Organizers of live performances in the UK are looking for a system that The £ 500 ($ 661 million) deal announced by the British government for the film and television industry in July

The system insures productions for 70% of their losses if they have to abandon production due to the pandemic, up t ill maximum £ 5 million.

The Department of Digi tal, Culture, Media and Sport did not respond to a request for comment.

The entertainment industry is one of the hardest hit by months of lockdown and ongoing social distancing demands.

During the first 12 weeks of the lockdown, which began in late March, more than 15,000 theatrical performances were interrupted with a loss of more than £ 303 million in box office revenue, according to a parliamentary committee report in July.

"The government must meet the urgent need of the UK cultural industry to be adequately insured," the report said.

Other countries such as France and Australia have also introduced backstops for the film industry, but sources say there are no similar live event systems.

“We are. .. to hear from our insurance companies that there is no travel insurance that will cover COVID-19, says a source involved in orchestral tours.

Locations and shows will struggle to survive with social distancing in place they need at least 70% capacity to break even, and an insurance system supported by the state would help them get started, says Tim Thornhill, Sales Director, Entertainment and Sports , at the insurance broker Tysers.

Both Tysers and EC3 are working on proposals, but the possibilities for affordable COVID-19 insurance offered by the industry may be remote. The British Government Film Fund has no insurance partnership, as insurers were reluctant to provide protection, sources said.

"It is difficult for insurers to justify to capital providers why they would risk throwing more good money after bad," said one insurer.

Allianz SE, Hiscox Ltd. and Chubb Ltd. are among other major suppliers of maintenance liability insurance.

Allianz no longer provided this insurance for cancellation or illness due to COVID-19, a spokesman confirmed.

Hiscox declined to comment. Chubb did not answer.


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