THEATRES have warned ticket cancellations could hit them hard as a result of the Omicron variant.

The pantomime season should be gearing up for its busiest spell, however uncertainty due to a rise in Covid cases has led to caution from theatregoers.

Louise Chantal, director at Oxford Playhouse, said the situation has been manageable so far but warned cancelled shows would have a ‘devastating impact’.

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Mrs Chantal said: “So far we’ve only cancelled two performances after a positive case.

“Some casts have been wiped out so we’re very lucky we’ve not had that.

“We’re physically able to do performances and that’s what we currently plan to do, as there are thousands of children who want to watch Robin Hood, and we don’t want to let them down.

“We’re reviewing things on an hour by hour basis.

“Sales massively exceeded the initial target, which shows how much people want to come back and enjoy a show.

“There will of course be a devastating impact if we do have to cancel shows.

“We’ve had just a handful of cancelled tickets, we haven’t had a mass exodus, but there has been more since the weekend, while lots of schools cancelled following advice from authorities.”

Chipping Norton Theatre is showing Rapunzel as its pantomime this year.

Oxford Mail: Chipping Norton Theatre. Picture: Josh TomalinChipping Norton Theatre. Picture: Josh Tomalin

Theatre general manager Jo Robinson said: “Every time we call off a show, we lose the income but we obviously continue to pay our staff.

“There’s no cancellation insurance for us so there’s no way of recouping that money.

“Pantomimes for the theatre industry are a big light financially – but when you commit to it, they become the biggest expenditure and that’s money we’re not getting back at the moment.

“You can switch the money coming in off, but you can’t switch the money going out off.

“If pantomimes aren’t successful financially, the industry feels that.”

Like many theatres, Chipping Norton has produced a digital copy of a production, which audiences can purchase instead of tickets.

Mrs Robinson said: “We’ve got a digital copy of the show, which we recorded in advance and people can watch that at home.

“We put that in place as a backup plan just in case something like this happened.”

Independent Cowley Road cinema The Ultimate Picture Palace has seen a decline in ticket sales as opposed to cancellations.

Programming, marketing and events manager Tom Jowett said: “It’s the appetite for being indoors, we’ve noticed a drop off for ticket sales in December which we can only assume is because of Omicron.

“Ticket sales is our main income stream, we don’t have adverts in our cinema so we don’t get money for having 20 minutes of adverts, so a drop in ticket sales is pretty scary for an independent cinema like ourselves.”