March 17, 2020 / 6:39 PM / 13 days ago

Show's over: London's West End theaters close

LONDON (Reuters) - London’s renowned theater district is in jeopardy as major West End venues closed on Tuesday following government advice designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The public has been urged to avoid unnecessary social gatherings, including pubs, clubs, theaters and restaurants, as the epidemic accelerates towards its peak.

Across London, theaters including the Old Vic and National Theater have closed until further notice, along with music and opera venues, such as the Royal Opera House and Royal Albert Hall.

By audience, London’s theater scene is slightly bigger than Broadway in New York, with just over 15 million attendances in 2019, according to the Society of London Theater’s box office data.

Theaters in London saw revenue of nearly 800 million pounds last year, with the average ticket costing around 50 pounds.

“Closing venues is not a decision that is taken lightly and we know that this will have a severe impact on many of the 290,000 individuals working in our industry,” said Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theater, in a statement.

Leicester Square in central London, normally bustling with tourists and theatre-goers, was quiet on Tuesday. Box offices displayed notices announcing closures and telling customers how to get their tickets refunded.

“The panic and the fear is probably worse than the situation,” said Alex Wilkinson, an artist based in London.

“For now it’s quite nice for everything to be a bit quieter, a bit more relaxed,” he added.

Matthew Mitchell, a London resident, said: “I really understand these kind of measures. What I am afraid of is the economic impact that all of this is going to have.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft and Hanna Rantala; editing by Stephen Addison

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