Paco López Martín, president of the Association of Technical Representatives of the Show (ARTE), met a few days ago with the person in charge of one of the most important concert venues in Spain. He is in Madrid and, although we can imagine which center it is, he prefers not to reveal the name. “If in November I do not have 100% of the capacity and with the public standing, I close,” says López that the musical entrepreneur told him. In that same conversation, he spoke of a sad financial situation after a year and a half with limited capacity and a low box office. In a few weeks a new cultural and decisive season begins for the sustainability of the industries in the sector, which have arrived exhausted and demand permission to act at full capacity with the vaccinated population.
Culture suffers the greatest job destruction in a year due to the pandemic: 42,100 fewer workers
“The worst thing at the moment is that the current health directives were written in April and have not been modified, despite having almost 70% of the population with the complete guideline,” says López Martín. That is why he demands “courage and will” from the political class to help the most affected sectors. 59% of cultural companies have laid off during the pandemic, according to the latest report from the Contemporary Foundation.
According to data obtained from the Active Population Survey of the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the cultural sector never lost as many jobs in a single year as in 2020: 42,100 workers were left on the street. The first pandemic year caused by the coronavirus was more destructive than any of the four years in which the last financial crisis depleted the accounts of the sector.
Each autonomous community marks a different capacity and from the Ministry of Culture of Madrid they assure that in the middle of this month the minister Marta Rivera de la Cruz said that “at the end of August it will be time to review the figures and see the possibility of expanding capacity “. In the absence of a few days until the end of the month, they have not reviewed the protocols. The consulted sector does not trust that they will do it either. At the moment, in Madrid, cultural events are limited to 50% capacity indoors and 75% outdoors. The president of ARTE explains to this newspaper that the summer season will end in a few weeks, but that autumn and winter are in the air and are three decisive months for the survival of small and large live entertainment companies.
On the brink of closure
The WiZink Center, converted into a 24-hour vaccination center, it will also have survival problems as a concert hall, says Pablo López Martín, if the situation is not reviewed. “He will not be able to resist another year with the public seated, with a mask and a safety distance. And, like this one, the circuit of concert halls in the capital. The situation is not profitable and we no longer have any more savings. To arrive alive in spring very few. We need to start talking about the COVID passport. And urgently. If they cannot approve the capacity to 100%, let them help us financially so as not to close, “says the president of ARTE.
In France this has happened. The Center National du Cinema et de l’Image Animée (CNC) has implemented a 90 million euro aid fund for distributors, producers and exhibitors. The latter will receive 59.3 million euros of the total and the priority will be small cinemas. In this way, the French Government will alleviate the six-month closure of movie theaters, which reopened in May at 65% occupancy. Since August, the public must show the health passport to access the cinema, which already has 100% capacity. The French population with the full schedule barely exceeds 50% and the losses have forced the big premieres to be delayed, waiting to guarantee more audiences in the coming months.
“We cannot expect more financial aid because they will never cover the needs of the sector. The important thing is to return to full activity as soon as possible,” says Joaquín Martínez Silva, Kin, president of the Spanish Music Federation, ESmúsica. He says that the recovery and resilience plan to come will be nothing if there is no contingency plan now. “We cannot talk about the future if we are not present. We cannot allow the sector to disappear. The COVID passport is urgent. They are already asking me for it in Germany for next year’s concerts. With our percentages of vaccinated, the passport It would make possible shows with unlimited capacity, “says Kin.
No resources or credits
So the new season starts with all economic resources exhausted and the hope that in September the autonomous communities will unify health protocols. “We have spent a lot of money trying to return to normality, but everything has become more expensive and we have not had any return. With half capacity we cannot continue: the credits have been exhausted and the aid was insufficient. Now we must be very accurate because We no longer have room for action “, adds the president of Esmúsica.
Entrepreneurs demand a single criterion to plan the activity rigorously and not cause distrust in the public. Kin clarifies that the experiments of concerts in Barcelona have shown that they are not a source of contagion. That is why he asks for clarity so as not to scare the viewers more.
The most important producer of the performing arts in Spain is Jesús Cimarro and he also demands the establishment of the COVID passport to free 100% of public spaces. He is the director of the International Classical Theater Festival of Mérida, which has had a capacity of 75% this year and has sold all the seats. He is also the president of the Association of Producers and Theaters of Madrid and warns that the new season begins in a few days without changes: “We return limited”, he sums up.
He has participated this week in the first meetings of the industries with the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, and says that he has asked him to demand that the communities expand the capacity for the theaters. A performance, he says, is not comparable to a concert because the audience is seated, wearing the mask and not interacting with the rest. “Come in, sit down, clap your hands and leave. There is no contact,” he sums up.
If the capacity does not reach 75%, the entrepreneurs do not cover their investment. The tours survive thanks to the cache. Madrid opened the theaters for public investment in the companies’ cache. At the moment, the only performances that do season in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia can survive without this public aid. Antonio Onetti, president of the General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE), assures that the summer of 2021 has been worse than that of 2020 because the promoters of live performances could not risk not covering the expenses.
“As fucking, you are ruined forever. This July and August the guarantees have disappeared and you risked losing everything. So the promoters have preferred to stay at home if there was no cache. The uncertainty is killing the sector,” says Onetti, who he adds that music festivals have been the worst offenders. A situation that will not change in the coming weeks.
From the Association for the Development of Intellectual Property (ADEPI) they indicate another paradox of the moment: the filming of series and movies are in full swing, but the exhibitors are having a hard time. This also causes digital platforms to continue to grow while movie theaters suffocate due to the lack of openness without limits. “In September, unfortunately, nothing will change. The COVID passport is the only guarantee for the cultural industry to return to 100% and not die. At half capacity in closed spaces during the next autumn and winter months it will not to survive. It is unfeasible “, indicates Antonio Fernández, the president of ADEPI. There are vaccinated spectators and there is no fear. Political will must finish the game.