As a theatre which stages one of the UK's most popular pantomimes Birmingham Hippodrome has announced that it has cancelled its Christmas programme due to Covid-19 and will not reopen this year and that its major live performances were "not financially viable" amid social distancing.

With productions in the main auditorium not resuming until February at the earliest, it said, it means that the festive pantomime, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, will not go ahead.

Annual performances of The Nutcracker by Birmingham Royal Ballet, which uses the theatre as its home venue, have also been scrapped there.

The Hippodrome said the move followed discussions "at length" with both the ballet and pantomime producer, Qdos.

Fiona Allan, the theatre's chief executive and artistic director said it was "a massive blow" to lose the shows.

"It leaves us in a very difficult financial position... a quarter of our annual income comes from this Christmas season, 150,000 people come through our doors between pantomime and The Nutcracker, so it's really quite devastating. We're just trying to weigh-up it up, what it means, if we can continue to operate as we did before."

The Hippodrome had previously announced scale backs because of the pandemic. In June, the theatre said about 60 employees - around half its staff - could be made redundant in a bid to stay afloat.

It benefitted from the government's £1.5bn support package for the arts, announced in July, but Ms Allan said social distancing prohibited full-scale productions.

Goldilocks, starring Jason Donovan, has been rescheduled for the 2021 Christmas period.
Reacting to the news on Twitter, Emma Rowley said: "My heart literally breaks with this news. I'm so sad to everyone at my absolute fave [sic] place."

Leon Phillips added: "This is sad to hear, but at a time like this what else can you do, safety of your audience and staff members is very important, and your [sic] being very responsible at this moment.

"It's nice to see how understanding your audience member [sic] are as well."

Birmingham Royal Ballet says it is "working hard" to find a new host for The Nutcracker and The Hippodrome said it would be contacting ticket-holders for the ballet production over the coming days.

Qdos announced it was pushing back pantomimes in Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh and Southampton to next Christmas amid ongoing uncertainty about when theatres would be able to reopen fully.

Its managing director Michael Harrison said: "The Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime is the UK's biggest regional panto and postponing the show has been a difficult decision."