SOUTHAMPTON'S iconic Mayflower Theatre will remain closed until December 10.

Chief executive Michael Ockwell has had to make the difficult decision to keep the venue closed for ten months amid the Covid-19 crisis.

He is also set to close the popular pre and post-theatre restaurant Ovation.

Mr Ockwell told the Daily Echo: "The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the theatre industry. The safety of customers and our staff remains my top priority and I do not believe we will be in a position to safely open the theatre before this date.

"I am working with producers to reschedule as many shows as possible into future dates. However, it is inevitable that some tours will not be able to survive the break.

"We are also making some very tough decisions with our own operation and it is unlikely that we will be able to offer Ovation, our restaurant service, when we return.

"On behalf of all the staff here at the theatre, we wanted to say a big thank you for all your good wishes and support whilst we have been closed. It is sad and heart-breaking for us all to have to cancel or reschedule shows, and the messages we have been receiving have genuinely brightened our days. Many customers have donated the cost of their ticket and we are truly grateful, so thank you once again.

"You are all greatly missed at the theatre and we look forward to welcoming you back."

Mayflower Theatre is a charitable organisation which receives no direct Government funding, but contributes £75 million to the local economy annually.

It was due to host a five week return of Disney's smash hit musical Lion King this autumn, which will now take to the stage in autumn 2022.

Other shows due to run in 2020 included murder mystery classic The Mousetrap and Irving Berlin's White Christmas the musical.

All customers with tickets for shows before December 10 or bookings for Ovation will be contacted.