From 750,000 ticket sales to $1m liabilities: The demise of Auckland’s Pop-up Globe

“A victim of Covid-19’s wrecking ball,” is how two men involved in a theatre business with an estimated $1 million liabilities but only $350,000 of assets have described their demise.

Miles Gregory and Tobias Grant of the Pop-up Globe said the pandemic killed their theatrical venture, built from scaffolding and most recently in the Auckland Racing Club’s Ellerslie car park at 100 Ascot Ave.

More than 750,000 tickets had been sold in the years it ran, they said.

But now liquidators have produced a statement of financial position showing a dire outlook for creditors.

“We’re gutted that it’s come to this,” Gregory and Grant said of this month’s liquidation.

Gregory, a former regional producer for Globe London, had the dream and founded the theatre in New Zealand. Grant was executive producer. Both men were directors of the company in liquidation, The Pop-Up Globe Foundation.

Liquidators at Ecovis KGA said the company had a $727,719 shortfall.

The men said their initial optimism was unfounded.

“We hoped to weather the Covid storm and come back stronger than ever, but for us the timing couldn’t have been worse and sadly we haven’t been able to find a way through,” Gregory and Grant said in a joint statement.

Pre-pandemic, the business had been “extraordinary”, they said.

“Since opening its doors for the first time in Auckland’s Greys Ave in February 2016, the homegrown theatre spectacle has entertained 750,000 ticket holders in Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, earning critical and popular acclaim wherever it went,” Gregory and Grant said.

The world’s first full-scale temporary working replica of Shakespeare’s second Globe was created from scratch here to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Baird’s death.

It set out to rediscover what the experience of Shakespeare’s audiences would have been like at the second Globe, with elaborate Jacobean costumes, props and special effects.

“A hit from the first time it opened its doors, producers reinvested to create a business designed to export Pop-up Globe to the great arts and culture cities of the world. By January last year, it had produced 16 professional Shakespeare productions, entertained more than 750,000 ticketholders including more than 50,000 school students and was successfully operating international touring seasons,” the men said.

That was achieved through the support of many people and organisations including actors and creatives, support teams, volunteers, suppliers, sponsors, delivery partners and audiences, the men said.

“Before Covid 19 the future looked bright. It was in advanced stages of preparing for an equity raise to fund the next stage of its international growth.

But the pandemic crushed operations.

“It closed the company’s Auckland theatre, made international touring impossible, eliminated 100 per cent of its income indefinitely and made it impossible to create revenue or plan future activity with any certainty. The timing couldn’t have been worse: Covid struck at the very moment Pop-up Globe had become an export business,” the men said.

Gregory and Grant put the business into hibernation, developed a plan they believed would give it the opportunity to recover and negotiated with creditors for a compromise.

But all that failed, so the only option was to appoint liquidators.

The men said Pop-up Globe’s two trading companies were liquidation and advice was being sought on two remaining companies.

The Shareholders and Directors apologise to Pop-up Globe’s creditors for the inconvenience this situation has caused them, and thank everyone who has supported Pop-up Globe.

“Covid-19 has devastated the world of theatre in ways that we could never have imagined,” Dr Gregory said. “This is a very disappointing outcome. I’d like to pay tribute to the hundreds of people whose tireless energy and enthusiasm powered Pop-up Globe from the outset, and say a huge thank you to our audiences.”

The first liquidators’ report showed creditors include ANZ, Inland Revenue and scaffolding specialists Camelspace, Bunnings, CSL Container Hire, Elephant Publicity, Ellerslie Event Centre, Eventfinda, iSite, Mediaworks, director and founder Miles Gregory, Phantom Billstickers, Portacom, SEA Containers, Spark and Superloo Sanitation.

Nicholson Print, Kenderdine Electrical, Just Water, James Bell Accounting, Perceptual Engineering, Raw Vision, The Canvas Company, Dominion Law, APRA New Zealand and AON Insurance New Zealand are other creditors.

The company had cash-flow difficulties because it was unable to trade through pandemic lockdowns. Those cash-flow constraints prevented it from paying debts as they fell due.

Assets are the replica Globe theatre at Ellerslie on land which is leased, office equipment, costumes, props and related theatre equipment, they said.

Secured creditors are owed $384,000, preferential creditors $329,000 and unsecured creditors about $319,000, according to the first statement of financial position.

Assets are an overdrawn cash bank account at -$150,000, fixed assets of $453,000 which include the theatre and receivables of $3000, giving a total asset balance of just $309,079 – well short of the $1m of liabilities, indicating a possible substantial shortfall.

The concept was praised and in 2018, Gregory got a Blake Leader Award.

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