Editorial: Lift curtain on numbers

CLAIRE ALLISON
Last updated 05:00 03/03/2014

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OPINION: The prospect of a major revamp for Timaru's Theatre Royal is an exciting one.

Most people who have been to shows at the theatre will agree that it is a beautiful building, one we are lucky to have as a jewel in our civic crown.

A major upgrade in the early 1990s revealed the theatre's interior for the beauty it is, and involved some seismic strengthening which has hopefully taken the building off the list of our Stafford St heritage that is at risk from new post-quake standards.

But, notwithstanding the ornate interior, theatre-goers are also well aware of some of the building's failings - far too few toilets for starters, and jostling with the rest of the audience in a small bar area to buy a drink or an icecream in the intermission.

There may well be more more niggles, well known to performers and managers, but there's nothing like a lack of loos to get the public going . . . as it were.

So, the idea has been mooted to extend the theatre's foyer area to the north, in the area occupied now by two shop sites. A two-level addition would offer a bigger bar area, more toilets, and a small conference room for 50 people.

The Timaru District Council's policy and development committee will talk about the idea tomorrow. Cost will no doubt be a major concern. Ratepayers are already funding big projects; the multi-million dollar sewerage upgrade, the aquatic centre. Any non-essential spending should be considered carefully, and ratepayers have a right to expect our elected members to exercise fiscal care.

But, it's to be hoped our councillors will consider the theatre's potential to generate more income if it has more to offer, and be asking for information about that.

To the north and south of Timaru are two facilities we may be able to draw on in our investigations.

Oamaru's Opera House offers eight different spaces, from the auditorium, which caters to 548 people, through a range of other meeting rooms and theatres, to the smallest, a break-out meeting room for up to five people.

To the north, Ashburton's event centre, completed in 2008, offers a 500-seat auditorium, as well as three other spaces for hire.

Timaru's Theatre Royal, while having a bigger auditorium - 1024 seats - doesn't offer the flexibility or range of venue options of those facilities.

If a major revamp led to more hires, and therefore more income, any expenditure may be more than justified. Let's get the numbers and go from there.

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- The Timaru Herald

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