Hamilton theatres lose $1.4m - and getting redder
Theatres may be more than city can affordJONATHAN CARSON
Hamilton's city council-owned theatres lost more than $1.4 million last year and continue to plunge into the red as bookings and ticket sales fail to meet expectations.
While the council is blaming difficult economic times, theatre advocates are questioning whether Hamilton can sustain three venues.
The Meteor, Clarence Street and Founders theatres posted a $1.477 million loss in the 2012-13 financial year and were already down $396,000 up to September.
Sean Murray, general manager events and economic development, said he expected the council would also fall short of its budgeted revenue of $1.06 million for the year ending June 30, 2014.
"This is due to lower-than-anticipated returns from bookings and the transfer of the Meteor Theatre to the One Victoria Trust," he said.
Income was dependent on the number of promoters hiring the theatres and the economic downturn had resulted in fewer shows being toured and fewer ticket sales, he said.
"Promoters rely on the public buying tickets and they have worked harder and spent more money on marketing to achieve sales," Mr Murray said.
"If ticket buyers support shows then promoters generally will return to hire our venues."
He said theatre fans were "spoilt for choice" and competition in the national market was high.
Mark Servian, spokesman for One Victoria Trust, which now controls the Meteor Theatre, said that he was not surprised the council venues had lost so much money and questioned whether the city could continue to sustain all three.
"If I was being pessimistic I could suggest that maybe it's a bit of a stretch to try and make anything like this work in a town the size of Hamilton," Mr Servian said.
"The blunt truth is that perhaps we can't and if you were to step back and look at it in terms of sustainability you would have to make a tough decision as to whether three [theatres] are sustainable."
However, Hamilton Operatic Society chairman Jason Wade, who has been involved in theatre for more than 20 years, said the three venues were essential to fostering the city's performing arts.
"The cultural aspect of any city is its heart."
He said while the theatres had been operating at a loss, the figures did not take into account the money each production generated elsewhere in the city.
A recent economic impact study of the society's upcoming Phantom of the Opera production at the Founders Theatre in May found it was expected to bring more than $1m into the region, he said.
"That sort of economic impact of bringing these shows through, does that offset the debt?"
Andrew Buchanan-Smart, who has been involved with performing arts in Hamilton for about 35 years, said the Founders Theatre was one of the most expensive venues to hire in New Zealand.
"Its charges are making it prohibitive," he said.
"They're not getting the revenue because people can't afford to use it."
He also believed three theatres were not sustainable in Hamilton.
Net operating position: $1,477,000 loss
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