The Meteor Theatre could easily have become a ponderous white elephant, weighing heavily around the necks of Hamilton ratepayers.
Instead, under the stewardship of a group of like-minded, arts-oriented people, the building on the corner of Bridge and Victoria streets has become a magnet for all kinds of colourful theatre companies, art groups, dance schools and others.
The theatre suddenly has a packed calendar of upcoming events for the rest of this year and beyond - a varied schedule including regular theatresports events, plays, rock concerts and exhibitions. May and June are full, and only a few spare dates remain in July.
The venue's sudden rude health follows the transition of its management in February to the One Victoria Trust - a non-profit community group who immediately reduced the costs of hiring it. This had an equal and opposite reaction in the form of many more people booking it for use.
"It's a refreshingly full calendar for the remainder of the year," trust chairman William Farrimond said. "There will be art installations, music, burlesque, theatre . . . It's exactly how we imagined it would develop, but it has done so at a surprisingly fast rate."
The immediate success was unexpected, even given the high number of creatively inclined people in the Waikato, Farrimond said.
"There is also a big population of young people in Hamilton who are now able to access the theatre. We had more than 600 coming through the other weekend for the Hamtown Smakdown [punk rock] festival, as well as a growing number of high school-aged users coming to the Monday night Secondary Schools Improv competition events.
"We are getting a lot of requests to make use of the Meteor, and we do reserve the right to say no to some things - rave parties are out, for example."
The trust is holding a formal launch for The Meteor on Saturday night with a performance cafe - a series of fast and fun acts that, in a way, reflect its new life as a multi-purpose venue.
It will be preceded by a more formal, invitation-only event on Friday night.
"The performance cafe is a way of inviting the public in to celebrate the handover, to see what we're doing with the space, and to have a good old-fashioned shindig," marketing manager Joshua Drummond said. "Performance cafes used to be an institution in Hamilton performing arts, and we're looking to bring them back, hopefully regularly."
The Meteor had also secured funding and sponsors from the business community, and it was hoped this weekend's events would generate more.
The venue's management team have been busy renovating the building under the guidance of Farrimond who, as it happens, is also a handy carpenter.
He has organised a new bar/cafe area off the foyer, which has been repainted in some sharp new colours. There is still plenty that needs doing, including earthquake-strengthening, remodelling to increase the functionality of the dressing rooms and improve soundproofing and, perhaps most importantly, the floor needs to be creak-proofed. The Performance Cafe begins at 7pm on Saturday and is expected to run until around 11pm. Entry is by donation (with the minimum hoped for donation being $1).
- Waikato Times