Royal and McPherson Society pleads its case to Victoria council

Royal and McPherson Society pleads its case to Victoria council

‘Dark days’ at Royal, user groups’ weekend priorities make scheduling other entertainment challenging

Representatives from the Royal and McPherson Theatre Society voiced frustrations around the current rental situation at the Royal Theatre to Victoria city councillors at Thursday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Detailing the challenges that “dark days” on the theatre’s calendar present to the society, Lorne DeLarge, president of the RMTS board of directors, was keen to give councillors the society’s perspective.

“The theatre sits dark the majority of the time through the prime part of the season of our year, September through May. That is what we are trying to improve,” he said.

RELATED: Victoria Symphony, other Royal Theatre users hammered with huge rent increases

Having the ability to book other acts on those days would help the society generate much-needed revenue, he said. “A single Broadway show will generate $1 million in ticket sales in one week, and that’s not including the economic spinoff of a single show.”

DeLarge presented a slide showing that the Victoria Symphony and Pacific Opera Victoria, the largest two user groups, combined to rent the Royal for 120 days in 2018-19, while performances happened on 49 of those days. “This, to us is the heart of the issue,” DeLarge said.

During discussions, councillors heard user groups rent the Royal for $2,000 on performance days and $500 on non-performance days. Similar theatres in Canada charge the same rate for either, said RMTS executive director Lloyd Fitzsimonds.

“Thirty years ago I guess that discount made great sense,” he said. “At this point in time we’re literally giving the Royal away, it is so cheap.”

RELATED: Royal Theatre rate hikes on hold for now; user groups remain unhappy

The reduced rate makes it viable for non-profit arts groups to rent the theatre out for larger stretches of time, even if the number of performances is limited, Fitzsimonds added. He used the example of POV’s current production Countess Maritza, which booked the theatre for 21 days and will do four shows.

DeLarge noted that unlike local groups, which tend to schedule performances between Friday and Sunday, the Opera de Montreal utilizes every day of the week for its shows, thus condensing its venue rental needs and opening up desirable dates for other acts.

“We regularly turn away acts” for lack of dates, he said, listing such notables as blues guitarist Buddy Guy, magician David Blaine and singer Morrisey. Astronaut Chris Hadfield and former CBC comedy star Rick Mercer, found space at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney and quickly sold out.

While acknowledging the importance of vocal rest days, dress rehearsals and sound check days, he said, “the theatre does not need to be a rehearsal hall.” To address that issue, the society is looking into the cost and feasibility of building a rehearsal space on the City of Victoria-owned parking lot behind the theatre.

While theatre scheduling presents a financial challenge for the organization, municipal funding is another consideration.

Only Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay contribute to its operation, but residents from around the region attend events there, Coun. Ben Isitt said. He suggested an increase in ticket prices might be a good motivator for other municipalities to consider helping fund the theatres’ operations.

“I think we should consider some sort of rebate or a fee discount for people who live in the participating municipalities,” he said, adding that other patrons would pay full price. “That’s a pretty strong price signal … to get users to lobby their respective councils to join in the service so they can realize that (pricing) benefit.”

The RMTS’s strategic plan aims to present a wider range of entertainment offerings, but also includes significant rent increases at the Royal. In March the society announced it was postponing the rent increases for two years and the booking policy changes or three years for the Symphony, Pacific Opera and Dance Victoria.

A public survey commissioned by RMTS found that among respondents stating definite opinions, the majority supported the society’s objectives and direction outlined in its strategic plan.



editor@mondaymag.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Theatre

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Royal and McPherson Society pleads its case to Victoria council

Royal and McPherson Society pleads its case to Victoria council

Royal and McPherson Society pleads its case to Victoria council

Just Posted

Starting in June, Government Street will be closed to most vehicles between Humboldt and View streets. A section of Government Street was transformed into a pedestrian-priority walkway in the wake of COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria plans 10-hour closures of Government Street come June

City’s business relief plan extended, Government St. from Humboldt to View closed noon to 10 p.m.

Cyclists cruised around Saanich at the 2017 Cycling Festival. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich scavenger hunt replaces annual Cycling Festival

Participants encouraged to ‘walk or roll’ to 20 secret sites, submit photo proof for prizes

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

A member of the Belmont Secondary School in Langford has tested positive for COVID-19, the Sooke School District announced Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Positive COVID-19 case identified at Belmont Secondary School in Langford

Other school members could’ve been exposed on April 20

This photo shows crews the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents early Sunday morning. (Central Saanich Fire/Department Twitter)
Central Saanich rallies around couple who lost home of 25 years

A GoFundMe campaign is currently underway for Carla and Brian Wallace

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read