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

 

Just Posted

Victoria woman competing for role as Maxim cover model

Winning model gets featured spread in magazine, cash price

Father of Saanich murder victim Lindsay Buziak set to appear on Dr. Phil show Friday

Jeff Buziak says he has not seen the show and does not know what to expect

Premier John Horgan visits his old Saanich high school to announce rise in robot funding

Horgan, a Reynolds grad, used the occasion to play catch with the school’s robot

Keep a distance when fawning over baby deer, reminds conservation officer

West Shore conservation officer advises deer can forage on their own and don’t need human help

Songbirds return to their roost in the West Shore

Tips, such as keeping roaming cats from ruffling any feathers, can attract more birds

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

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

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Christmas morning burglar sentenced on Vancouver Island

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Dec. 25 break-and-enter

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Most Read