British Columbia

Victoria's Royal Theatre rent hike delayed following outcry from arts groups

The Royal and McPherson Theatres Society is putting planned rate hikes at the Royal Theatre in Victoria on hold.

Local arts groups say delay not enough, call for public stakeholder consultation

The 1,416-seat Royal Theatre receives some public funding, but theatre society spokeperson Randy Joynt says it has been static since 1998. (Jean Paetkau/CBC)

The Royal and McPherson Theatres Society is putting planned rate hikes and changes to the booking policy at the Royal Theatre in Victoria on hold.

The changes were first announced in October. Rents were set to as much as double in September 2019.

This led to outcry from not-for-profit art groups Dance Victoria, Pacific Opera Victoria and the Victoria Symphony, which each hold their events at the Royal Theatre. 

The society says because of concerns raised and discussions held since the announcement, the rental hike will now take two years to go into effect. The arts groups will also have three years' notice to changes to the booking policy, which currently give precedence to local groups over visiting ones. The theatre would like to end that policy.

"The three not-for profit organizations asked for more time to adjust to the changes, and our board heard that request," society spokesperson Randy Joynt told All Points West host Robyn Burns. 

Funding static since 1998

Joynt says Victoria's population has grown and therefore the demands on the theatre have increased. The society has had to turn down many acts wanting to hold shows at the venue due to unavailable dates. While the Royal Theatre receives some public funding, Joynt says it has been static since 1998.

"The fiscal pressures on the theatre have grown in those 21 years," he said. 

Upcoming changes to bookings at the Royal Theatre include removal of the requirement that the society give priority to the symphony and Pacific Opera's annual dates. (The Royal and McPherson Theatres Society )

The changes to bookings at the theatre include removal of the requirement that the society give priority to the symphony's and Pacific Opera's annual dates. Joynt says they want to free up dates for high-paying visiting acts.

"There's folk who really appreciate the fact that the work is being done to make the theatre more accessible to more artists and their audiences. And of course there's the people that don't want to see any change," said Joynt

Promoters should not displace non-profit arts, group says

The Royal Theatre User Group, which represents the three local groups, said the delay in plans is not enough. The group said in a news release that it wants a public stakeholder consultation on the future use and purpose of the Royal Theatre.

"[They] are being made to displace non-profit arts organizations from this publicly owned arts facility, for the benefit of commercial promoters," read the release. 

In order to make the consultation happen, the group will need the support of Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay councils, which own the Royal Theatre. 

"If the owners of the theatre want that to happen, we will certainly support it," said Joynt. 

Listen to the full interview here:

The Royal and McPherson Theatres Society is putting planned changes and rate hikes at the Royal Theatre in Victoria, B.C. on hold. 6:48

With files by CHEK and All Points West.

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