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Capitol nearly doubles annual ask from city for operating funds

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
February 8th, 2022

Having survived through almost two years of the pandemic the Capitol Theatre is looking to rise above the viral confines and move into a new era.

The theatre’s governing society has petitioned the city to help it achieve that next step, asking for almost double its municipal money in its annual pre-budget presentation.

The Capitol Theatre Restoration Society asked city council for $130,000, up from $70,200, in order to add in another staff member and cover for inflationary increases to operations.

In 30 years the operational funding has increased from $55,000 to $70,200 — an annual increase of .8 per cent — but with an average inflation rate (2.02 per cent) adjusted funding for the Capitol would be $126,000.

The theatre has grown significantly over the last 10 years said society board chair Claire Hallam, with six full-time staff, including a fulltime executive director and technical director, and 130 booked days last year.

“Due to COVID the theatre would like to hire an additional staff member for community engagement and outreach to revitalize the community support and patronage as we fully re-open and get back to normal,” she told council.

The theatre did apply and receive the wage subsidy available during COVID and did not lay off any staff during the pandemic. But the subsidy has ended yet COVID restrictions still apply — 50 per cent capacity in the theatre — and, as a result, performance revenues are reduced.

Gross wages at the Capitol in the last five years have increased from $153,000 in 2017 to $170,000 in 2021, representing a two per cent annual rise with inflation, Hallam explained.

“Despite the annual increases staff wages fall way below the industry standard,” she said, which would be $207,000. “All staff are paid below the industry standard.”

The shortfall to bring staff wages in line would be $37,000. But performance activities would not generate the additional revenue needed to cover this expense because the theatre tries to keep ticket prices and workshop costs affordable, Hallam said.

The new position of engagement and outreach would also require funding of $23,000 (the theatre would fund $10,000) — and the return to full programming will see an upward trend in costs as operating expenses will be increasing.

This means an increase from $70,200 — $37,000 staff, new position $13,000, operating expenses increase by $10,000 — to $130,000 per year.

“The theatre needs to reach out to the community to ensure we return to full patronage as quickly as possible (repairing the damage due to COVID),” said Hallam.

“This position is part of the re-opening and sustainability planning … as we get back to normal by the fall of 2020.”

Where’s the money

Some on council questioned how able the theatre was to secure donor funds.

“Do you do year-end donation drives … and, on top of that, do you regularly do and review your donor campaigns … and where does that fit into your priorities?” asked Coun. Rik Logtenberg.

Hallam said the restoration society has had many fundraising drives in the past.

“We have found it is easier to get people to donate to a specific cause,” she said.

“We find at the theatre that is a bit harder to get people to put money in year after year if it is not going to a specific goal. So, that is something that we are working on as a board is how do we frame that in a way that people can say ‘look what I did,’ because that is something that they can see.

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