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Capitol Theatre feeling pinch of losses and overrun

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

In enduring its third consecutive annual net loss and grappling with a budget overrun of $30,000 last year, the Capitol Theatre has had enough and has asked City council for additional money in 2011 to replace the funding they have lost.

Cuts to the arts across the province last year also sliced the City-owned theatre by $15,000, said Capitol general manager Neil Harrower.

As a result, he asked the City for a total of $70,000 — an increase of 15 per cent in funding over the amount they have received since 1988 — Monday night at City council's committee of the whole meeting.

This extra money would replace the $15,000 no longer available to the theatre from the BC Gaming Commission's Direct Access Grant. Harrower said the theatre's society has applied for federal funding from Canadian Heritage to offset the shortfall, but does not know yet if they will receive it.

In the first two years of the theatre's existence the City granted them $60,000 per annum. However, in the following 21 years the theatre received a consistent $55,000 per year for its operations — the same sum it received last year.

Harrower pointed out that if a three per cent increase in the cost of inflation was factored in since 1990, the Capitol would be receiving $102,316.20 this year, instead of the $55,000 they are guaranteed.

The theatre also does not know whether they will receive the additional money they requested from council, since council was not in a position to make a decision on the request at the committee of the whole meeting — and will make that determination in two months once the budget is finalized.

Harrower said this was the first time they have asked for an increase, something they hinted at last year at this time when cuts to the arts were first being felt.

The City's portion of the theatre revenue reflects 17.3 per cent of the total it brings in. Earned revenue by the theatre represented $239,669, or 75.42 per cent of the total.

In the 2009 to 2010 season, the Capitol ran a net loss of $7,259.18 (total expense of $321,934) — going more than $30,000 over its approved budget from last year. Administration expenses were up over $11,000 and there was an $11,000 increase in projected artist fees as well.

The projected budget for the 2010-2011 season is nearly $300,000, up $8,200 from last year. In the last three years actual expenses have crept over $300,000 for the theatre, with net losses of $11,841 (07-08), $8,146 (08-09) and $7,259 (09-10) incurring each year.

Last season

• Tickets online has received favourable feedback from patrons and now comprises over 25 per cent of the total tickets sold at the Capitol.

• There were a total of 119 events at the theatre last year of which 26 were Capitol presentations.

• The presentations had an average attendance of over 70 per cent, with the overall attendance at the theatre 24,175.

• Of the 119 events in the last year, 54 (45 per cent) of them were community rentals.