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The Regent Theatre has been given $350,000 for design work for an upgrade in the next financial year, and $4.4 million in the 2010-11 financial year for construction work, but the latter will not be certain until consultation for next year's annual plan.
The future of Dunedin's theatres may be clearer by that time, with a report on the city's facilities due by early next year.
The Otago Theatre Trust told the council at hearings last month the theatre needed urgent work on its counterweights and fly tower, and upgrades of its dressing rooms and auditorium.
Community life general manager Graeme Hall told yesterday's meeting the trust had identified it needed $300,000 more than expected for work on the auditorium, and that had been added to funding the trust was to raise.
Some councillors raised concerns about a plan to include an option to reconfigure the Regent so it could also be used as an 800-seat theatre.
Cr John Bezett said it had not been decided whether an 800-seat theatre was needed.
Cr Richard Walls suggested an amendment that included the $350,000 being used to explore how the Regent could have an 800-seat theatre option, but Mayor Peter Chin told him that option would result in a public reaction that would make issues like the town hall atrium "seem like kindy".
The council voted to include the $350,000 in the budget for the next financial year, and the $4.4 million the following year, subject to consultation, and the trust confirming it could raise $2 million for the planned auditorium upgrade.
The meeting also voted that council staff work with interested parties to investigate the concept of a 600- to 800-seat theatre. Staff would also consider improvements for the Mayfair Theatre, with $30,000 set aside for the work on both investigations.