Fears curtain about to fall on Regent

Regent Theatre general manager Sarah Anderson hopes the public will help fund the redevelopment...
Regent Theatre general manager Sarah Anderson hopes the public will help fund the redevelopment of the backstage area and fly tower. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The Regent Theatre's general manager has warned the curtains will come down on the theatre if $2 million cannot be raised by the end of June to help redevelop the backstage area.

Sarah Anderson said the Otago Theatre Trust was still $1.73 million short of its target contribution, and if $2 million could not be raised, the Dunedin City Council would not commit its $4.7 million towards the $6.7 million project.

With about three months left before the deadline, Ms Anderson was beginning to question the feasibility of raising the money in time.

"There's not enough time.

"This has turned into a catch-22 situation for us.

"You can't fill the expectations of most funding bodies because they expect you to have a reasonable portion of the funds in hand.

"With both the DCC and funding bodies saying that, it makes fundraising difficult."

Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin said when contacted last night he remained hopeful the trust would meet its fundraising goal with support from the community, but left open the possibility of some leeway, when pressed about the deadline.

"I'm not sure I really want to comment too much on if they don't make it. I suppose it might be a matter of how much they don't make it by.

"That's going to be over to the council overall. My personal wish would be for them to be successful."

Ms Anderson believed there should be discussions about why, and how, Otago's premiere performing arts venue was in this situation.

If the money could not be found, there would be major implications for the future of the theatre, she said.

"A redevelopment of this magnitude is so important.

"If it doesn't go ahead, the theatre will have to close because of health and safety concerns."

The Royal New Zealand Ballet has already confirmed it will not perform in the theatre again until the redevelopment is completed.

"They don't want to risk the safety of the dancers."

Ms Anderson said if the funding could not be found, the project would be put on hold until 2012 when the plan to redevelop the backstage area would be considered again.

Delaying the redevelopment would have long-term implications for Dunedin.

"If the place closes until 2012, all the passing shows will just pass and our ability to attract high-quality entertainment will be eroded in the long term.

"Travelling shows will just stop putting us on their calendar.

"That means no ballet, no Southern Opera, no film festival, no operatic shows, and no bands.

"The Regent Theatre is a community resource - it will be a huge loss to the community."

Dunedin City Council Community Life general manager Graeme Hall said the issues raised by Ms Anderson were included in the council's annual plan submissions, and the council's response was to put up funding on the basis of a contribution of $2 million from the Otago Theatre Trust.

"That was in June 2009. Nothing has changed since then," Mr Hall said.

"It is important that the theatre gets support from the public, similar to the support that other projects like the salt water pool, the University Oval and the Dunedin Ice Stadium got."


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