Fortune discussions near

Dunedin city councillors are due to consider the fate of the Fortune Theatre in December. PHOTO:...
Dunedin city councillors are due to consider the fate of the Fortune Theatre in December. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The future of Dunedin’s Fortune Theatre, as well as the city’s performing arts sector, could become clearer by the end of the year.

The Stuart St building has been closed since May 2018, when the board of trustees decided the professional theatre company was no longer financially viable.

Dunedin City Council staff had monitored the state of the building since then and carried out essential work to protect it, a council spokeswoman said.

Councillors are expected to consider a report on the future of the building during 10-year plan meetings in December. They are also due to consider a performing arts feasibility study in December.

The building — the former home of the Trinity Methodist Church — dates to 1869 and is registered as a category 1 historic place.

Dunedin structural engineer Stephen Macknight said the community needed to talk about the building’s future.

It could again be a good theatre or used for another purpose, but enough money would need to be put in to get it to a suitable standard, he said.

Former Fortune artistic director Jonathon Hendry, now Bats Theatre chief executive in Wellington, said the building’s connection with its history had been maintained.

It was also helpful to have two performance spaces there.

However, the building had presented challenges for hosting audiences in modern times, including a limited foyer space, the toilets being downstairs and lack of suitable access for people with disabilities.

Mr Hendry said he continued to respect the depth and range of talent in the city.

Rather than looking to restart professional theatre, he suggested the city could pursue a different model to nurture talent and provide performance opportunities.

That could include creating a space that would be a focal point for groups in the city, as well as touring productions, and creating a central database and ticketing synergies.

The former Fortune Theatre building was listed among the council’s strategic assets in 2018.

A detailed seismic assessment for the council in 2011 found it was not earthquake-prone.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

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