Shock at Fortune closure, but hope for Dunedin theatre

Fortune Theatre's closure has been treated with shock around Dunedin and New Zealand, but hope remains for professional theatre in the city.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and other former Dunedinites from around New Zealand were among those to express their dismay, but both he and Creative New Zealand said they were committed to finding a model which would allow professional theatre to continue in the city.

There was also shock and sadness from Dunedin residents and local politicians after the announcement this morning the theatre would close immediately because it was no longer financially viable.

Mr Robertson, who is also Associate Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage, said on Twitter the news was "sad", but the Government was still committed to professional theatre in Dunedin.

Comedian and fellow former Dunedin resident Jeremy Elwood said the news was "heartbreaking".

Drama director Simon Bennett, who worked on Outrageous Fortune and Westside, was also alarmed at the news.

Creative New Zealand said in a statement it was saddened at the news that the Fortune Theatre was closing.

The theatre had been part of the city’s cultural fabric and a home of theatre in the south of the South Island for more than 40 years.

“We acknowledge that this has been an extremely difficult decision for the Fortune Theatre Trust and hugely disappointing for the theatre’s staff who have been working to revitalise the theatre,” said Creative New Zealand chief executive Stephen Wainwright.

“Creative New Zealand is keen to work with other stakeholders to advance the future of theatre in Dunedin in the wake of this announcement.  We are committed to funding great theatre experiences for the people of Dunedin and the surrounding area.”

Creative New Zealand had been funding Fortune Theatre at a rate of $500,000 per annum.

The news also prompted a huge response from readers on the ODT Facebook page.

James Calverley said it was "truly depressing news".

"The Fortune is a fantastic venue and there is really no alternative in Dunedin for professional theatre makers and performers."

Lynette Grave said the announcement was "terrible".

"What has gone wrong with our funding processes to keep places like the Fortune Theatre (and Moana House) operating?"

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