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The Buller District Council has secured $148,550 from the PGF’s community halls and war memorials fund to make the theatre more user-friendly for audiences and performers. The planned enhancements include a retractable movie screen, heat pumps, acoustic baffling and more dressing-room and storage space.
Community services manager Rachel Townrow said the council’s contractor had an on-site meeting at the theatre last week.
"Work will start very soon ... the plan is to make the theatre more usable — it’ll also involve enclosing an outdoor space between the hall and the theatre to create bigger backstage area, and better dressing rooms."
The grant was welcome news to the Reefton Operatic and Repertory Society (Roars).
Cinema manager Trevor Johns, who is also a member of the group, said the extra space was badly needed.
Being able to buy a drop-down movie screen would make the theatre more versatile and his job much easier, he said.
"What I have to do now, if Roars or anyone else needs to use the stage, is move all the heavy sound gear and crank the screen up out of the way with a hand winch. Then you have to move it all back again for the movies."
Roars member Keith Tonkin said the extra space for players would be a boon.
"The backstage area’s pretty minimal — there’s sometimes 10 of us crammed into the men’s dressing room and we’ve got nowhere decent to store all the props and costumes we’re building up, so this is going to be great."
Interest in live theatre was growing on the Coast, and good facilities provided by councils in communities like Reefton would encourage the performing arts, Mr Tonkin said.
"We started a Facebook page recently with the idea of bringing people together from around the region, maybe to do meatier stuff than just variety shows, and we had 30 members almost immediately."