Victoria Symphony, other Royal Theatre users hammered with huge rent increases

Symphony already planning to move half its concerts to UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium

Rental rates for non-profit user groups at the Royal Theatre are rising signficantly. One of those, the Victoria Symphony, plans to move almost half its concerts to UVic as a result. Photo by Terrence Lam

The Victoria Symphony is planning to shift up to 50 per cent of its concert offerings from the Royal Theatre to the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium, as a result of what it calls “exorbitant rental increases” for non-profit groups using the facility starting next season.

Kathryn Laurin, CEO of the Symphony, said their Friday-Saturday rates will jump to $4,000 per day from the current $1,850, Thursdays will be $3,500 and Sunday to Wednesday $2,500 per day. The symphony uses the Royal for close to 50 evenings during the year and needs daytime use of the venue for roughly 35 days. For rehearsal times on weekdays, often when no other performances are scheduled for the theatre, it has paid $800, Laurin said.

This large projected increase in costs for the Symphony is forcing the move to reduce its use of the Royal, she said. Other groups affected by the rent increases are Dance Victoria and Pacific Opera Victoria.

Randy Joynt, manager of external affairs for the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society which operates the CRD-owned venue, said the hike in fees was forced by the continued freeze in public funding levels.

But Laurin argues public financial documents show the Royal Theatre produces a surplus for the society.

“Where they’re struggling is with the McPherson,” she said. “Why would you attack the profitable one, why wouldn’t you focus the energies on the problem child?”

She pointed out that the Symphony, Dance Victoria and Pacific Opera Victoria generate 75 per cent of revenue at the Royal.

Joynt said the three groups are booked for 90 per cent of the prime weekend dates through the year, a situation which leaves very little room for any other presenters.

“As the region grows and the demographics change, we are obligated to provide a wider range of offerings and make the theatre more accessible,” he said.

As part of the changes, the RMTS is hanging onto one prime weekend every month of the year to ensure room for commercial productions.

Also at issue, said Laurin, is the removal of rehearsal time in the theatre between Thursdays and Saturdays, access she said is crucial preparation for a professional musical group that brings in guests performers as part of its mandate.

All of the non-profits have been disappointed in the lack of transparency in negotiations with the RMTS, Laurin said. She added that only two face-to-face meetings happened since the spring and they were more information sessions rather than back and forth discussions.

The moves have left Laurin questioning the RMTS’s commitment to local arts groups. “The three organizations are still very much committed to pursuing this matter and we are hopeful that this can be addressed, because, in our case, half of our concerts are still there.”

Joynt said the RMTS “respects and values the contribution to the arts in the community” of the Symphony and the other groups, and they look forward to the partnership continuing.

The change in venue for the Symphony takes effect September 2019, and Laurin said they are hopeful for understanding in the arts community.

“We are hopeful that our loyal patrons will make this transition with us up to UVic. We look very much forward to continuing to deliver symphonic music of the highest quality.”

editor@mondaymag.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WATCH: Bedouin Soundclash opening their 2020 tour in Victoria

One of the 2000s’ biggest bands touring in support of 2019 release, MASS

Mathieu Poirier: Excitement builds for Victoria Beer Week

Tickets for March 6-14 celebration of all things crafty on sale now

The Music of Cream touring band more than a tribute act

Ginger Baker’s son Kofi, Clapton’s nephew Will joined by rock stalwarts for 50th anniversary tour

Actors asked to find a spirituality for new Belfry production

Playwright/director Tara Beagan’s The Ministry of Grace tells Indigenous tale of challenge, love

PERFECTLY POTABLE: Bold reds that make you stand up and take notice

Monday wine columnist Robert Moyes weighs in on a trio of fine reds and a yummy late harvest white

Fashion Fridays: The basics you need for your body type

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Winners announced for inaugural Victoria Arts Council/Monday poetry contest

More than 100 entries received in five categories

Canadian polar bears’ ‘ingenious’ survival seen in BBC Earth series

Film crews also go to Tofino to watch black bears snap up crabs under massive boulders

Spring author’s reading series kicks off early in Sidney

Sidney and Peninsula Literary Society hosting Yasuko Thanh and Carla Funk for Feb. 7 event

The winners of London Drugs’ 2019 Amateur Photographer of the Year contest are…

After more than 26,000 entries, the winners have been selected across Western Canada.

Most Read