Petrolia explains fees for community users of theatre

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Pam Wright
The Independent

Petrolia officials want community groups using Victoria Hall and Victoria Playhouse Petrolia to get a fair shake.
About 15 people came to a meeting held by the town for the community users, April 11.
Twenty groups were invited to hear details of how the facility is operated, and how rental costs are calculated.
Use of the Victoria Hall/VPP is decided on a first come, first serve basis, after the professional theatre season has been set. The cost to community groups to rent the VPP per day is $630, with an additional discount for a week or more.
According to Laurissa Ellsworth, Marketing Manager and the Manager of Front of House, says a fee of $4 is placed on each ticket sold right off the top — $2 of which is used to pay for printing.
Use of the box office, including 24-7 Internet purchasing access, is also factored into the number.
When compared to similar venues in communities across Southwestern Ontario, Petrolia’s fees come in around the middle of the pack with the Grand Theatre in London getting about $8 per ticket (they charge a percentage fee not flat rate) and the Palace Theatre – the home of community theatre in London – charging $2.
According to Ellsworth, the point is to balance the use among groups, ensuring there is fair access and pricing across the board.
A portion of each year’s profits from VPP are put into reserves, Ellsworth says, in order to pay for ongoing upgrades to the theatre’s sound and lighting systems, for example.
“It’s not our intention to make money off the rental of Victoria Hall,” Ellsworth explains, adding the town is aiming to break even, supplying a historic venue for community use.
On the other hand, the goal is to run productions in VPP at a profit. Last year, over $40,000 was placed in reserves from VPP productions
It’s about achieving a balance, Ellsworth says. “We’re trying not to cost the taxpayer money,” she adds.
Representatives from groups attending the meeting say the user group information session was an opportunity for local organizations to network, and to possibly share personnel and services, such as ushers.
Also, starting in 2018, VPP will add three special fundraising performances. One will be to raise money for a registered charity outside Lambton County, one will be to fundraise for the Petrolia Community Fund, and another will raise money for a charity that benefits all of Lambton County.
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia has been a municipal department since 2006. From 2008 to 2011, the facility faced large losses. The current director of cultural services, Richard Poore, was hired with a directive to make money.

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