Courtenay theatre facing first deficit in two decades

Courtenay's Sid Williams Theatre Society is asking Comox council for help as it struggles with an operational shortfall in the 2012 business year.

Tim Krutzmann, board member of the Sid Williams Theatre Society presented Comox council Wednesday with a proposal to increase to their current funding from $12,500 to a minimum of $20,000.

The theatre could potentially post its first deficit in 20 years, confirmed Deb Renz, general manager of the theatre.

"We've had a very difficult couple of years," she told the Record. "We've put together a new three-year business plan for the theatre ... we're trying at this point not to scale back but save the things that are most important to the theatre."

As of Dec. 31, the society recorded a total of 39,316 patrons who used the theatre, along with 733 members.

Renz noted they are also planning on approaching their other municipal supporters — the City of Courtenay and the Comox Valley Regional District — and added the board is quite optimistic, as they have had very good support in the past.

Krutzmann told council the society fundamentally believes the core principal of supporting local user groups is a key component of supporting the performing arts and cultural organizations within the community.

He said he believes the minimum increase of $7,500 is a fair and reasonable request.

"This is not irresponsibility on the society's part, rather a product of a number of issues," he added.

"We have revamped our operations and this has costed the society a measurable income in the short term, and what we as a society was not prepared to do was sacrifice the well-being of our staff and eventually the quality of our services to the community and user groups to which we serve. Credit should be given to the society for its long-term vision instead of taking a short-term Band-Aid approach that was unconcerned for the big picture," he said.

Renz explained that in the three-year plan for the theatre, three key points where highlighted: to make the theatre accessible for the community and non-profit organizations; to have safe, environmentally friendly and profitable operations; and to ensure a high quality of artistic productions.

"The support of arts and culture by local government is as important to the well-being of a community as funding recreation centres, playing fields and other sporting endeavours," explained Krutzmann. "The social and economic benefits of the arts and culture sector to our community as a whole are well-documented and researched."

Mayor Paul Ives said the society's request will come up in budget discussions, which are scheduled to happen within the next few months.

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