Victoria Symphony hammered by huge rent increase at Royal Theatre

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

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.

READ MORE: Victoria Symphony opens 2018 season

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.

RELATED: Symphony Splash – Movie music keeps things fun at 2018 splash

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

Victoria Symphony Orchestra

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

Just Posted

A cougar was spotted at Royal Roads University on Sunday, Jan. 24. The sighting was reported on the western edge of the campus. (File photo)
Cougar spotted at Royal Roads University Sunday afternoon

Animal reported on western side of campus near Langford Fire Department

Frank Bourree was awarded the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s first Governors’ Award of Distinction for his leadership in the business community. (Courtesy of Frank Bourree)
Frank Bourree receives award of distinction from Victoria chamber

Award recognizes positive role model in business community

The Habitat for Humanity Meaning of Home contest is open to students in Grades 5 to 6. (Screenshot/Habitat for Humanity video)
Habitat for Humanity launches national writing contest

Entries accepted from students in Grades 4 to 6 until Feb. 19

Colwood Fire Rescue is reminding the public to only burn dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces after heavy smoke filled the intersection of Sooke Road and Acacia Drive when a homeowner tried burning a plastic item on Sunday, Jan. 24. (Emily Jessop photo)
Colwood homeowner burns plastic in fireplace, causes emergency response

Colwood Fire Rescue says burn dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces only

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

Most Read