Theatre to shed jobs to save future

CORK Opera House recorded a €286,346 loss for the financial year ended last March but has agreed an ambitious business plan to secure its future.

Shareholders attending its annual general meeting yesterday were told the plan, which aims to reduce operating costs and increase the number of annual performance nights from 220 to almost 300, was signed off by the board yesterday.

Chairman Damien Wallace said it is the company’s intention to keep the theatre open year-round in future. Savings of up to €500,000 have to be achieved over the next financial year – €400,000 from payroll and €100,000 from other sources.

Seven of the theatre’s 33 full-time jobs are likely to be axed to secure the savings. Unions were briefed on the situation and the company is awaiting a response.

And some €63,000 which was lost by the theatre during the year due to an alleged fraud has been repaid in full.

Figures in its annual accounts show the venue, which has just reopened after an enforced summer closure, had a turnover of €4,881,360 – a 13.8% reduction on the previous year’s turnover of €5,662,118.

The company made an operating loss for the year of €286,346 compared to the previous year’s loss of €83,092.

Mr Wallace said it has been a very difficult year for the theatre for several reasons.

He cited the extreme weather conditions during the traditionally profitable pantomime season, the acute recessionary environment which prevailed throughout the financial year, and a four-week closure for the completion of the refurbishment of the main auditorium.

“The challenges facing the company have included a restructuring of costs to bring them into line with current levels of revenue,” he said.

“To this end the board made a decision to close the theatre for the three month period July to September in order to stem operating losses during what is traditionally a quiet period.

“A strategic review has been undertaken during this closure period and a three year business plan is now complete.

“Despite the challenging environment we have launched an exciting autumn/winter season of events and we look forward to welcoming our always supportive patrons back next week.”

The cash-strapped theatre was saved from closure earlier this year when its largest shareholder, Cork City Council, stepped in with grant aid, a loan and guaranteed a bank loan.

Interim CEO, Pádraic Liston said the “prudent strategy” set out in the business plan will see the theatre begin repaying those loans by the end of year three.

He said he is confident with a restructured cost-base, and a wide and varied arts programme that people want, the theatre can improve its revenue streams and attract up to 200,000 patrons annually.

Recruitment is now under way to appoint a permanent CEO but Mr Liston said he will be available to assist the board.

A total of 133 events were presented in the two auditoria last year with 176,121 patrons attending 379 performances.

Plans are being finalised for a strong commercial 2011 summer programme.


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