THE $9 million Lighthouse Theatre redevelopment opening last month was widely applauded, but it has been priced out of reach of some community groups who previously used the venue for their showcase concerts.
Instead, they will perform around the city in smaller halls with cheaper fees.
The annual eisteddfod, local theatre company, calisthenics club and a long-running dance school are among the groups which will not be hiring out the main Lighthouse Theatre as they have done in the past.
Hire costs range from $750 for community groups to $1675 for professional shows in the main performance theatre and $400 to $850 for the smaller studio stage.
The city council defended the fees, saying they worked out $23 cheaper than the previous system and rehearsal rates had dropped from $70 an hour to $60.
“Lighthouse Theatre management plans to meet with community groups to discuss how the new facilities and hire fees can work best for them,” council communications manager Kim Sweetnam told The Standard.
Although groups praised the modernisation design based around the old town hall they said it appeared the city’s primary entertainment asset would now be run more on business lines to make a profit.
Theatre company immediate past president and 45-year member Richard Ziegeler said the facility belonged to the community and should be priced accordingly.
“Now we’ve been put in a situation where we can’t afford to use the main theatre we have used for more than 60 years,” he said.“Our theatre company gave the council $80,000 in 1983 for the performing arts centre project to ensure we would have a theatrical home.”
The company is planning to use the studio stage for a performance later this year rather than the major theatre.
In the council’s draft budget hire fees for the main theatre have risen from $485 to $750 for community and local non-profit groups with a ticketed event.
Other non-profit organisations holding an unticketed event will pay $885.
The highest fee will be $1675 as the standard hire rate for a major ticketed event. New fees include a technician, co-ordinator, box office staff and other items that previously were optional extras.
At least one local group, Melissa’s Hip Hop and Dance Elements, is undeterred and will hold its concert in the revamped venue.
Principal Melissa Dance said she looked forward to holding two December concerts in “fabulous facilities”.
Warrnambool Eisteddfod will spread its 6000 entries across three venue for its annual program from May 21 to August including the aria concert on June 24.
“We think the Lighthouse redevelopment is great and a credit to the council, but we could not afford the fees,” eisteddfod committee president Joy Irvine said.
“We can’t slug people beyond their means with higher ticket prices to compensate.”
Eisteddfod founding committee member Beryl Beardsley said the Lighthouse Theatre was based on what had been a community venue where the competition first started.
“We can’t just keep give, give, give to the council,” she said. Robins School of Dancing will hold its annual concert at King’s College, but hopes a suitable fee can be negotiated to use the Lighthouse Theatre for its 50th anniversary.
“Last year we held three concert performances at King’s College which was way, way cheaper and we made triple the profit to be ploughed back into out school,” committee member Helen Hadden said
Warrnambool Calisthenics Club president Laura Cregan also said it was far cheaper to use the college venue rather than the Lighthouse Theatre.
“This is our 49th year and we like to keep our prices to what is affordable for families,” she said.
“There’s no way a small club like us could afford to pay what the Lighthouse Theatre is asking.”