Theatre a well-used busy asset for the Cowichan region

Your Dec. 4 editorial stated: “We operate a theatre that sits empty five or six nights of every week while denying dedicated funding for our arts and culture groups.”

This erroneous statement needs to be corrected.

The demand for usage of the Cowichan Theatre has increased by 300% from 1998 to 2012.

In 2012, the number of performances on stage, rehearsals, events, meetings, art gallery openings, and professional training sessions has increased to 221 per year.

The theatre is booked 5.5 times a week on average. During peak times of the season, the theatre is often double- and triple-booked, requiring careful scheduling to meet all of the demands. In addition to 221 performances and community events, time is scheduled solely for maintenance, equipment upgrades and installation. Any urgent equipment needs that come up during peak season are added into a full schedule.

The number of bums in seats in 2012 was  42,602. The actual number of people using the Theatre and its ancillary rooms is much higher than the total ticket count because it does not include people using the stage for rehearsals, or the rehearsal hall, the lobby and meeting rooms. All events in ancillary rooms require staff time for administration, set up, load in and load out.

Residents from the entire region use the Cowichan Theatre and its ancillary rooms. We don’t only hold arts and culture events, but also several annual general meetings, and meetings for the business community. Last year, staff was involved in assisting local groups in 74 community events in addition to the scheduled bookings.

The economic spin-off benefits to having a venue such as the Cowichan Theatre in a community are well documented and measurable. For every dollar invested in the arts, the government recovers $1.36 in tax revenue. (Ministry Tourism, Culture and Sport, 2006).

Ticket buyers often spend money in local shops and restaurants, or book a hotel and spend time sightseeing. The Cowichan Theatre buys services locally in large quantities such as advertising, printed materials, signage, catering services, products for the concession, technical equipment, administrative supplies and more.

The theatre employs staff who in turn spend locally. A thriving Cowichan Theatre is good for the economy of the entire community.

The Cowichan Theatre is widely acknowledged to be one of the busiest, most in-demand performing arts theatres in the province. The venue serves not only as a performing arts theatre, but also as a cultural hub and gathering place for community groups, business meetings and local events from the Cowichan Valley region. Ticket buyers come from all over Vancouver Island to see shows here.

Kirsten Schrader is Cowichan’s Arts and Culture Division manager

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