By Michael Peel
A FINANCIAL crisis is threatening the Victoria Theatre despite tremendous success on stage.
Unless councillors pump more money into the Halifax venue, it risks ending the year 167,000 in the red, a council chief has revealed.
"The theatre simply cannot manage with its current reduced budget and alternative funding should be found," said community services director Rose Wheeler.
But in a report to councillors, she says a new plan for running the artistic side of the theatre has been highly successful.
Major hits recently have involved Embrace, Morrissey and The Charlatans, as well as opera, ballet, West End productions such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a pantomime and comedy acts including Ken Dodd.
The theatre has also seen big names such as Peter Kay appear in previous years.
"The 2005/6 performance represents near optimum level as far as both its expenditure and income are concerned, given the council's expectations in delivering a balanced programme," said Dr Wheeler.
"But the theatre is expected to reduce its subsidy by 80,000 this year in addition to a reduction of 100,000 in 2004/5."
Her report will go to Calderdale Council Community Services Scrutiny Panel on Thursday.
Amanda Byrne, the councillor with cabinet responsibility for the arts and community services, said: "All council-run theatres need subsidising and there are many financial pressures on us at the moment.
"But the Victoria is well run and I will be asking the cabinet to revisit the budget," she said.
There have been many major improvements to the theatre building recently including new toilets and cloakrooms, rewiring and the complete renovation of the hospitality arrangements, including a VIP suite and improvements to the dressing rooms.
New seats are due to be put into the stalls next spring at a cost of 335,000.
This year's pantomime at the Victoria is expected to raise nearly 200,000, of which about 50,000 will go directly to the council.
* The latest report on the theatre shows that the number of tickets sold for productions is growing and the annual subsidy from the council is shrinking.
It is now 2.25 per head of the population – about 400,000 a year – compared to 3.07 in 2002/3.