Cork Opera House: In Financial Crisis by Annette J Dunlea
Our current opera house was designed by Scott Tallon Walker. This new 1,000 seat auditorium holds all types of performances: opera, theatre, musical, family shows, musicials, dance show, concerts and festivals.It has 5.1 surround system with digital sound, a huge stage 12 x 10 metres and an orchestra pit that can hold 70 musicians. At the rear of the building there is a studio where interdisciplinary projects e.g comedy events take place. Its mission statement says: “Cork Opera House seeks to serve its city and surrounding region as a municipal theatre, offering its audiences a world class programme of events accross all disciplines in the performing arts”. Despite this the theatre has shut its doors from 4th July to 29th September 2010. Staff have been told that layouts are inevitable in this cost cutting exercise.
Its 2010 annual reports showed its running costs were €3.5 million, making a loss of €300,000 in 2010. Deloitte and Touche studied their accounting books and advised their expenses must decrease by �500,000 a year. Significant payroll deductions and staff redundancies were part of the survival plan. Clearly, they need to cut their running expenses and need to shop around for best prices for products and services. A interim director was appointed Mr Padraic Liston and he conveyed news to staff and publically supported the recommendations. The summer , although, peak tourist seasion, is not a profitable time for Cork Opera House. This clearly needs attention that its programme is not attracting visitors or Corkonians. On investigation I took to the streets of Cork to find out why: people complained about the price of tickets, lack of modern shows, too much Sheakespare and musicals they complained it needs new blood and new modern shows like Mamma Mia and River Dance. People expressed anger that this highly subsided arts company had just opened a year after an expensive refurbishement and could not run on budget and was closing again. They asked me to look at their competitiors the Everyman Theatre and the Marquee they get top acts and tickets are sold at top prices and these have sell out performances every night. Alot of effort is put into researching the most popular shows and attracting the best. So people have the money and do attend shows if they are offered what they want. I wondered what public imput do they get on their performances and what is produced on stage, I could find no reference to any. People wondered why discounts were not offered to the old age pensioners and the unemployed. Many shows were not fully booked thus they argued better to leave the old and unearned in and fill all seats and take in some money. Most people said they went once a year to the pantomime it had a wide variety of actors and modern songs and a good family show. More complained the Everyman Theatre was better performed and better value for money. A special task force has been set up with the promoters in a bid to attract quality acts and a finance committee is reviewing all aspects of the operation including ticket price.
It is Munster’s largest theatre situated in the heart of Cork city in Emmet Place. It does have an online website offering an online mailing list, ebrochure to download and one can purchase COH gift vouchers. It prints its programme daily in the local newspapers: The Examiner and Evening Echo. They should post a copy of their yearly brochures free to all public libraries or at least to Cork Public Library and Cork Cork County Library. It offers the public an opportunity to contribute to the COH via sponsorship and various hospitality packages. Parties are catered for in The Blue Angel Lounge (only during a show) and four corporate boxes are available for hire during shows. I wonder could the back studio and bar been made available for hire for receptions when the theatre is closed. Other marketing strategies are inviting the public to purchase a seat at €500 each or 2 for €750 and in return a plaque with your dedication will be put on the chair. Upon request the COH will post a cert that you can frame. COH is a registered charity no. 17029 and one should note that full tax relief is available for seat sponsorship under section 848A Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.
The Cork Opera House is owned by private shareholders and Cork City Council is its largest shareholder. It has a large management staff of : 1 executive director and 13 non executive directors, 32 permanent staff and 45 temporary staff. In 2009 it received €180,000 in grants from The Arts Council and €65,000 from Cork City Council. It raised 6% of its own turnover through fundraising. For its refurbishement in 2009 it received a further €2.933 million in capital grant, €1.5 million for the Dept. of Arts and Tourism and €893,000 from Cork City Council. COH raised €158,00 towards its refurbishement. This money was spent repairing leaks and reroofing, rewiring and installing vital health and safety equipement. New lighting and ventillation were installed. 1,000 seats were added, new carpets put down and all internal walls repainted. All money has been accounted for and noted in its public accounts. In 2009 187,996 people attended 415 performances. Showing an averagh of 41.6% seat oocupancy. COH prides itself on providing popular entertainment with emphasis on education and outreach activities. In the past 8 years it has produced and co produced 33 new productions which have toured 38 venues in 22 counties. In 2010 it paid €166,000 in royalities to artists and €387,000 back to the exchequer. This week Cork City Council examined COH’s annual report and they agreed with the recommendation to close it for the summer months ensure its future vitability.
Causes Annette Dunlea Supports
The National Council of The Blind, Ireland