Proposals from the owners of Burnham-On-Sea’s Ritz Cinema to take over The Princess Theatre have been considered by town councillors this week and a decision on the theatre’s future is set to be made later this year.
As first reported here by Burnham-On-Sea.com, Ritz owners Pat and Beryl Scott have submitted an expression of interest to take over the theatre from the council.
At a meeting this week, town councillors agreed what steps will be taken to fully consider the proposals in more detail.
The Chair of the Princess Management Committee, Cllr Sharon Perry, asked councillors to take into account that a review of staff and the processes within the theatre is currently taking place by two consultants with experience of running cultural venues in a local authority setting.
She added that their report is due at the end of the month. It was also noted that the Town Council has begun to consider its strategic aims for the next four years as part of its Corporate Plan, which will include the cultural life of the towns and theatre.
The Chair of the Princess Management Committee also stated that it is important that both streams of work are concluded before the future management and/or ownership of the theatre is discussed.
Fundamental questions, including what the Council wants from the Theatre, need to be answered before the Council considers its future management, noted the Chair.
The councillors thanked Mr and Mrs Scott for the letter expressing an interest in the Princess Theatre; and agreed that the Council will develop and publish its vision and goals for the theatre, taking into account the strategic review currently underway including a statement of how it envisages the Theatre contributes to the cultural life of the towns and the metrics through which these could be measured.
It was also agreed that the matter would be deferred until the Town Council meeting in June, once it has received the commissioned report.
Cllr Perry, pictured, said at that point, the Council will debate how its plan to deliver its goals regarding the Theatre could be managed. This may involve a formal, open tender process, where applications are invited from interested parties to submit business plans.
In November, it was reported that The Princess Theatre had forecast it would make approximately £50,450 of income during the coming year on expenditure of £240,433, leaving £189,983 to be funded by tax payers or drawn partly from the council’s reserves, prompting a debate about its viability.
However, a revised budget was considered by councillors during a council meeting in December which forecasted higher income of £68,550 during the coming year on expenditure of £239,103, leaving £170,553 to be funded by tax payers or reserves.
A petition supporting the theatre – signed by over 160 local people – was handed to the council during the December 14th meeting, while several residents present also told the council that more consultation about the theatre’s finances is needed.
The theatre’s Business Development Officer Beccy Armory stepped down from her role in December, as reported here.