Bosses at Eden Court Theatre – which is facing massive funding cuts – are exploring how its main 840-seat auditorium can be redeveloped to be more profitable.
They have commissioned a £16,000 feasibility study – with 50% backing from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) – to investigate refurbishment of the Empire Theatre.
A spokeswoman for Eden Court – which has had funding slashed by £1.2million over the next three years – said: “We are at the very early stages of exploring how that auditorium can better meet the needs of visiting companies and audiences.
“A fuller announcement is likely in spring 2019 once the feasibility works have been concluded.”
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She added: “We are keen not to raise any expectation amongst the general public as to future capital investment in Eden Court’s Empire Theatre as the results of the feasibility study are unknown.”
She added: “HIE have supported some costs associated with a feasibility study into potential refurbishment works on the Empire Theatre.”
Councillor Biz Campbell, who is on the board of directors for Eden Court, said: “It is very exciting that they are doing a study to redevelop Eden Court.
“To make Eden Court sustainable for the future, this work is imperative.”
An HIE spokesman said: “Creative industries is an important growth sector in the Highlands and Islands and a priority for HIE.
“Theatre audiences have grown in line with increasing local population, and so too has demand for larger scale stage productions. We therefore recognise the need for Eden Court Theatre to explore options for expansion and the feasibility study will help management to fully assess the viability and risks associated with this.”
Eden Court recently lost £400,000 a year of funding – split between Highland Council and Creative Scotland.
It has resulted in the loss of around 10 jobs among the 200-plus workforce.
The reduction in grants aid accounts for 40% of £1m public sector funding for the theatre, which had an income of £6.5m last year with a surplus of £480,000.
Eden Court Theatre was formally opened on April 15, 1976, next to the River Ness.
It underwent a complete refurbishment and extension more than a decade ago and reopened in November 2007.
At the time it became the largest combined arts centre in Scotland.