Three firms bid for theatre deal
TWO private companies are competing with the firm which runs the city's biggest theatres to take over the loss-making venues.
Both the Regent Theatre and Victoria Hall could soon be under new management as Stoke-on-Trent City Council's deal with Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) expires at the end of the financial year.
The council is splitting up the management of its premier Hanley venues for the first time, meaning they could be taken over by competing businesses.
Three firms have lodged bids to win the 10-year contracts, which are now being assessed by a panel of councillors and officers.
This Sunday between 11am & 4pm with FREE admission at the Moat House Hotel Festival Park we will be exhibiting with some special show offers, the weather forecast isn't good but our deals are
Terms: Visit us or pick up a voucher at the show to be eligible
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Sunday, June 23 2013
ATG confirmed last night that it is bidding to continue running both venues.
The council will be able to scrap the Victoria Hall deal after four years if its plans to extend the Bagnall Street venue using private investment have not progressed.
Theatre-goer Brian Ward, of Blurton, a former cabinet member for regeneration, said: "I don't think Ambassador has done enough to promote the Regent and attract first class shows that will put bums on seats, like in other areas.
"I was disappointed when its contract was extended without being offered out.
"The subsidy has gone up and I think we could get better value for taxpayers' money."
ATG claims to have made operating losses of more than £3.5 million since taking over the theatres in 1999.
The city council's annual subsidy for the venues has ballooned from £100,000 in 2000 to £626,000 for 2012/13.
Although splitting up the contracts is expected to make both venues more competitive, the authority's contribution is not expected to fall. The council estimates the two venues attract 467,000 visitors to the city each year and raise millions in "economic benefit."
Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development, said: "I'm often asked how much money our theatres make.
"People are surprised to hear regional theatres are not profit-making businesses but cultural businesses that need public investment in the same way as libraries, leisure centres, and museums.
"The theatres provide an important benefit in terms of economic impact and also have social and educational value."