An age-old challenge

Castlemaine’s Theatre Royal has come up with a membership scheme to help meet the challenges of operating a grand old theatre in a regional setting.
Tim Heath and Felicity Cripps now manage the theatre on their own, having recently parted ways with their former business partners.
The beautiful 150-year-old building is the cultural heart of the community but it is costly to operate and requires constant maintenance and upkeep.
“Because of its size, age and heritage status, it’s hard to keep costs down,” Tim said.
In order to undertake structural repairs, Tim and Felicity assisted their landlords in applying for a Heritage Victoria grant of $75,000 that was successful, on the proviso that the grant amount would be matched by the landlord. So far the grant has helped cover the cost of resurfacing the foyer floor (to be tiled in August), fixing some broken tiles out the front and falling render on the side of the building.
“The grant is great, but it has required hours and hours of our time, working with a heritage architect, the landlord’s requirements and Heritage Victoria’s approval. It’s an ongoing and painstaking process and has at times meant closure of our business, which is another costly setback,” Felicity said.
Felicity and Tim have now come up with a membership support program for their cherished patrons.
“We’re launching a member’s club as a way to keep the business going, and also to give something back to the customer,” Tim said.
“We’re asking locals for their pledge of support … we want to reward people for getting involved and becoming an active stakeholder – there will also be an option to pledge a larger contribution and purchase a seat or a couch with your name on it!
“It’s about continuing to build a community around the theatre with people who love it and value its role in the town as much as we do.”
People can take part in the program by paying a membership fee that in turn will give them discounts on films and other exclusive privileges.
Members will receive regular updates and be invited to participate in an ongoing conversation about the theatre and its events and content. What would you like to see improved at the Theatre Royal? You can be a part of the action by signing up!
The Theatre Royal team will be launching the membership program next month. More information will be available soon on the theatre’s website, in the printed program, and at the theatre itself.

The Theatre Royal’s Felicity Cripps and Tim Heath are about to launch a new membership support program for their cherished patrons. Photo: Eve Lamb

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