Cinema lifeline for cash-strapped St Albans theatre

PUBLISHED: 08:00 19 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:27 06 May 2010

FILM could become the lifesaver of a St Albans theatre which is currently costing people in the district two per cent of their council tax to run. The Maltings Arts Theatre on the second floor of the shopping centre has been run directly by St Albans coun

FILM could become the lifesaver of a St Albans theatre which is currently costing people in the district two per cent of their council tax to run.

The Maltings Arts Theatre on the second floor of the shopping centre has been run directly by St Albans council for the past couple of years.

But it is being subsidised by council tax-payers and now a new business plan is being drawn up which could see it being used far more for film in a bid to break even.

St Albans culture and heritage portfolio holder, Cllr Melvyn Teare, said: "We have always known that the subsidy we have to pay is the equivalent of £150,000 a year and we have always been mindful that we should look at the programming and space to see what we can offer in there to make better use of it."

He said that he had invited two architects in to look at the space - the theatre has a 160-seat auditorium - and there was nothing to stop the council running it as a cinema.

Behind the stage is another quite large area which he felt could be useful for "director's chair" type events.

Cllr Teare said he had been looking at the programme with quite a number of people and the films on show could be a combination of art house and mainstream.

But that did not mean that the Maltings - which currently houses drama, music, comedy nights and young people's workshops - would necessarily stop showing live theatre.

He explained: "Live theatre could still be programmed into it but there are other places such as Trestle, the Abbey Theatre, Harpenden Public Halls and the Alban Arena. We have just got to make better use of the space there and what I have to do is come up with a solution."

Cllr Teare said that film was likely to be at the nub of the business plan which would go to the council's cabinet in December.

St Albans has been without a cinema since the old Odeon in London Road closed down although films are shown at the Arena.

Two schemes were drawn up for a new multiplex on the council car park site in the city centre which would have involved housing and restaurant use as well but both were rejected as too large and overbearing on a prime site.


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