N.S. theatre sector seeks government aid amid pandemic
HALIFAX -- Feeling the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia’s theatres are calling on the province for emergency funds. Those working in the cultural sector have signed a petition and written a letter to the government requesting immediate action. However, despite pleas for assistance, the industry, which was the first impacted by the pandemic, could be the last sector to recover.
On Thanksgiving weekend, the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay sits cold, dark and empty. The last show to take the main stage was in March – over seven months prior.
Savoy Theatre manager, Pam Leader, is among many in the cultural sector that have signed a petition and written a letter to the provincial government – requesting funding to keep the lights on and the doors open.
“It’s not good. The thing that is saving us right now is the wage subsidy. Without that, the doors would be closed more permanently than they are right now,” says Leader. “The sector does need emergency funding, just to be able to proceed and hopefully plan for 2021.”
Leader says Neptune Theatre in Halifax lost $1.7M within the first three months of the pandemic because of cancelled shows and the loss of ticket sales.
At the Cape Breton Miners Museum, staff decided to close earlier than usual because they had more employees than visitors.
“It’s been awful – just dreadful. You couldn’t even imagine how bad this year was,” says Cape Breton Miners Museum executive director, Mary Pat Mombourquette.
While the Atlantic Bubble has helped to keep COVID-19 cases low, it has not helped businesses that rely on tourism dollars.
“The cultural industry desperately needs money for their operations. Most of our revenue is coming from earned revenue, and we’re not making any this year,” says Mombourquette. “So how are we going to keep the lights on? How are we going to keep the heat on? How are we going to pay for insurance? How are we going to have enough money to open up next year?”
While businesses such as the Savoy Theatre are permitted to open, it must adhere to physical distancing rules – allowing the theatre to sell 200 tickets for a venue that could seat 800 people. Therefore, putting on a full production would not be financially viable – especially for actors and crews who make a living acting.
“Unless you have a very small cast – because you need to pay people to do a show,” says Leader. “You don’t expect them to come in and do it for nothing – this is their livelihood as well. It’s tough decisions, really tough decisions, and the other question is, are people really ready to come back into a space?”
Meanwhile, Leader notes there has been some dialogue between the province and the theatre sector – with hopes that help will come soon before next season is silenced as well.