The Theatre Royal will not distinguish between professional and amateur productions when it comes to rental come its now imminent re-opening, The Munster Express has learned.

“As far as rental or splits are concerned we do not distinguish between amateur and professional as the costs to us are the same,” reads a statement issued by a theatre spokesperson to this paper.

“However, we do negotiate downwards for events of an educational nature.”

Straight rental or a ‘split of box office’ are the most common arrangements when it comes to the renting of any theatre.

Despite repeated concerns voiced by amateur societies in the city, Theatre Director Ben Barnes believes the Royal’s charges “compare favourably with those theatres of commensurate scale and facilities throughout the country”.

Previous claims, suggesting that the Cork Opera House is cheaper to rent than the Theatre Royal have been described as “rubbish” by Theatre Royal Chairman Eamonn Flavin.

Indeed, when drawing a direct comparison between both facilities last year, Mr Barnes said that ‘high-end’ nightly rental of the theatre, prior to its closure for renovations, stood at €1996.50 (including VAT).

In contrast, Mr Barnes provided a rental quote of €8125 for the Cork Opera House (also including VAT), a rate which increases if there is more than one daily performance.

With the cost of productions growing annually, the prospect of musical societies such as Flaggy Lane and Carrick-on-Suir staging performances in the Theatre Royal in the future appear increasingly unlikely.

This factor, along with the rental of the theatre istelf is likely to make the task of staging a future Waterford International Festival of Light Opera on a scale to compare with past editions most difficult.

“If you are not lucky enough to be funded by the Arts Council the chances of putting on a show in the so-called ‘people’s theatre of Waterford’ is near impossible,” commented Flaggy Lane’s Brian Collins in June of last year.

“It’s all very well having lovely new chairs to sit on (but) no shows to see…to try to justify the hire cost is completely outrageous – when you think of all who started their love of theatre in the Royal.”

Once re-opened, the Theatre Royal will provide a guarantee or fee to “the producer which makes it liable for not only the theatre costs but the producer’s costs as well”.

The statement adds: “Such a guarantee would only be paid if the theatre was confident of recouping its costs or if a fund were made available to it by the Arts Council to provide guarantees to Arts Council funded companies on tour.”

Rent at the Royal is to be determined by the direct cost to the venue on the day and night of its rental.

This includes front of house staff at the theatre, technical staff, electricity costs, box office costs, stage crew, etc – while a percentage of the theatre’s annual overhead is to be aggregated into that cost.

“As a percentage of the available take, the rental figure (or the figure which the theatre needs to reach in a ‘split’ arrangement) is approximately 17 per cent of the value of the house.”

This figure is to include “access to the enhanced technical inventory now available at the Theatre Royal and the enhanced facilities including bar and café” according to the spokesperson.

Theatre management feel that reducing the venue’s seating capacity to 435 will not “substantially alter the potential nightly take” since in the past, many seats (especially in ‘the Gods’ were ‘un-sellable’ due to poor sightlines.

Whether those putting bums on seats at the re-opened Royal will be applauding the locality’s leading amateur talent in the not too distant future given the current economic downturn, remains to be seen.