By Cole Parkinson
The move towards a theatre facility in the Municipal District of Taber is progressing forward.
Star Theatre Group was back in council chambers on Jan. 14 to give an update for council after originally visiting with councillors in late 2019. The group is hoping to establish a new facility in a current building located in Johnson’s Addition and after talks of a possible debenture during their last visit, the group brought back some further financial information.
“I think a debenture is a nice opportunity if it is available. We met with Bryan Badura after speaking with yourselves,” explained Ryan Torrie, who was joined by Jared Bell, Sarah Lee, Sara Torsius and Olivia Penner. “We anticipate the building purchase is $270,000. We think for around $600,000 we can have the whole project up and running which doesn’t all have to be done to open up the doors but to have the complete project would be about $600,000. Interior renovations about $100,000 and we went through all of the major expenses we could anticipate.”
With very few big renovations needed, the cost is significantly lower than it could have been.
“Any renovations would have to be to code but since we are not doing any structural renovations, it makes it far less expensive,” continued Torrie, who explained a big addition to the theatre would be seating. “It’s about $100,000 but it is stadium seating that retracts so it pulls out and they are individual theatre seats. The reason we are interested in this type of seating is because you can completely retract it and have that floor space available for theatre in the round or a family event or a meeting.”
While talks of constructing a completely new complex swirled around for the past several years, the group completely expects this building to be able to satisfy all of their needs.
“It’s a nice building for it with a nice high ceiling so you can get quite a few seats,” explained Torrie. “The max (attendance) the fire chief said was 188 based on former capacity when it was a church.”
As the structure is in fairly good order, the biggest need moving forward would be funding to purchase the building and do the necessary renovations.
“If we are available to get a debenture for $350,000, that would help us get the building and some basic stuff while we fundraise. This is all fairly new so we don’t have a huge war chest of funds but the group is going to fundraise and provide essentially $250,000 to complete the project,” added Torrie, who also touched on the fact they would approach the other municipalities in the area after Badura recommended they do so. “All municipalities have some reserved funds that might be requested. We aren’t here to say it is a guarantee, he just said you may consider that as a possibility.”
They are also very excited at the possibilities in terms of acts and entertainment.
“We’ve identified quite a few groups that would come out. Live plays would be put on by Taber Players and others if there is interest. Showing movies, we anticipate to have a theatre quality projector and screen with the seating. We anticipate renting to community groups for meetings and those type of things. A billboard, we are working to see if Alberta Transportation would allow a billboard or sign of some type. We are kind of close to Highway 3 so I don’t know if there are any restrictions,” said Torrie. “There are some fees for performance groups so paying those fees and for showing a movie, there is a few of typically 40 per cent to pay back whoever made the movie. Wages, utilities, property tax, insurance, concession supplies. We would run a basic concession. With talking to the inspector, if you try to put in stuff like a deep fryer, it makes things much more complex with fire suppression and that stuff. With that, we have no desire to have a complex concession.”
Good news for the group comes in the fact they project to have a positive cash flow.
“We anticipate we will have a net income every month,” stated Torrie.
“From a cash flow standpoint, factoring in roughly $50,000 in donations was our estimate,” added Bell, who is a partner at Avail CPA. “Even in the event that those donations do not come in that consistency or that level, we would still be cash flow positive with the exception of the months that require a debenture payment. Short of that, based on the projections, there would be enough cash to cover the expenses.”
One question council proposed to the group was around parking and if there would be enough parking availability at the facility if they reached their max occupancy.
“Not currently. So, the fences would all be taken down and the area all around would be cleaned up and made into a parking lot. Then I think it would. The neighbours came to the current owner and said ‘we think it would be great. We never had parking problems when it was a church and we support it,’” replied Torrie.
With the group wanting to get work underway within the next few months, they have put forward an offer for the building.
“We do have an accepted offer on the building, pending due diligence, financing and inspections. So, if we can’t get financing or there is any reason it won’t work, we can back out,” continued Torrie.
While council has been receptive to the idea of having a theatre facility, they also brought forward a concern about the future of the building.
“If we are backing it and things go awry, what are we going to do with the building? That is one of the things we have to look at,” said Reeve Merrill Harris.
“I would be totally happy to take the building and sign any personal guarantee. I do handle rental properties and if for any reason it doesn’t work out, I would take it and put it with my other number of rentals,” replied Torrie. “We would love your support.”
Before making any decision, council elected to table the discussion for further information on the debenture process.