Stage Door News

London: Grand Theatre’s losses are offset by insurance purchase before the pandemic

Monday, December 7, 2020

London’s Grand Theatre has registered its first deficit in 21 years.

But the $65,348 lost last season could have been much worse — $504,753 worse — if not for the timely purchase of insurance to guard against performance disruption caused by the illness of a cast member or a pandemic.

And it was the coronavirus pandemic that forced the theatre to close its doors just hours before Emma Donoghue’s Room was to open on March 13.

The performance disruption insurance covered all remaining shows up to June 30. The Grand is waiting for confirmation from the insurance company as to the number of shows from the 2020-2021 season that also will be covered.

“When negotiating our insurance last November, we added performance disruption coverage to our policy, unaware at the time, of what this would mean for us and our ability to financially recover from the COVID-19 shutdown,” said Deb Harvey, the theatre’s executive director, who has helped produced 21 consecutive surpluses.

“It was a pretty good investment of $11,000.”

The Stratford Festival did not have similar insurance and Drayton Entertainment, whose stages include Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend, is still negotiating with its insurers.

The Grand’s deficit was announced Monday at the theatre’s annual general meeting, which was held virtually.

The cancellation of Room and the new musical Grow were significant blows to the theatre’s creative team.

Room, based on Donoghue’s award-winning book, was a co-production of the Grand, Covent Garden Productions, which staged an earlier version of the show in the U.K. in 2017, and David Mirvish, who was to stage it at the CAA Theatre in Toronto in April. The second act was rewritten and redesigned for its Canadian premiere.

Grow was developed by the Grand through its COMPASS New Play Development program and was to premiere in April. It was chosen earlier this year to participate in the prestigious Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., where many Broadway-bound shows are staged.

Both shows were shortlisted for Playwrights Guild of Canada awards.

“Artistically and creatively, there is no question that we were on an amazing trajectory,” said Dennis Garnhum, the Grand’s artistic director, in a news release.

“The most difficult part of these last six months has been the loss of work for our dedicated employees and artists. We are theatre people and by nature that means we are creative, optimistic and resilient and we have much to look forward to in the coming months and years.”

Other highlights of last season include:

  • Attendance dropped to 65,501 from 104,156 the year before, with 79 fewer performances
  • Ticket sales accounted for 45 per cent of earned revenue, contributing $2.7 million, down from $4.3 million the previous year
  • The cancellation of the annual Grand Gala produced a loss of an estimated $270,000 in revenue
  • A $9-million renovation project was launched and is expected to be completed in March
  • Work continued on Trina Davies’s Ambrose Small project, now titled Grand Ghosts. But “after careful consultation with Indigenous artists,” the commission of the proposed show Starlight Tours, about the abuses suffered by Indigenous people at the hands of Saskatoon police, was terminated
  • Chris Jackman ended his term as president and Anita Shah was unanimously approved as the new board president.

Harvey said more than 40 staff members continue to work, mostly from home and some part-time.

“We’re a very collaborative industry and to not be together is a very difficult thing,” she said. “It’s not a good time. We’re the first industry to be shut down and we’ll be the last to come back.”

By Joe Belanger for