Stage Door News

London: The Grand Theatre stayed in the black during the 2020/21 season

Monday, November 22, 2021

After a full year in the jaws of a pandemic the Grand Theatre is back in the black.

The theatre held its annual general meeting Monday and announced a modest $4.619 surplus a week before the first preview of Home for the Holidays. its first show in front of a live audience since Room closed hours before its opening night on March 13, 2020.

“Our theatre, our industry, and our world have just weathered an unimaginable and historical shut down,” said Deb Harvey, the theatre’s executive director who produced a surplus every year since she arrived in 1999, except last year when the theatre reported a $65,000 deficit.

“Every single plan, program, and practice has been upended, lost, or transformed, and we have been called upon to pivot, adapt, modify, and withstand the unthinkable. And the Grand has done just that.”

The theatre’s accumulated surplus now totals $584,624.

Harvey said when the pandemic hit “it was scary because we didn’t even have that word in our vocabulary.”

“But we had a taste of it before we started this year,” said Harvey, noting insurance, government subsidies and COVID-19 relief funds, along with funding from sponsors, helped ease the financial pressures.

Harvey said the Grand has been able to hold on to most of its staff, many of whom have specialized training and experience.

“Every day, every week we’ve had to nip and tuck and watch the dollars and just keep trying to keep our people employed,” said Harvey.

“Now we have all those talented, brilliant people able to come back to us.”

Harvey expects insurance coverage to continue helping with the bottom line.

“We’re breathing a sigh of relief. But we’re still in this fight,” said Harvey, noting the theatre wasn’t able to sell subscriptions this year due to the uncertainty and will be depending on single-ticket sales for the season.

“We’re not done with the pandemic yet. You can’t turn things around on a dime. We’re not going to have 100 per cent capacity every night just because we’re suddenly allowed to open the theatre.”

With its theatre darkened by the pandemic, the Grand went ahead with a planned $9.5 million renovation to lobby and backstage areas, which incorporated additional changes related to the pandemic and safety.

Despite COVID restrictions, the Grand produced three virtual performances: The High School Project, the historic Un-Opening Night Celebration, and last year’s annual holiday show, Comfort and Joy, drawing thousands of viewers. Comfort and Joy drew 5,000 people for the 45-minute compilation of nine, short, holiday videos and the Grand was able to continue its partnership with the London Food Bank, raising more than $10,000 and bringing its four-year total to more than $300,000.

It’s the last time Harvey will deliver a year-end report to the board. Harvey is leaving the theatre at the end of this season in April and a search is under way for her replacement.

Anita Shah, president of the board, took a moment at the meeting to pay tribute to Harvey.

“Many know that Deb is a strong financial leader, which she aptly displayed by ensuring that for almost every season, the Grand Theatre experienced an operating surplus,” said Shah in a statement.

“But, what so many don’t know is the immeasurable impact she has had on the city through her volunteer work and her ability to seamlessly make connections. Our theatre and our city are a better place because of Deb, and we will be forever thankful for her tenacious, yet calm spirit, her devotion to artists and the arts, and her friendship.”

By Joe Belanger for