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Inverness’ Eden Court considers bigger auditorium to improve commercial viability

Eden Court, Inverness Eden Court, Inverness
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Eden Court in Inverness is to investigate the expansion of its main theatre space’s capacity by 50% to make the venue more commercially viable.

Local authority the Highland Council, which owns the theatre, yesterday (August 15) approved a contribution of £30,000 towards a feasibility study into the increase of the Empire Theatre’s capacity up to a possible 1,300 seats.

The arts centre currently consists of the 869-seat Empire Theatre, a second 275-seat theatre space, two multi-purpose studios, two cinemas and three art galleries.

According to the council, the proposed works will “ensure the building and facilities are fit-for-purpose for 21st-century live performances ensuring the Highlands can attract world-class public performances”.

Allan Henderson, chair of its environment, development and infrastructure committee, said: “Eden Court’s contribution to the local economy is significant but it needs to improve its financial sustainability and become more commercially viable. This feasibility study will assess in detail proposals to increase the capacity of the main auditorium so the theatre can be in a position to attract larger shows and grow its audiences.”

Government agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise is match-funding the council’s £30,000 contribution.

Eden Court chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman said: “Our stage is really big and could easily accommodate some of the really large-scale touring shows and musicals, but what prohibits us from taking that work at the moment is that we don’t have the capacity to make the financials work.

“By increasing the capacity we hope to be able to bring different sorts of work to Eden Court, and we’re also exploring what increased capacity could mean for the wider building in terms of how we might re-imagine all our public spaces. We’re a vibrant, growing city with the intent to have world-class products on stage in Inverness.”

Mackenzie-Blackman added that the plans were “at very early stages” and that there would be a public consultation on any potential redevelopment following the feasibility study.

Last year, the theatre warned that it was considering a series of staff redundancies because of cumulative funding cuts.

Inverness’ Eden Court faces £100K funding cut

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