It’s a sad day for the theatre scene in Victoria.
On Thursday, December 7th, the Blue Bridge Theatre Company announced that due to financial reasons, they are vacating their tenancy at the Roxy Theatre.
Blue Bridge is a professional theatre society, a registered society in BC, a charity and they are the former owners of the Roxy Theatre in Quadra Village.
The Roxy Theatre itself is a standalone building that has been pivotal in the performing arts industry since it was built in 1947.
In 2002, Blue Bridge sold the Roxy to new owners who have been operating it ever since with Blue Bridge remaining as their sole tenants.
“The company isn’t closing and I want to be clear about the messaging around that,” said Rebekah Johnson, General Manager of the Blue Bridge Theatre Company.
“All that’s happening is that we have to vacate the Roxy Theatre…We’ll just have to be looking for a new venue.”
“We are just finding that our expenses were outweighing our revenue and we were unable to keep up with the lease payments and with the property taxes.”
“We’re not dissolving, we’ve simply become homeless.”
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Johnson says that what led to this was that post pandemic, audiences are slow to return to live theatre.
“They’re coming to some events but not all events, and certainly not in the numbers they were before,” she told Victoria Buzz.
On top of poor attendance, the company did not qualify for national and provincial ‘resilience’ funding during the pandemic.
Tremors caused by Blue Bridge leaving the Roxy Theatre will be felt throughout the performing arts community and other arts communities in Victoria, according to Johnson.
She says that around 60 to 70 artists who use the space annually may not be able to find another venue, the Fringe Festival in Victoria will lose one of their mainstays and several other societies, companies and organizations will likely lose the beloved venue.
However, the owners of the Roxy have given their blessing to the Victoria Film Festival and Kaleidoscope Theatre to put on their remaining events.
If anything were to prevent Blue Bridge’s situation, Johnson says it is the community failing to support them.
“More people coming out to shows would’ve been really helpful,” Johnson explained. “I would encourage Victorians to get out and see professional, or not professional, theatre.”
“The arts really need you now like you needed us during the pandemic.”
Johnson says she doesn’t know what will come next for the Roxy Theatre space and that the owners are not commenting on the matter at this time.
In the coming weeks, before the end of December, Blue Bridge will be selling off some of their assets such as sound and lighting equipment.
Johnson says the assets they need to sell are mostly specialized for theatre production, but they are thinking about holding a garage sale between Christmas and New Year’s.