‘We have tried to navigate each challenge’: $5m lifeline for Melbourne Theatre Company

By Kelly Burke
The Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2020 production of Benjamin Law’s Torch the Place
The Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2020 production of Benjamin Law’s Torch the Place. More than 160 MTC performances have been cancelled this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Jeff Busby/Photo Jeff Busby

Melbourne Theatre Company has become the latest organisation to secure major financial relief from the federal government’s Covid support fund, receiving a $5m grant to keep it afloat.

The sum matches last month’s Opera Australia grant, drawn from the $30m so far spent through the $50m Covid-19 arts sustainability fund.

More than 160 MTC performances have been cancelled so far this year due to Covid-19 restrictions in Melbourne. Last year, the company lost more than $13m in revenue from lockdowns and is expected to post a $6m loss for 2021.

The MTC co-chief executive, Virginia Lovett, said on Monday the grant would help the company weather the ongoing crisis.

“Over the past 18 months we have tried to navigate each challenge as best we could but the velocity and frequency of lockdowns and restrictions have impacted every one of our shows and compounded the losses,” she said.

“We have drawn down considerably on our reserves, this investment will ensure we are not compromised in future years and continue to be one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies as we welcome in a new era of artistic direction in 2022.”

The federal arts minister, Paul Fletcher, said MTC’s sustainability was at risk due to the ongoing pandemic.

“No performances means no revenue,” he said. “The MTC is a systemically important arts company, and its situation closely fits the criteria for the sustainability fund.”

In June, Sydney Theatre Company secured $2m from the federal government, and late last year $6m from the NSW government.

In total, just under $500m has been quarantined for the arts sector since June 2020 by the federal government, with applications for the sustainability fund still open until May 2022 and the film and television’s temporary interruption fund as yet untouched.

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