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Showplace Performance Centre ‘Exhausted’, Fighting to Stay Alive through Pandemic

PKED caught up with Emily from Showplace Performance Centre in downtown Peterborough to talk about how they are using the Tourism Resiliency Fund to help their business through recovery from the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Where did the idea/concept for your business come from?

The opening of Showplace Performance Centre on October 5, 1996 truly was a night of celebration. When the glittering show began with the song This is the Moment, it spoke for everyone in that sold-out house. After decades of frustrating attempts to establish a theatre, Showplace marked the beginning of a new era of entertainment for the Peterborough area.

The theatre at 290 George Street was created from what had been built in 1947 as the Odeon movie theatre. The J Arthur Rank Organization had opened  the state-of-the-art space with the mystery thriller Green for Danger and showed, as well the recent Royal Wedding of  Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten. Newspapers of the day gave the new movie house rave reviews.

In 1979 the theatre was divided into two spaces and although it was under different ownership (Trent Cinemas), it was still operating in that form when the newly formed Showplace Board of Directors purchased it in 1995.

Architectural firm Lett/Smith was selected to design the 650 seat space. The building was totally gutted and reconstructed into the beautiful theatre it is today. Capital fundraising continued until the mortgage was burned within 4 years of opening.

Much of the campaign’s success can be attributed to the volunteers who organized fundraisers, canvassed for sponsorships and sold naming opportunities. Of the $3.2 million cost of the project, $2 million was raised by the Campaign and Fund Raising Committees. Volunteers still play a major role in the ongoing success of Showplace.

What has it been like navigating the pandemic with your business?

Like many other tourism and hospitality businesses, the pandemic has been very difficult for the performing arts industry. We were among the first to be closed and we will be the last to reopen. Trying to “pivot” has also been very difficult as rules and regulations seem to change so quickly that it makes planning anything very difficult. For example, we had a full week of rental planned starting on April 6 with a local dance school to record their recital pieces for the parents who aren’t allowed to come in to watch. The last time we were in a “grey” zone, performing arts centres were allowed to welcome people in for recording purposes but during this round of grey zone, we are not allowed to.

What will you be using the TRF funding towards?

While we’re unable to welcome audiences into the space we are taking advantage of the time to renew the space and make it even more welcoming to our patrons, guests, volunteers and artists. The funding will be used to purchase updated no-touch flush toilets as well as Electrostatic sprayers for the theatre.

What are your hopes for the business in the next few years?

The biggest thing that we hope is that once the pandemic lifts that audiences will be excited to return to the performing arts centre and enjoy the artists (both from down the street and around the world) that they have enjoyed for more than 25 years at Showplace.

What is it like owning a business in Peterborough & the Kawarthas?

Amazing! Especially our business. There are so many incredible artists in our community that we have the chance to work with and showcase all throughout our season! We’re incredibly lucky to live here!!! Plus being able to take a break from the computer once in a while and walk downtown by a beautiful lake is pretty amazing.

What makes your business unique to our region?

Being able to present both the artists that choose to live, work and play in our region as well as welcoming artists from around the world to our beautiful area is pretty spectacular.

What is your favourite thing about living and working in Peterborough & the Kawarthas?

It’s a very special community where people come together and work together to make amazing things happen. 

PKED is profiling several tourism-dependent businesses that were successful in receiving Tourism Resiliency Funding to support costs associated with adapting to public health measures and safety reopening, which will support the tourism industry’s recovery in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.

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