Theaters seek energy costs compensation similar to that of businesses

Vaba Lava Narva.
Vaba Lava Narva. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Private theaters in Estonia are worried about rising energy costs and are expecting to receive subsidies if the government decides to reimburse private companies for energy bills.

Last Friday, SA Theatrum submitted to the Minister of Culture the proposal of support measures for performing arts institutions, which includes the request for energy costs compensation.

"If public aid for businesses to cover energy costs (gas, electricity) is being considered, we believe that performing arts institutions acting as foundations, including private theaters, should be eligible for such support as well," the theater representatives wrote to the minister of culture.

"In addition, the cafeteria is an integral part of the Theatrum's structure as a daily-operating catering establishment that would be in that case handled differently from other catering establishment elsewhere if the possible support measures were not expanded to include foundations," the letter stressed.

According to the letter, despite rising operating costs, an increase in ticket pricing under current conditions is unrealistic.

Other private theaters struggle with growing energy costs as well. The Narva Vaba Lava, for instance, used to be able to house Ukrainian refugees in its guesthouse but due to high energy expenses, this had to be stopped.

"We had to discontinue this activity since we were unable to pay the electricity bill," said Vaba Lava CEO Märt Meos. He also said that the theater's summer electricity bills were six times higher than usual, but this had no effect on their main activity.

"At the moment, no public support measures exist; we must fend for ourselves. Moreover, if such a policy existed, it would apply to theaters on the list of state foundations, but we are a private theater," Meos explained.

"We hope that the increase in energy costs will have as little of an effect as possible on our audience retention. We are also striving to minimize energy consumption when there is no audience present," Meos added.

Public foundation performing arts venues have also noticed a rise in energy costs. The Ugala theater purchases electricity through a combined public procurement with the ministry of culture, using a standard exchange package billed through Riigi Kinnisvara AS.

Compared to the previous year, Ugala's energy expenses had increased by 1.92 times, or nearly 100 percent. "There is currently no way to apply for energy compensation," said Kätlin Sumberg, the head of public relations at the theater.

Sumberg added that also Ugala will be affected by the direct increase in electricity rates and the indirect increase in related costs.

The rise in expenses has compelled the theater to hike ticket prices. "We have increased ticket rates by seven percent on average since the beginning of the season," Sumberg said.

The ministry of culture does not have a specific plan to assist theaters in paying high electricity costs at this time.

"We are aware of the issue," the ministry theater adviser, Lauri Kaunissaare, said, adding that the ministry had gathered information about it in the spring.

"However, I am unable to comment on the development of this subsidy policy because it depends on the budgeting process and many other circumstances," he said.

On the list of private theaters maintained by the Estonian ministry of culture are 35 private theaters and 12 theaters partially operated by the state or municipal government.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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