Rent complaint hits theater

Local | Charlotte Luo 4 Jan 2019

The soon-to-be-open Xiqu Centre at the West Kowloon Cultural District is generating a lot of buzz, but perhaps not the right kind, as a Cantonese opera group has complained the rent is extremely high.

The center is hosting eight open days until Sunday, before its official opening ceremony on January 20.

Marilyn To Wai Sau-ming, chairwoman of the Cantonese Opera Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday said that medium to small local troupes cannot afford the rent at the center as it equates to almost HK$70,000 a day.

On a radio show, To said the rent accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the total cost borne by the troupes.

She said the troupes mostly rent places subsidized by the government, such as Ko Shan Theatre and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

The rent at Ko Shan Theatre is less than HK$8,000 per day, and only accounts for six to seven percent of the total cost borne by the troupes, she said.

To said the chamber spoke to the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority two years ago, and expressed its willingness to accept a discounted rent slightly higher than the HK$20,000 spent to rent out the Cultural Centre daily.

The chamber also suggested adjusting rent based on performances, but both notions were rejected, To said.

"No matter how glamorous and grand it is, we cannot afford it. This venue is not for us to use," she said.

To is also concerned that the center may mostly attract mainland groups that are used to paying high rents and wealthy amateurs willing to pay more.

She hopes a solution can be agreed upon when she meets officials from the Cultural District Authority in the next two to three months.

Other than rent, To said the Xiqu Centre looks appealing, but the stage is both too small and far away from the audience. Given the these issues, she admitted that the Cantonese opera industry may shun the center by opting not to rent it.

Liza Wang Ming-chuen, chairwoman of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, earlier also complained of the excessively high rent at the center.

During her speech at the ceremony to kick off the center's pre-opening on December 30, Wang said it would be a challenge for the industry to balance creation and spending.

Last month, Louis Yu Kwok-lit, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority's executive director of performing arts, said that about 30 large and small troupes have already made bookings to perform this year.

The opening act will be the Reincarnation of Red Plum, whose ticket sales ended on Tuesday. Any unsold tickets will be sold at a later date.

The Cantonese opera, curated by Pak Suet-sin, will run from January 21 to January 30.

The 13,800-square-meter center is at the junction of Canton Road and Austin Road.

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