The Matchbox awaiting word on urgently-needed support

Theatre facing closure at the end of May if funds don’t materialize

With the looming closure of The Matchbox Theatre, the facility’s general manager is urgently requesting the City of Red Deer step forward with assistance.

Barring a financial breakthrough at some level, closure of The Matchbox is expected at the end of May. While the province has been supportive in the past, the funding simply isn’t available this year.

Operating expenses are just too high to continue, said Matt Grue, general manager.

“The biggest disappointment for us by far is the lack of support from the City of Red Deer. Not the community, which has been enormously fantastic,” said Grue.

He said talks with City administration over the past few years have led nowhere, and he is baffled by the ongoing lack of support.

As far as he understands it, the City has had concerns with the board’s structure at The Matchbox. Subsequent talks seemed to clarify those issues, but funding assistance just hasn’t been forthcoming.

“We’ve heard from everyone but the City since we announced the closure. Not one mention, not one phone call, not an email.”

City officials confirm that there is no plan in place at this time to help The Matchbox financially.

“We offer what is called a Fee for Service program which we have had in place for about 12 years,” said Kristina Oberg, the City’s culture superintendent. “This year we had 30 applications worth $557,000 and we only had $147,650 to distribute. The Matchbox was not one of the groups chosen.

“We don’t have any further funds to offer.”

She added in addition to the Fee for Service program, the City sees a lot of “one off requests” from various community organizations.

“The City is in the process of developing a policy framework to see how and when capital grants and/or loans are given to community organizations,” said Oberg.

She added The Matchbox is different from other community groups in that it is owned by people.

“It looks different than a not-for-profit,” said Oberg.

Grue said the organization isn’t disappointed with the province, which has provided past funding. “We accept the fact there isn’t money to go around. We know where we fit in, and we can accept that.”

After four years and more than 400 shows from plays to concerts, The Matchbox announced last week the facility would close May 27.

“What we’ve been saying is that if something happens to change that, we will stay open. We have eight weeks for that to happen. It could be a grant. We’re also still talking to a lot of local business people. We’re committed and fighting to keeping it open.”

Meanwhile, staff are awaiting word on a possible provincial grant but Grue admits he isn’t overly hopeful the dollars will come through.

“It’s the same one we’ve applied for twice and been denied twice.” Grue said the province has noted they support the theatre, but that there just isn’t enough money to go around.