Slim hope for Sunbeam Theatre lease extension

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 December, 2008, 12:00am

The government still hopes the Sunbeam Theatre, Hong Kong's hub for Cantonese opera, will keep running even though the chance that its landlord will extend the lease again appears to be slim.

Speaking at yesterday's Legco home affairs panel meeting, Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs So Kam-shing said: 'We are not giving up yet.'

Mr So told the panel that the landlord and Sunbeam Theatre had not yet reached an agreement over the North Point premises, 'but we hope that they can continue negotiations'.

The theatre's lease expires at the end of next month, with closure expected in early February after Lunar New Year performances.

Earlier in the week, the government admitted that the Home Affairs Bureau had sent a letter to the landlord to explain the situation and expressed the hope the landlord would continue to support the Cantonese opera sector.

But Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, who represents the sports, performing arts, culture and publication functional constituency in the Legislative Council, said a lease extension did not look likely.

'I have been in contact with the landlord but it's not likely that the landlord will change its mind,' Mr Fok said.

The government has proposed converting Yau Ma Tei Theatre, a grade two historic building, and the nearby Red Brick Building, a grade one historic building, into a Xiqu activity centre, as a training ground for young Cantonese opera talent and hopefully a tourist attraction. The project would include a 300-seat theatre, management offices and rehearsal rooms.

It has been estimated the project will cost HK$171 million and be completed in 2011. The government will also build a new annex building at Ko Shan Theatre for Cantonese opera performances by 2012.

Legislators expressed concern about where Cantonese opera would be shown in the years between the possible closure of the Sunbeam Theatre and the opening of the new venues.

Mr So said the government had contingency plans if the Sunbeam Theatre closed and had reserved show dates at Leisure and Cultural Services Department venues for Cantonese opera performances.