After weeks of uncertainty and gloom, a ray of hope has appeared on the horizon for the Sunbeam Theatre, Hong Kong Island's popular Cantonese opera venue. The landlord is said to have agreed to extend the North Point venue's lease, which expires next month, to 2012, but the rent is still being negotiated. The progress comes after weeks of talks between Home Affairs Bureau officials and the landlord. Civic Party legislator and conservationist Tanya Chan, who met landlord Law Sau-fai yesterday, said Mr Law had expressed a willingness to extend the tenancy for three years. 'We believe it is good news. But it is not the end of the story. The government still needs to work out a long-term policy and plan to support the development of Cantonese opera in Hong Kong,' Ms Chan said. 'Otherwise, there will be another round of difficult negotiation with the landlord after three years.' The theatre, which opened in 1972, is facing closure because of a big increase in rent. Earlier, the government planned to increase subsidies to the opera groups using the theatre while negotiating a rent they could afford. The rent at present is HK$200,000 a month but the landlord had asked for HK$800,000 after the tenancy expires. The market rent was estimated to be about HK$400,000, according to a previous estimate. The government has wanted to keep the venue open until an alternative is available. That alternative is slated to be a Cantonese opera centre in the West Kowloon Cultural District. But that would not be available before 2016. The government also plans to build an extension to the Ko Shan Theatre in Hung Hom by 2012. There are also plans to convert the Yau Ma Tei Theatre - a grade two historic building - into a Cantonese opera training centre. But the 300-seat venue would be too small for staging performances. A bureau spokesman said last night a deal had not been finalised but: 'The government was thankful to the landlord. And it is hoped the discussion with the landlord could produce fruitful results.' The Sunbeam Theatre first faced closure in 2005 when the landlord wanted to turn the site into a shopping mall. But Mr Law changed his mind after strong lobbying from the Cantonese opera sector. Veteran peformer and Cantonese Opera Advisory Committee member Leung Hon-wai said last night he expected a formal announcement by the government soon.