Private donations and government subsidies will pay about half of Sunbeam Theatre's increased rent for one year, officials said yesterday. The two sources will help pay HK$350,000 of the monthly rent, which last month rose to HK$698,000 from HK$208,000. So Kam-shing, deputy secretary for home affairs, said the business sector had made donations of HK$3 million since the tenancy was renewed. He declined to name the donors or indicate whether the money was from a local or mainland source. The donations will be put in the Cantonese Opera Development Fund, which will allocate HK$250,000 every month for rent, Mr So said. Also, the government-sponsored Arts Development Council will contribute HK$100,000 a month for Sunbeam's rent for three years. The sum would support professional troupes, the council's chief executive, Louis Yu Kwok-lit, said. 'We understand that the operator, Hong Kong United Arts Entertainment Company, will raise the rental fee it charges troupes for using the venue each time by HK$10,000. Our sum will support HK$8,000 for each show.' About 150 shows a year would be subsidised in this way, Mr Yu said, and a committee will be set up to vet troupe applications. The renewed lease expires in 2012. 'The landlord of Sunbeam has made it clear he won't renew for another term, so we hope to reduce the dependence on Sunbeam,' Mr So said. The Homes Affairs Bureau is executing a policy which 'inclines towards' Cantonese opera, giving the traditional art form priority in renting other public performance venues. Some 44 extra dates will be provided at venues including the Cultural Centre, City Hall, Kwai Tsing Theatre and Sha Tin and Tsuen Wan town halls. Marilyn To Wai Sau-ming, chairwoman of the Cantonese Opera Chamber of Commerce, which manages 13 professional troupes, welcomed the troupe subsidy but she said her group may not benefit. She had arranged other venues for 10 troupes and 'the news about the tenancy renewal [at Sunbeam] came all of a sudden. We were already moving to other venues'. Chinese Artists Association vice-chairman Yuen Siu-fai welcomed the move but he said the theatre operator would have to make an extra effort to make up the rest of the payment.