PE: Tourism industry hopes for alternative to 'Anne & Gilbert'

Stephen Brun
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The Journal Pioneer

The Harbourfront Theatre board has decided against bringing the musical production back for the summer of 2012.

'Anne & Gilbert' show

[SUMMERSIDE, PE] — Some local businesses are still processing the news that 'Anne & Gilbert' won't return to Summerside this year, and what it could mean to tourism in the city.

Last week, the Harbourfront Theatre board decided against bringing the musical production back for the summer of 2012.

The theatre was faced with a combination of decreased outside funding, high cast and production salaries and a decline in attendance.

Lynn Nicholson, owner of Crockett's Jewelers, said it's too early to tell what impact losing the show would have until the theatre can come up with plan B.

"There's always a concern when we lose something like that, and if (the theatre) can't do that then what can they do?" she said. "I'm sure they have something else they're trying to work on as well. We had a lot of tourists come in who said they'd come just to go and see it. The locals enjoyed it too — when we had family home, they always enjoyed going."

'Anne & Gilbert' ran for the past several years in Summerside, but has had recent difficulties breaking even.

The city increased the play's yearly funding from $57,500 to $120,000, but the salary for the 35-member cast alone was more than $250,000.

Eileen Thompson, president of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said most local tourism operators haven't had much chance to react to the news.

"I understand they had to make a business decision based on the cost and size of the production, but we're always sad to see things that could negatively impact tourism," she said. "It is quite a large production, costly to produce I'm sure. I don't know what it would do to the show to reduce the size of the cast, but I'm sure it would change it dramatically."

Thompson added that the drop in the theatre attendance in recent years could be attributed to a more global trend.

"In (difficult) economic times, your cost for entertainment would probably be the first thing people would reduce spending on."

Organizations: Harbourfront Theatre, Tourism Industry Association

Geographic location: Summerside

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