Should You Rent Your Theatre for Events?


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For most of us, our theatre is our biggest asset. It’s also our biggest expense! When you account for insurances, maintenance, utilities and the mortgage or lease you begin to see why some people say, “Money’s what you put in — theatre’s what you get out!”

When these expenses are being discussed, one of the first ideas that’s usually suggested is, “Let’s rent the theatre out to other groups when we don’t need it for shows.”  This can be a good idea, but you’re going to need to take steps to protect your organization, your building and the various equipment and properties inside. In this, and my next few posts, I’ll use the insights I gained as a professional event planner and event facility coordinator to talk about some of the considerations of renting out your space for events.

As a member of your group’s theatre administration, you need to make a lot of decisions before making the theatre available for rentals. Here is a partial list of questions you’ll need to answer:

  • Are there any types of events you will not allow? What are they?
  • Will you allow food and alcohol consumption on your premises?
  • Will open flame entertainment or decorations be allowed?
  • What areas of the space will renters have access to?
  • How will you restrict access to other areas?
  • Are there adequate emergency exits available from the rental area without accessing restricted areas?
  • How will you set your rental prices?
  • What forms of payment will you accept?
  • If you will offer discounts, how much, and to whom?
  • Will you charge a deposit? How much? Will it be refundable or applied to the rental amount?
  • When will deposits, proof of additional insured, contracts, etc be due? What happens if they aren’t delivered on time?
  • What will your cancellation and refund policies be?
  • How much space will the rental fee include? Do you have a floor-plan of it?
  • What equipment (chairs, tables, bar, etc) will be included in the rental fee – if anything?
  • Will renters be allowed to use lighting and sound systems belonging to the theatre?
  • Will these require additional fees, or hiring theatre personnel to operate them?
  • What is the maximum occupancy of the rental space for guests:
  •                 Seated in rows?
  •                 Standing?
  •                 Seated at tables?
  • How far in advance of the event will renters have access to the facility for set-up?
  • How long after the event will they have for clean-up?
  • What will happen to renter equipment or supplies left on your premises after the renter departs?
  • What are the parking arrangements/limitations of your space?

Okay, I’m sure you get the idea. These are only a few of the questions that need answering before you begin renting your space to the public. Now, what’s the next step?

Once you have thought through everything you can imagine about having strangers using your space and figured out how you want to address these situations you need to take that information and develop a Rental Contract, Acceptable Use Policy, and Facility Rules and Procedures. Remember, good contracts give value to both you and the renter by spelling out the rights and obligations of each, as well as the consequences of failure by either party. Other kinds of documents or contracts may be necessary, too. Consider consulting a lawyer to make sure your contracts and policies are legally acceptable.

Drop in on my next post where I’ll be giving you tips on how space rentals can affect your staffing needs.


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Katie Strickland

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