Grand Theatre announces first deficit in 21 years

LONDON, ONTARIO, DECEMBER 7, 2020 – At the 2019/20 Annual General Meeting held today, Deb Harvey, Executive Director, announced an operating deficit of $65,348 for the 2019/20 season. This announcement marks the Grand’s first deficit in 21 years, and comes as a direct result of COVID-19 and the mandated shutdown of the theatre on March 13, 2020. 

“While the year end result of a deficit is disappointing, this deficit would have been substantially higher without our $504,753 insurance claim to June 30. When negotiating our insurance last November, we added performance disruption coverage to our policy, unaware at the time, of what this would mean for us and our ability to financially recover from COVID-19 shutdown,” noted Deb Harvey Executive Director.  

During the shortened 2019/20 season, the Grand was on an exciting path of World and North American premieres, unique community partnerships, and a national tour of an award-winning production. 

“Artistically and creatively, there is no question that we were on an amazing trajectory,” stated Dennis Garnhum, Artistic Director. “The most difficult part of these last 6 months has been the loss of work for our dedicated employees and artists. We are theatre people and by nature that means we are creative, optimistic and resilient and we have much to look forward to in the coming months and years,  not the least of which is the work we are doing internally with our Anti-Oppression Committee. In spite the obstacles before us, we continue to investigate what it means to be World Curious and London Proud.”

The AGM was held by Zoom and attended online by members of the Grand’s Board of Directors, donors, sponsors, volunteers, community members and staff.


  • Attendance dropped to 65,501 from 104,156 last year with 79 fewer performances.
  • Only four of five Jeans ‘n Classics concerts were held – all four to sold-out audiences
  • Ticket sales accounted for 45% of earned revenue, contributing $2.7M to the budget. This was down from $4.3 million in sales the previous year. 
  • This past year, the Grand provided employment for 280 people (down from 343 the previous year) contributing over $4.5M in salaries and benefits (down from $4.9M last year). Of goods and services purchased, 56%, or $900,736 was spent locally, making a significant contribution to the local economy. Again, this was down from $1.9M spent locally last year.
  • The Grand also donated over 300 theatre tickets to numerous local charitable organizations to be used as prizes for fundraising events, representing a total value of over $26,000 in donated tickets. All unclaimed gift certificates that were donated for cancelled performances will be honoured once patrons can safely return to the theatre.
  • In the winter of 2020, the Grand hit the road with a brand-new Canadian play, Juno’s Reward, with its Award Winning 100 Schools Tour. Between its two years of touring, the 100 Schools Tour was on track to visit every elementary school in the TVDBS and LDCSB, as well as private schools. However, this year’s tour was cut short when schools were closed in early March due to COVID-19. Twenty-four schools were visited and 28 performances delivered. 
  • In an unprecedented business partnership in Canadian theatre, the Grand worked in consultation with Michael Rubinoff to enroll a group of investors, “Grand Ignitors,” to fund the development of a new Canadian musical, GROW. With unprecedented opportunities for development from two of the most prestigious festivals in North America – the  Canadian Music Theatre Project (ON) and The Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals (East Haddam, CT), GROW made incredible strides in its journey towards the Spriet Stage at the Grand and beyond. Although GROW’s presentation at the Grand was one of the casualties of COVID-19, the team looks forward to its premiere in an upcoming season.
  • In its third annual partnership with the Business Cares Food Drive, this year’s campaign, called “Supercalifragilisticexpiali-DONATE” held during the run of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins, saw Grand patrons raise over $87,000 for a three-year total of over $290,000. 100% of these funds have been directed to the London Food Bank.
  • Under the Grand’s COMPASS New Play Development program, work continued on Trina Davies’ Ambrose Small project, now titled Grand Ghosts, with proposed placement in the 2021/22 season. Through further exploration and development, and after careful consultation with Indigenous artists, the commission of Starlight Tours was terminated.
  • RENO2020, a ground-breaking $9M project to update and transform the Grand’s spaces, was an ongoing planning commitment throughout the season. In light of the pandemic, the intended start date of May 5th was postponed until late summer 2020, and work on the renovation continues during this time of shutdown.
  • Due to COVID-19, the Grand was forced to cancel the 48th Annual Grand Gala, an event that had a forecasted revenue of $270,000.

Led by Season Sponsor, BMO Financial Group, sponsors, donors and community supporters generated $1.1M (19% of revenue) in contributions for the 2019/20 season, demonstrating the continued exceptional support of our patrons. The theatre noted and thanked the 2000 patrons who, at the point of shutdown, donated the value of their tickets back to the theatre to assist in offsetting the loss in revenue. Of this group, 850 were first time donors.

The Grand Theatre gratefully acknowledges the support of our government funders such as the City of London, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. In the 2019/20 season, this support accounted for 17% of total revenue. 

In fiscal year 2019/20 and in response to COVID-19, federal government funding increased by $358,330 through Canadian Employment Wage Subsidy ($270,330) funding and $88,000 in special COVID-19 Emergency Support from the Canada Council. 

With overall revenues down by 22% due to the premature closing of the theatre, government funding increased as a percentage of overall revenues to 23%. The Grand remains grateful to its government partners and for the continued support of its many sponsors, community partners, and donors.

At the AGM, the Grand thanked retiring Board members E.B. Smith, Susan Nickle and Bruce Barran for their years of service and passion for the theatre. Chris Jackman ended his term as President, moving to Past President and Anita Shah was unanimously and enthusiastically approved as the new Board President. New Board members elected were Amira Moussa, Alexis Gordon, Jennifer Ho, Jen Slay, Richard McKenzie and Sherry Liu.

“I am not going to lie. This was a tough year for our bottom line, and the first time in my tenure that we have posted a deficit. But the Grand is much more than a balance sheet. This COVID year has impacted everyone in different ways. We continue to wish our community good health in these coming months and as a theatre we thank the front line workers for their contributions to our great city of London,” stated Deb Harvey. “We will be back. We promise you that. We are making room – literally and figuratively – in our building, in our programming, in our staffing and volunteering. We can’t wait to open our doors again and welcome you back. One thing I know for sure - we will never take the privilege of gathering together for granted again.

About the Grand Theatre – World Curious. London Proud. 
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum and Executive Director Deb Harvey, the Grand is a leading cultural hub located in the heart of downtown London, Ontario. The Grand offers diverse, relevant, and original stories from around the globe through collaborations with national and international performing arts organizations and is committed to developing, producing, and premiering original stories through its COMPASS New Play Development program. The Grand supports educational programming through initiatives like the High School Project and Subsidized Student Matinees. The Grand is currently undergoing a $9 million renovation to its lobby spaces and backstage areas scheduled for completion in Spring 2021. The Grand announced the cancellation of its 2020-21 Season in June 2020 due to the global pandemic.

For more information please contact:

Jennifer Matthews, Communications Manager
jmatthews [at] (jmatthews[at]grandtheatre[dot]com)

Suzanne Lanthier, Director of Audience Development
slanthier [at] (slanthier[at]grandtheatre[dot]com)
519-672-9030 ext. 251

Click here to download a copy of the 2019-20 Annual Report
Click here to download a copy of the Audited Financial Statements