Flato gives more than $1 million to Academy Theatre over 15 years

Builder gets theatre naming rights

By Roderick Benns

Craig Metcalf, general manager of Flato Academy Theatre – Lindsay. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Lindsay’s storied Academy Theatre just got a major financial shot in the arm from Flato Developments — $1.125 million over 15 years.

That’s $75,000 a year of funding each year. On top of that, it was also given a one-time sum of $250,000, partly to deal with the only string attached to the money – a renaming of the theatre to “Flato Academy Theatre – Lindsay.”

The quarter million will be used to put up new signage inside and outside the building, as well as to rebuild the patio area on the Kent Street East side. The renaming of the theatre will last at least 15 years, with the builder getting a chance to renew it if desired.

“We wanted to do this to prove a point,” Flato president Shakir Rehmatullah told the Advocate. “And it’s that we really are community builders. We don’t have one permit yet. We haven’t built one house. But we are here to grow with this community.”

The new logo for Flato Academy Theatre — Lindsay.

Flato Developments has bought large parcels of land that essentially surround I.E. Weldon Secondary School – including a large swath of land north of Pigeon Lake Road. It’s there that Rehmatullah hopes to create a large community of homes and commercial buildings. (Listen to Rehmatullah discuss these plans on the most recent episode of The Advocate Podcast.) He is also looking to build large estate homes in Cameron.

“We’re really happy,” said Academy board chair Mike Piggott. “These are unrestricted funds, which is huge for us.”

Piggott says it’s going to allow them to “staff up” and get the help that is needed to run the theatre properly. For instance, the Academy’s board of directors is supposed to be a governance board, overseeing the direction of the theatre. Instead, board members often find themselves building sets and doing other hands-on work because there just aren’t enough people to do the work.

This additional staffing will include an operations manager and more box office help.

The board chair credits the theatre’s general manager, Craig Metcalf, with doing “a fantastic job” during the height of the pandemic when things were so lean. The theatre was able to access various programs but didn’t take on a lot of debt.

As well, there was an under-the-radar grant of $100,000 from the Dom Fox Memorial Fund that has also helped.

Piggott is also envisioning their Kent Street East outdoor space as a licensed patio, and as a place to gather to “improve the theatre experience.” One of the exciting visual elements of the theatre is the installation of an old-style vertical Academy sign that will run down the corner of the building, in addition to a new marquee sign. The Academy will be working with the city’s Heritage department to make it happen.

The grand dame of theatres in Kawartha Lakes has been around since 1892, says Piggott, and “people don’t realize how much it costs to keep it going” each month, which is usually between $20-30,000.

Shakir Rehmatullah.

Rehmatullah, who has made a similar deal in his hometown of Markham with the Flato Markham Theatre, is a big believer in supporting the arts community.

“We want to do things that enhance life in Lindsay and Kawartha Lakes. If we can help them bring in better shows, or improve their building, we’re happy to do that,” says Rehmatullah.

He says children need to be exposed to creativity, and to a diversity of cultures through the arts. “The arts are a necessity.”

The Advocate asked Piggott if this could mean the return of professional summer theatre. He said many things were discussed, including this possibility.

“I don’t want people to think we’re flush with cash,” said the board chair. “We still need sponsors. We still need our local volunteers. This just gives us some breathing room,” he said.

Rehmatullah says Lindsay and Kawartha Lakes is “blessed to have this theatre.”

He pointed out he will not be involved at all in the day-to-day decision making of the shows or how the money is spent.

For Piggott, he believes Rehmatullah is “listening to people.”

“I really get the sense that he respects the Academy’s history. He’s not here to change that or tell us what to do.”

1 Comment

  1. Sylvia Keesmaat says:

    Real community builders get involved in the community without needing to have their name splashed all over buildings. Money in exchange for naming rights is called advertising. Community building is rooted in relationships.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.