Melbourne Museum Fee Cuts - 15/05/2003
MELBOURNE Museum was thrown a lifeline yesterday when the State Government introduced free entry for children and cut adult entry fees by more than half.
The cost of an adult ticket was slashed from $15 to $6.
Children and concession holders, who previously paid $8 and $11 respectively, can visit for free.
Children, once charged $4.80 for entry at Scienceworks, will now get in free.
The adult price for Scienceworks drops from $9.90 to $3.90, while the entry fee for the Immigration Museum has been cut from $7 to $1.
The Government will subsidise the price cuts for up to $3 million a year.
The much-criticised Melbourne Museum stands to benefit most.
The $290 million state-of-the-art building in Carlton was in danger of becoming a white elephant.
High running costs and slipping attendances left it facing a $6 million shortfall this financial year.
While Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum's attendance figures are on target, Melbourne Museum has struggled.
The museum opened in October 2000 and received more than 800,000 visitors in the first eight months to June 2001.
Attendances dropped to 650,000 last financial year.
Museum Victoria chief executive Patrick Greene said about 500,000 people would have visited the museum in the year ending June 30.
Dr Greene said the new ticket prices should see attendances climb to 700,000 next year.
The State Government set aside $2.7 million in last week's Budget to subsidise the fee reductions.
"Families will now be able to take their children to the Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks or the Immigration Museum for less than . . . the cinema or the football,"Premier Steve Bracks said yesterday.
The reduced fees would encourage first-time visitors at Melbourne Museum, Dr Green said.
"You will see a lot of new people coming in, but we will also see people who come in already, come in more often,"he said. "At the end of the day, it is about accessibility rather than whether it is free or there is a charge."
Dr Greene said the new pricing structure was sustainable because visitors would spend more money on souvenirs and parking.
The museum is to share an extra $2.6 million with the Immigration Museum to develop its exhibits.
Official figures estimate visitors to all three museums will rise from 840,000 to more than one million next year.
The fee cuts were announced as the Premier and Arts Minister Mary Delahunty launched the Government's arts policy for the next 10 years.
Promotion of the arts in regional Victoria and more funds for the film industry are among the goals covered by the $127 million allocated in the state Budget.
By TIM JAMIESON
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