The operation of the State's premier stage venues could be overhauled after Perth Theatre Trust chairman Peter Blaxell said he was embarrassed about the subsidies needed to run them.
The Government injects $9 million a year into running five venues in Perth and Albany.
Mr Blaxell said this was unsustainable and he owed it to taxpayers to try to relieve the burden on them.
The former Supreme Court judge, who became chairman of the Trust at the start of the year, said all options had to be considered to help the venues attract more audiences and be more efficient money-earners.
His Majesty's Theatre, the Perth Concert Hall, State Theatre Centre, Subiaco Arts Centre and Albany Entertainment Centre are run by private contractor AEG Ogden, whose contract with the Trust expires mid next year.
"We have a golden opportunity to completely reassess the way we run our business," Mr Blaxell told a forum of arts leaders this week.
Pracsys management consultancy boss Michael Chappell had been hired to complete a "brutally frank" review of venue operations by October, Mr Blaxell said. "None of this is a criticism of AEG Ogden and there is no suggestion they haven't performed the contract well," he said.
Other States subsidise theatres and concert halls but Mr Blaxell is concerned that Trust venues cost twice as much as they earn in revenue.
Under its contract, Ogden receives a fixed management fee without any profit-based incentive.
The Trust needed a business model which balanced three sometimes competing public-interest imperatives of attracting diverse and top-quality shows, supporting local stage productions and maximising efficiency for taxpayers.
All options were being considered including maintaining the status quo, separating the management of each venue and splitting food and beverage from the other responsibilities.
Mr Blaxell said he hoped any change would free up money to invest in new shows. "Without greater programming we are not going to be able to turn things around," he said.
"The future of the performing arts very much depends on building up audiences." He expected the Pracsys report to be released, contingent on issues of commercial confidentially.
Arts lobby group, the Chamber of Arts and Culture, said the venues review and the recent State Budget were symptomatic of ad hoc decision-making and a lack of long-term vision for the arts and culture in WA.
The Budget allocated funds from Lotterywest to temporarily plug a funding gap left after annual indexation ceased for nearly 50 arts organisations last year.
Chamber chairman Warwick Hemsley said the Government had shown a commitment to the arts but a strategic blueprint to set priorities was well overdue.
"There is rightly or wrongly a view that, while there is a commitment from the State Government, the approach appears to be ad hoc," Mr Hemsley said.
"By developing an agreed cultural policy with clearly identified priorities you provide the sector with a greater sense of certainty."'The future of the performing arts very much depends on building up audiences.' " Perth Theatre Trust chairman *Peter Blaxell *