Mercury CX announces new board, interim general manager in a bid to stay afloat

New Mercury CX interim general manager Lisa Bishop.

South Australia’s Mercury CX (MCX) has undergone an overhaul of its operations in an attempt to remain solvent, with a new board restructuring its model to reduce overheads and engaging an interim general manager to replace outgoing CEO, Karena Slaninka. 

Following an extraordinary general meeting on November 24, producers Kirsty Stark and Peter Hanlon were appointed co-chairs of a leadership group that also includes University of SA associate professor Kath Dooley, business development professional Chris Leese, director Madeleine Parry, Highview Productions producer Lisa Scott, Closer Productions producer Rebecca Summerton, and lawyer Adrian Tisato.

Former MusicSA general manager Lisa Bishop will serve as general manager, overseeing a skeleton staff.

It comes three months after MCX reported a $700,000 shortfall in its operational funding, with stakeholders, industry, and the public informed of a possible closure if new funding was not secured.

The not-for-profit organisation, which runs the national Screen Makers Conference, the South Australian Screen Awards as well as around 15 development programs for emerging talent, had made a submission to the state government in May last year for $700,000-$1.2 million in annual operational funding, which was rejected.

A spokesperson for South Australian Arts Minister Andrea Michaels previously stated to IF that it “was up to Mercury CX’s board to run its business in a sustainable way”.

According to the new board, “difficult” decisions regarding staffing have been made in order to significantly reduce overheads, with current recipients of funding given assurances that MCX will “continue to work with them to ensure the successful delivery of their short films and is looking at all possible options to allow the Mercury cinema to continue to operate”.

The South Australian Government is providing a contribution of $50,000 to MCX to assist the board while it reviews the organisation. The new board is also collaborating with Michaels in considering the findings of the review of the MCX commissioned by the previous state government.

“We remain committed to supporting our state’s vibrant screen sector and I look forward to working with the incoming MCX board, comprised of highly regarded industry leaders, as it develops a sustainable operating model,” Michaels said.

Other discussions have been held with the South Australian Film Corporation, Screen Australia, Adelaide Film Festival, Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Channel 44, South Australian universities, and other learning institutions that are focused on the screen industry.

Stark and Hanlon said the board was looking forward to continuing conversations with members as it made more progress.

“We are committed to exploring every avenue we can to keep this cherished institution operating independently,” they said.

“Nevertheless, we are fully aware of the parlous financial condition of the Mercury CX and, as such, will explore all opportunities to ensure the critical functions of the Mercury CX continue.”