ASTRONOMER Patrick Moore and comedian Al Murray helped to revive the fortunes at the Camberley Theatre this year.

They played to sell-out audiences, as did several other acts including The Glenn Miller Orchestra and The Blues Band.

Their pulling-power helped to bring about a "remarkable transformation" in the once ailing theatre, according to a secret Surrey Heath Council report leaked to the Star.

But despite the supposedly buoyant picture, council taxpayers will still have to dig deep into their pockets to keep the theatre afloat in the 2003-04 financial year.

Exactly how much they will have to shell out is not yet clear, but it is likely to be in the region of around £250,000 - £4,807 for every week of the year.

The final figure will be partly cushioned by the increase in box office takings which, for the first seven months of this year, have gone up from £82,000 to £125,000.

Attendances during the same period leapt by 54 per cent, from 13,000 to 20,000.

The brighter picture was helped further by only an eight per cent rise in artists' fees, from £84,000 to £90,400.

Graham Bennett, the theatre's general manager, reckons that changing the name from ArtsLink to the Camberley Theatre has helped boost the takings.

Improved marketing and programming have also played their part in lessening losses.

"Advance sales are continuing this trend," he said in his report to the council's theatre working group.

The financial statement for the six months to September, said Mr Bennett, indicated that the theatre was well on target to achieve its revised budget of £212,600. A council spokeswoman refused to say exactly how much would be needed from council taxpayers to subsidise the theatre this financial year.

She said that the working group's report was confidential and should not have fallen into the Star's hands. "I'm intrigued how you obtained it," she said. "I'm responsible for sending out the agendas, and I certainly didn't send you one."