DURHAM City Council could seek to split up the Gala Theatre as it bids to map out a future for the troubled £14m venue.

The council has indicated that it may hive off the arts venue's various functions to different management companies. These would include the theatre itself, the large screen cinema and catering facilities such as the restaurant and bar.

However, council chiefs still hope to attract a national operator to manage the entire venue and replace the Entertainment Team Durham Limited, which went into liquidation with debts of £700,000.

But their efforts could be hampered by doubts over its long term viability.

Peter Hepple, consultant editor with industry newspaper The Stage, said he was sceptical whether anyone would take on the Gala in its entirety.

He said: "I cannot see any national operator taking it over without financial guarantees from the council as they would not want to lose money on it."

Mr Hepple said: "The Gala Theatre was on a bit of a loser from the very start and I don't see any enormous future for it as it is now.

"A theatre of that size is too small in my opinion for large scale opera.

"Anything else they try to do such as tribute bands, smaller touring productions and festivals is probably already being done in the area. There are two big theatres in Newcastle and one in Sunderland both 15 minutes up the road."

The Gala needed to find a 'particular profile' he suggested.

Owners Durham City Council are currently running the venue after terminating the contract of its previous managers five weeks ago.

Chief executive Colin Shearsmith said it had completed its most successful month ever.

The authority was considering whether to extend its temporary 13 week tenure while at the same time exploring options for the Gala's future.

Mr Shearsmith said: "It is too soon to give any detail at all of any discussions, but it is true to say that interest in Gala as a flagship arts venue remains strong.