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Comedy Museum closes

The Intl. Museum of Humour, part of Gilbert Rozon’s Just for Laughs comedy empire, officially closes its doors today after only 10 months in operation.

The $ C21 million ($ 15.8 million) project was a poor draw since opening last April, and the cost of running the museum was starting to cause serious problems at Rozon’s privately run comedy conglomerate, Groupe Rozon.

Not be hurt

The Just for Laughs festival, founded by Rozon, will not be hurt by the failure of the museum, according to festival topper Andy Nulman.

“The reason we did this was to avoid any trouble with the festival or the Groupe Rozon,” Nulman said. “The festival will be around next year and for the years to come.

The only way we’re affected by this is that we’re saddened by it. But there’s no financial impact. It’s business as usual.”

The annual Montreal-based comedy fest — one of the largest in the world — is run by a non-profit corporation separate from Groupe Rozon, but the two operations are closely connected and work out of the same offices.

Expectations unmet

Predictions were for 400,000 visitors per year, but only 135,000 people paid to go to the museum in 1993. It was losing $ C200,000 ($ 151,020) a month, and Groupe Rozon recently sank another $ C1.6 million ($ 1.21 million) to try to keep it afloat.

The museum has cost Rozon’s company $ C3.2 million ($ 2.4 million) so far, and it owes at least another $ C1 million ($ 755,100).

The museum’s 50 employees have been laid off.

The Intl. Museum of Humour was embroiled in controversy from the moment it was announced that the federal, provincial and city governments had contributed $ C13.5 million ($ 10.19 million) in support for the project.

Rozon made a last-ditch effort to squeeze more money out of the Quebec government this week, but the province’s culture ministry turned down the request.

The museum’s first and only exhibition, “Laughing Matters,” was a multimedia history of comedy that featured interactive displays and clips from comic pix and television shows.

The museum was the site of several events during last year’s Just for Laughs festival.

Nulman said the fest is set to take place July 21-31.

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