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Apathy among Dunedin theatre-goers is threatening the viability of the city's only professional theatre, says theatre treasurer Scott Mason.

The 30-year-old Fortune Theatre was expecting a loss of more than $50,000 this year and could not cope with another bad year, he said.

"It's not yet as bad as five to six years ago but we couldn't sustain a third bad year."

Last year was "appalling", with a loss of $75,000.

Financial problems several years ago forced the sale of the theatre building to the Dunedin City Council, which leases it back to the Fortune Theatre Trust.

Mr Mason, who has been the trust treasurer for three years, said although Creative New Zealand funding had been similar for the past few years - $374,000 this year - the theatre was not getting "bums on seats".

Many were happy to pay $65 a seat for a one-off production with profits going out of town, but were unwilling to pay $25 for a local production.

He said an attitude change was needed among Dunedin people to prevent apathy and taking the theatre for granted.