Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Regal cinema in sale drama

From The Herald...


A LAST-MINUTE plea from film and television industry heavyweights has won a reprieve from sale for the former Regal Cinema.

Newcastle City Council last night considered selling the Birmingham Gardens property.

Proceeds would go towards a community project in western Newcastle, while a working party would look at catering to film demands in the area.

Councillors decided to defer the decision for two weeks after receiving a late submission from industry insiders.

Australian Guild of Screen Composers executive director Jo Smith, who is a former Novocastrian, led a late push to save the cinema after hearing on Sunday that the council was set to sell.

A letter with 21 signatories including The Chaser's Andrew Hansen, Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker Bob Connolly and Blue Murder writer Ian David was sent to the council, asking it to consider re-opening the cinema.

Ms Smith and Rabbit Proof Fence writer-producer Christine Olsen addressed last night's council meeting.

Ms Smith said it was important for Novocastrians to have access to independent film.

She said old country cinemas were rare.

"The Regal Cinema is an absolute gem," she said.

Ms Olsen said the site was built with community labour and retained a strong sense of community.

"You can't take it and plonk it somewhere else," she said.

Cr Bob Cook said a council committee had considered options for reopening the cinema building, but could not find a model that would work.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes suggested deferring a decision on the proposed sale for two weeks, and most of her colleagues agreed.

Councillors Michael Osborne and Tim Crakanthorp said the interest from the film and television industry might produce some new options for the site.

The 50-year-old cinema closed in 2006 because the building was considered unsafe.

A site sale was proposed in 2008, but the council halted plans after community protest.

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