Theatre construction on the rise in Australia and New Zealand

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Day and Date Down Under

This month's column is devoted to new cinema building in both Australia and New Zealand.

The Hoyts eight-plex in Christchurch, New Zealand was demolished in 2012 after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. The company has now announced plans for a new 11-plex in the center of the city, next to the new bus exchange. Hoyts will lease the cinemas, which will be in a three-level complex featuring a ground-floor dining area. There will be two Xtremescreen auditoriums, two Hoyts Lux auditoriums (which include food service to patrons’ seats) and seven “normal” screens. The site is currently a car park and work will start early next year for an opening around May 2018.

One of my favorite places to visit in Christchurch prior to the earthquakes was the Arts Centre—a complex of theatres, art galleries, small artisan shops and cinemas in a Heritage-listed area containing mostly one- and two-story brick and stone buildings. Some buildings were condemned and others have been restored in the years since the disaster and work continues. Some buildings have just reopened and two cinemas are in early stages of planning. I am looking forward to the area becoming an arts focus again.

Independent Australian cinema chain Palace Cinemas is in the midst of a major expansion, with two new cinema complexes planned plus expansion of several existing cinemas. In Melbourne, the five-screen Balwyn cinema is expanding to 11 screens. The three-screen Byron Bay complex in northern New South Wales is to be replaced by a nine-plex, and the popular Sydney cinema The Verona is expanding from four to eight screens by the end of next year. CEO Anthony Zeccola says that the company is "looking forward to renovating and improving most of our sites over the coming years.”

A car park in Sydney's inner-city suburb of Double Bay is to be constructed as a new building with apartments, shops, public parking and a cinema complex. Palace won rights for the cinemas over competitive bids by Dendy Cinemas and Limelight Cinemas. They plan a 10-plex with an opening set for four years from now. A couple of years earlier than that, Palace plans to open Palace Central in Sydney's Central Park Mall, close to Central Station on the edge of the Central Business District, giving Palace five Sydney locations. The 14-screen complex will have auditoriums that range in size from 30 to over 100 seats and is expected to include three "premium-class" cinemas plus a bar.

The standalone IMAX cinema in Sydney closed at the end of September. But this will not be the end. The cinema was reportedly the second most successful IMAX cinema globally last year, and a new IMAX cinema will be included in a total redevelopment of the site. The new 20-story development, called The Ribbon, will include a new 588-room W hotel, restaurants, shops, a 430-seat IMAX cinema and a 40-seat Gold Class-style cinema. The IMAX will have state-of-the-art laser projection and a 12-channel sound system when it reopens in about three years’ time. The cinema has entertained over 10 million patrons since it first opened in 1996.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.