New Zealand earthquake impacts Christchurch cinemas

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More than a week after an earthquake devastated the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb. 21, only one cinema complex had reopened. The Movieland Hornby mall in the suburb of Hornby resumed business about a week after the quake. Four Hoyts complexes remained closed—the Moorhouse eight-plex, Northlands six-plex, Riccarton six-plex and the Regent on Worcester in the city. The Regent on Worcester is a modern four-plex built on the site of the Regent cinema, a 1,560-seater that was constructed in 1930. U.S. cinema chain Reading’s eight-plex The Palms remained closed, as did the Rialto complex in the city and the Hollywood 3 in a 70-year-old cinema building in suburban Sumner. Some of the suburban complexes are expected to reopen shortly, but some city cinemas are in doubt.

The cinemas that appear to have been most damaged are those in the beautiful Arts Centre of Christchurch. The center was the original site of Canterbury University and contains some wonderful buildings, many dating from the 1870s and now used for cinemas, dance, art and more. The Academy, The Academy Classic and The Cloisters are all affected to varying degrees. We previously wrote about these cinemas in our story on Gloomy Sunday running for over nine years.

Americans and American companies used to get A$1.30 to $1.40 for every American dollar, and this made Australia a very attractive place to film. Studios in Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland were kept busy with large-budget productions, but no more. The Australian dollar is now on a parity with the American dollar and there have been no big-budget American films shot at Fox Studios in Sydney for a couple of years. The state and federal governments want to attract more films here and have created some financial incentives. Coming to Fox Studios shortly is Aussie Baz Luhrmann's new 3D version of The Great Gatbsy, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, with pre-production set to begin in March followed by a 17-week shoot in August.

“This comes at a good time for the film industry. Australia was thought to be losing international filmmaking due to the strong Aussie dollar. Put simply, this is a big win,” said New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally. “We’re determined to keep skilled NSW cast and crew working right here, and we’ll work to strengthen our leadership in the film and PDV [post digital visual effects] industry both here and overseas,” she declared. “What better endorsement of our state’s world-class filmmaking capabilities—we’ve won the right to produce this iconic New York story ahead of New York itself.”

According to information released by Keneally’s office, The Great Gatsby will inject more than $120 million into the NSW economy, supporting more than 825 jobs. “The Great Gatsby will be a boon for the NSW film industry, particularly given Baz Luhrmann’s commitment to maximizing use of local cast, crew and visual-effects expertise,” added Keneally.

Another large-budgeted film, the sequel to the highest-grossing Australian film of 2010, Tomorrow, When the War Began, has also been announced for the Sydney area. The sequel, adapted from the John Marsden novels, will once again be written and directed by Stuart Beattie. It will shoot in the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains, and according to the NSW government, is expected to generate more than 450 jobs, with a $40 million injection into the state’s economy.

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