Story Eve Jeffery
It seems like the people of Byron Bay have had a double win last week as not only was the licence for Dan Murphy’s rejected, but a cinema company has signed the lease for the soon-to-be-evacuated Dendy complex.
Executive director for Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola, says Palace is delighted to announce that it has secured an agreement to lease the Byron Bay Cinema and is planning to be open in mid-November.
Mr Zeccola said that even though there had been conversations between the cinema and the property owner Robert Badalotti for a while, things really only escalated into something more concrete last Thursday. ‘When we first heard that Dendy were planning to leave we got in touch with the landlord and started talking about it’, he says. ‘We were a little bit unsure at first, but as discussions progressed, we felt like we could see opportunities there and decided to have a crack. We wrapped it up over the weekend.’
Part of Palace’s plan for the cinema in 2013 will be an upgrade to introduce a state-of-the-art cinematic experience with HD digital projection technology, and an upgraded bar, foyer and cinema facilities. Opportunities to expand the cinemas by adding new auditoriums are also being explored along with sustainability measures to reduce energy consumption and to recycle water.
One of the many concerns with the closure of the current cinema is the loss of jobs, but Mr Zeccola says that the current staff will be given the opportunity to be a part of the new venture.
He says that any of the current staff who can see themselves fitting in with the Palace Cinemas ethos will certainly be welcome to stay on.
Another of the issues Dendy’s management said played a part in their exodus from town was the viability of the cinema. Though Mr Zeccola says that there will be an increase in ticket price, Byron Bay patrons should not expect to pay city prices.
‘We will have to look at the ticket price’, he said. ‘Seats in Palace Cinemas across the country are perhaps at a slight premium, but it’s not a painful difference. We also have a really powerful movie club that has a lot of benefits and discounts, so anyone who does like to go to the movies regularly but finds it expensive will find the movie club solves that problem for them.’
Part of the Palace Cinemas agenda is to follow in the steps of its other cinemas and introduce a wide variety of films.
‘We have a really strong roster of international film festivals, and we will be bringing that to Byron Bay. We’ve got the Italian Film Festival running at the moment, we have the French Film Festival, which is one of the strongest in Australia. We also have the Spanish, Israeli, and we have the Palestinian film festivals coming up soon. All of these festivals create new admissions because they are films that are otherwise unavailable, over and above the best of Hollywood and the best of the independent films from around the world.’
In light of the rejected alcohol licence for the premises below the cinema (the planned Dan Murphy’s liquor barn), an issue that may raise questions will be the inclusion of alcohol to the cinema’s food and drink menu.
This will not require an extra licence in the town as the current operator does have a licence that it does not utilise.
‘Palace Cinemas is renowned for its hospitality ethos and that is something the company is looking forward to delivering in Byron Bay. Locals will be invited to indulge in a pre-film sparkling wine from the carefully curated wine list; coffee lovers will enjoy freshly ground fair-trade coffee; there will also be gourmet ice-cream as well as locally sourced delectables to accompany a premium cinema-going experience.’
Mr Zeccola says that the inclusion of alcohol has been put under the microscope at every one of its new cinemas but the company has an absolutely blemish-free record as far as the serving and consumption of alcohol goes.
Yesterday Echonetdaily spoke to Jamie Bourke, agent for the Jonson Street property. He said that property owner Robert Badalotti considered carefully before he decided on Palace Cinemas. Up until last Thursday Mr Badalotti was still considering two companies, and he feels as if he has made the most appropriate choice for the town. He says that Palace have signed a 25-year lease and will move onto the premises on November 7.
In related news, Mr Bourke said he could not comment on whether the lease for the shop below the cinema was conditional on the alcohol outlet securing a liquor licence, but he did say that at this point the property was still tied in with Dan Murphy’s.