12 May 2020

Final credits roll on Capitol Cinema at Manuka (but a sequel is in the works)

| Michael Weaver
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The Capitol Theatre at Manuka

The Capitol Theatre at Manuka is closing its doors for good from 15 May 2020. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The historic Capitol Cinemas at Manuka has been closed since the COVID-19 shutdown measures came into place, but yesterday the company formally emailed its members with the news that Capitol Cinemas Manuka would close at the end of its lease on Friday, 15 May.

“We’ve been showing movies at Capitol Cinemas Manuka for many years so the decision was not made lightly,” members were told.

“Together we have shared magical movie moment, first dates, family outings, birthday celebrations, romantic anniversaries, huge belly laughs, exciting adventures and nightmarish scary scenes – and we’ve loved every minute.”

The owners of the site, the Liangis family, lodged a development application in 2018 to build the Capitol Hotel which would include a new six-cinema complex and replace the existing six cinemas at Manuka. That DA was approved in October, however, building works on the $11.4 million project are yet to begin.

John Liangis said last year the new cinema complex would be incorporated into the hotel, be digitalised and have six screens albeit on a smaller scale, with seating from 80 to 120 seats in each space, much like the Palace Electric cinema at NewActon.

Mr Liangis said the current cinema was beyond its use-by date and had reached the end of its commercial viability.

However, he declined to comment further when Region Media contacted him about the cinema.

The Liangis family had also been embroiled with the ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna over a protected tree on the site that has been stymieing the development.

The proposed Capitol Hotel

An image from the development application of the proposed Capitol Hotel in Manuka.

The current Capitol Theatre building, which had a dual purpose as a theatre and a cinema, replaced the former structure of the same name that was demolished in 1980.

It was Canberra’s first purpose-built cinema, opening in 1927 with more than 1000 seats.

The original building was demolished in 1980.

Overall there will be no reduction in cinemas in the Territory. A new nine-cinema complex is being built above Kmart in Morriset Street in Queanbeyan, along with a $15 million two-storey, eight-screen complex in Gungahlin which will be operated by United Cinemas.

Both cinemas are expected to be completed in the next 18 months.

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John – I agree. The current cinema has been very poorly maintained for some years. Also agree Manuka Plaza has not worked, probably due to poor integration with the rest of Manuka. The cinema and related buildings need to be replaced with attractive buildings that fit in with the heritage nominated shops. I’d like to see the axis (from Russell) that passes through Telopea Park, Manuka Arcade and The Lawns delineate a good arcade in the new building.

That is not the original Capitol Theatre! My mother worked at the original Capitol Theatre for years! We practically grew up there!!!!
I was so sad to see it demolished.
But that’s what we do in Australia!!

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