Queanbeyan is no closer to getting its long-awaited cinema, which is now reliant on a $6 million bushfire recovery grant that developers United Cinemas applied for in January this year.
The development is proving to be a prolonged prequel to the cinema before its first film is shown after a development application (DA) was first approved by Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council on 14 March, 2018.
The site of the complex above Kmart in Morisset Street was stripped at the end of last year, and the Sydney-based developer was expected to begin construction at the start of this year.
Council also approved a modification to their DA in December 2020 for a pump house, water tank and fire truck hardstand that impacted a further 15 parking spaces in the adjacent car park.
Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain also met with the developers and councillors in September 2020 to explore grant options.
It is understood United Cinemas has now applied for a $6 million grant to assist with construction costs.
The theatre will consist of nine cinema screens and will provide the community with state-of-the-art cinema theatres, with high-quality in-theatre dining options.
The project is expected to provide 150 construction jobs, seven to 10 full-time jobs, and up to 80 part-time jobs once completed.
According to developer and CEO of United Cinemas, Sam Mustaca, the cinema would have two theatres that could hold 269 guests with seven other cinemas varying in size from 69 to 155 seats. All cinemas would offer a combination of reclining and stadium-style seating.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on cinemas that were closed up until 1 July, 2020, but now must operate under a COVID-19 safety plan. As of March 2021, cinemas were allowed to operate at full capacity without social distancing required between bookings.
Queanbeyan’s cinema has also been an ongoing point of contention for council with Mayor Tim Overall saying barely a week goes by when a member of the community doesn’t ask when the town will get its cinema.
“Like everyone in Queanbeyan, I’m looking forward to enjoying a new movie experience in the not-too-distant future, fingers crossed,” he said.
“Council isn’t involved in the proposal or the construction at all, but has provided all relevant approvals for the development application.
“It’s a very popular development for Queanbeyan and I hope the developer can overcome last year’s COVID-19-related financial difficulties soon and be in a position to deliver the much-anticipated project.
“From my understanding, they are exploring funding opportunities to be able to engage contractors.”
The proposal for a cinema complex in Queanbeyan dates back to 2014 when the former Queanbeyan City Council considered a proposal from Metro Cinemas, which included the council providing up to $8 million in funding to construct the cinema.
However, the proposal was opposed by a majority of councillors and resulted in Metro withdrawing its application.
In 2018, Mr Mustaca said he was excited about bringing a cinema to Queanbeyan.
“We will be bringing the finest cinema experience to the people of Queanbeyan who have waited a very long time to have a cinema in their community,” he said.