Independent cinemas bullied by corporate film oligarchy

As if small businesses weren’t already doing it tough.  Look at retail food supermarkets with the Coles-Woolies duopoly, price bullying small independent supermarkets out of viability, especially in regional areas.

Now Australia’s regional independent cinemas are being bullied by the film industry corporate oligarchy’s axing of 35mm reel films for digital.  A digital projector costs more than $100,000, and with many independent cinemas being family-owned small businesses, this impost is unaffordable.  It only serve the big end of town and will see a further concentration of the cinema industry to a wealthy few.

The film industry corporate oligarchy is:

  1. Roadshow Films
  2. Paramount Pictures
  3. Universal Pictures
  4. 20th Century Fox

These corporate dominants will stop providing films in 35mm format, rendering the old-fashioned reel-to-reel film projectors – used by most independent cinemas – to museums.

Among those already closing down is Sawtell Cinemas, which will close on December 31 after 71 years of screening films.  Their cinema complex is for sale for $1.7 million but a group of locals hope to raise enough money to keep it open.

Cinema manager Cole Brissett said it would be the death of independent cinemas.

“It’s impossible to make a dollar,” Mr Brissett said. “We can’t survive any longer. The digital age has caught up and I fear for the whole industry.”

The family business will operate until they are no longer able to obtain new films in the format required by their projectors which could be as early as June this year. Unfortunately, the cost of upgrading the cinema’s equipment to accommodate digital projection is just too much and the owners have decided to close the doors.

Sawtell Cinema
Sawtell Cinemas

It’s likely that the prime location of the cinema will be sought after by developers and that a mixture of commercial spaces and residential units will be built on the site.

Peter Cotter of Huskisson Pictures and Inlet Cinema at Sussex Inlet on the south coast said he and his business partners had borrowed $150,000 for two basic digital projectors. He said he hoped to make the money back through ticket sales but admitted his cinemas were lucky to make a profit each week.

In the lower Blue Mountains, Glenbrook Cinema owner Ron Curran switched to digital projection 10 months ago.  He had to raise ticket prices by $1 and push his retirement back 10 years to help pay for the new machines.

Glenbrook Cinema

Small independent cinema’s impacted:

  • Nelson Bay Cinema
  • Huskissons Pictures
  • Inlet Cinema (Sussex Inlet)
  • Avoca Beach Picture Theatre
  • Scotty’s Cinemai Centre, Raymond Terrace
  • Mount Vic Flicks, Mount Victoria
  • Glenbrook Cinema, Glenbrook
  • Arcadia Cinemas, Ulladulla

Many of these cinemas are historic and provide a vital social benefit to their local communities.  If they go, so will a vital part of Australia’s heritage and social life – young and old.

But the Liberal/Labor (LibLabs) parties could give a toss.  They are only interested in the cities where the votes are.  The Greens are more concerned about accommodating the thousands of illegals to our north.