By MAX TILLMAN
Dendy Cinemas is giving up its Opera Quays location after twenty years, as the company’s lease on the property won’t be renewed from March 2019. Their last screening will be on Weds 26 Feb. With panoramic views of Sydney Harbour, the site will reopen under new management by larger independent, United Cinemas Australia.
United manage eight cinemas, including Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, three on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and one each in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, as well two restaurants.
In a statement on the company’s Facebook page, Dendy Australia expressed the news “with great sadness,” stating that the cinema will “be closing its doors on February 26th, 2020.
“We’d like to personally thank you for your patronage over the last 20 years and we hope to welcome you at our sister cinema in Newtown.” The Opera Quay’s location has been run by the popular independent since 1999, and with its closure now leaves the company’s Newtown premises, opened in 1994, as their last remaining NSW cinema (although they have two in Queensland and one in Canberra).
No Loss of Independence
The building’s new tenants, United Cinemas, plan to upgrade the current venue, but in the meantime will re-open on the 27 Feb, only a day after Dendy’s lease expires. In a statement, the cinema chain, independently owned by Australian-Italian businessman Roy Mustaca, outlined their plans for a “GRAND Lux cinema experience”.
The facelift of the current site will include the current three cinemas being completely refurbished, as well as the addition of three new screens. In the company’s official statement announcing the move, United Cinema’s cited the “World Class location” as providing “Sydney’s finest cinema experience in the CBD.”
For Scott Seddon, President of Independent Cinemas Australia, the changing of the guard at the Opera Quays location between two Australian owned cinema chains is a good sign for moviegoers.
“Independent cinemas represent around about a quarter of the Australian market,” Mr. Seddon said. “The thing that is more appropriate to independence is that they’re more able to respond to their particular area’s needs.”
Cinemas Going Strong
Under Dendy Cinema’s lease, the Opera Quay location hosted screenings for a number of the cities film festivals, including the annual Sydney Film festival each June. Dendy Cinemas is also the sponsor for Sydney Film Festival’s long-running Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films.
Screen Australia’s 2018 Cinema Trends show that the proportion of Australians attending the cinema at least once per year has averaged 69 percent since the year 2000, with the average Australian attending seven times a year. Attendance rates are now equal, or higher than, rates before the mid-80’s slump, following the upsurge in the popularity of video hire.
While online streaming services loom large over conventional theatres, the Australian independent cinema industry is still going strong.
“One independent operator is leaving the premises, and another is moving in,” Mr. Seddon said, “I think it will be fairly seamless. And just something slightly different for the people.”