Council split on cinema proposal

The good old days- The former Star Cinemas on Monaro Street. The Council debate on how best to bring a cinema to Queanbeyan remains ongoing.
The good old days- The former Star Cinemas on Monaro Street. The Council debate on how best to bring a cinema to Queanbeyan remains ongoing.

ONE possible cinema operator has said it will walk away from constructing a cinema complex in Queanbeyan following a Council decision on Wednesday night not to immediately enter a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) process with Metro Cinemas.

The lengthy and at times heated ordinary meeting of Council onWednesday night also saw two distinct blocs emerge among Queanbeyan councillors in the ongoing debate over bringing a cinema to Queanbeyan.

While all ten councillors say they support Council bringing a cinema to Queanbeyan, they have now split into two separate camps - one supporting Mayor Tim Overall's seven-cinema multiplex to be run by Metro Cinemas, and another seeking a feasibility study be held into the idea first before Council commit to a location and an operator.

Last month Mayor Tim Overall presented councillors with his option to enter a MOU process with Metro Cinemas to build a seven-cinema multiplex at the former Queanbeyan Nursery site by the river. The proposal included Council constructing the building at a cost of up to $8 million and renting it to Metro Cinemas over a 20-year lease. Council staff estimated the venture would pay for itself at the six year mark. It was supported by councillors Peter Bray, Trudy Taylor and Toni McLennan.

However a majority of councillors made up of Sue Whelan, Jamie Cregan, Judith Burfoot, Brian Brown, Kenrick Winchester and Vic Trajanoski rejected that proposal on the grounds they were yet to see key financial data from the proposed operator, including a business plan and recent financial statements.

Both groups put up motions reinforcing their original positions to Wednesday night's meeting.

The motion that was voted through on the night was co-authored by Jamie Cregan, Sue Whelan and Kenrick Winchester and will see an advisory committee formed to "oversee an independent feasibility study for a cinema in Queanbeyan by suitably qualified experts" and that an MOU then be drafted with an operator "if a feasibility study supports the viability and location of a cinema and the feasibility study is endorsed by Council."

However Deputy Mayor Peter Bray and Cr Toni McLennan then foreshadowed a rescission motion they intend to submit to next month's meeting aimed at repealing Wednesday night's vote, although it is not yet clear whether they will have the numbers.

Meanwhile, a letter presented to Council this week from Metro Cinemas CEO John O'Neill said the company was "greatly disappointed" Council had declined to enter a MOU with it.

"I am sure Council can understand our frustration after working on this project for some 6 years, and that it is stillborn," Mr O'Neill wrote.

"Accordingly should Council choose not to proceed to a MOU with Metro Cinemas at its meeting of 23 July, 2014, Metro Cinemas is left with no choice but to withdraw its offer and pursue other opportunities."


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