Friday, 26 February 2010

Profit and loss

This is the Double Bay Vogue photographed in the 1930s, for many years my local cinema just a leisurely five minutes walk from home. Well, it is a leisurely walk downhill to the cinema and a breathless hike back up the hill from the cinema. From the 1970s (thereabouts) it was a twin screen complex under the name Village Twin. In 2004, the cinema's doors were closed literally overnight when the cinema chain who owned it opened a new complex a couple of kilometres away in Bondi Junction.

The Village Twin has remained resolutely closed and unused for the past six years. A request by the Art House chain Dendy to lease the cinema was knocked back by the owners apparently unwilling to have the competition even though for the most part Dendy would be screening quite different films.

I wondered how the owners could leave this property, in prime position and no doubt subject to expensive council rates, vacant for so long.

This week I read the reason why. And here it is.
There is a mobile phone tower on the roof of the building and it seems that the annual rental the tower attracts is sufficiently attractive for the owners to leave the building sitting there vacant and deteriorating below it. The owners profit whilst the community loses out.


  1. Oh Victor, that is a very nice picture. Do you think an art house cinema in that location would attract enough business? I would guess so.

  2. wcs - indeed it does

    Andrew - oh yes, it would be a good area for art house movies, the cinema was pretty successful before it gave way to the monster multiplex up the road.

  3. Andrew - by the way, did you notice the tram lines?

  4. If it was just a question of the mobile phone tower revenues, the owners could presumably sell the premises for a price which includes the value which they give. The thing is that the owners don't want the old cinema to be open because this would dilute the value of the new. They can keep the old cinema shut whilst they own it, whereas they might face legal problems trying to do so once they sell it.

  5. Marcellous - No doubt that is the real reason. In the meantime the vacant property contributes to the sense of a precinct in decline.

  6. V: I was discussing this with a colleague who is more Double Bay born and bred than I.

    My chief memories are of going there for more arthousy films in the 70s and maybe even early 90s when Village was an arthouse-ish cinema chain. I'm sure I saw Garden of the Fitzi-Continis there, and maybe even (later) the film of the H James novella, The Americans.

    My colleague made the same observation as you about the precinct being in decline. Part of his take on that was the passing of the Hungarians etc who made it what it was but who would be in their 90s if still alive.

    He also told me that we've got the facts mixed up a little: the Village Double Bay building was bought by Westfield/Lowy and then shut down and not re-leased when Village took up a tenancy at Westfield Bondi Junction.

  7. Marcellous - I have the same recollection about Village being (semi) art house when it took over at Double Bay. Before that I recall Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedies being part of the fare.

    Later the cinema seemed to straddle art house and the mainstream offerings.

    At some point Village seems to have been subsumed by Greater Union under which banner the multiplex at Bondi Junction opened. That complex now operates under the (appallingly named) Event Cinemas brand.

    I find it curious that Westfield/Lowy purchased the Double Bay property. Could that have been part of a deal to encourage GU into Bondi Junction by promising protection from competition or is that unwise speculation legally?

  8. As to speculation, it's self-evident, really. As landlord, Westfield/Lowy have their own interest in limiting competition for the Westfield cinemas, and cinemas and shopping centres have become quite an established business model. For one thing, there is a convenient synergy of evening use of the parking facilities.

    Incidentally, could you correct a mistype in my last comment? It should be 70s or even 80s, rather than 90s.

  9. You have identified probably one of my biggest pains as a village planner....cellular antennae and towers. I'm still trying to convince the village trustees that there has to be a little "give and take" when a property owner wants to enter into such an agreement, particularly when the owner says he doesn't want the cellular company to attach the antennae to the building, but just place it on the roof, weighted down with sand bags. So we see the antennae above the roof line instead of the antennae being somewhat camoflaged by the building.