The story behind Sawtell Cinema

Movie-lovers descend from far and wide to enjoy Saw tell’s charming cinema and these days, it’s often buzzing with patrons, but the much-loved cinema has had its ups and downs. It took one mighty push by locals two years ago to put this invaluable community asset back in business…

Sawtell resident Jill Nash has always loved her local cinema. “I enjoyed the fact that it was an independent cinema still operating – there aren’t around many these days.”

Jill first became involved with the art deco cinema following the 2009 floods which destroyed much of the interior, forcing it to close. It reopened temporarily but the relaunch proved short-lived and the cinema closed permanently in late 2012.

The cinema was then put on the market, staying empty for three long years. “The longer it stayed closed the more dejected it looked. It took such pride of place in the street, so you really noticed how derelict it had become.”

Almost two years later, Jill had a serendipitous catch up with a local friend, Stephanie Ney and the wheels to save the cinema were put in motion. “Stephanie told me her plan for saving the cinema and I jumped on board whole-heartedly.”

Jill Nash
Jill Nash in front of Sawtell Cinema

A unit trust was established with the terms of 20 investors and no more than two million dollars in capital. Jill became one of the investors along with 19 other passionate locals – all determined to get the cinema up and running again. “I think most of us did it more for love than for any great financial return.”

The money had to include purchasing and refurbishing the cinema, “going digital, replacing all the seats, moving the toilets inside and restructuring the entire place to make two cinemas,” says Jill. 18 months later, the cinema had its grand opening. “The community response has been huge – everyone is just so thrilled,” she adds.

Kieren Dell, CEO of Majestic Cinemas, who now lease the cinema was delighted to be able to reopen the iconic venue. “The cinema is a great tribute to the passion and vision of the current owners and of the local community, all of whom have made it a great success. It’s wonderful to have a successful boutique cinema in a regional town that caters to the holiday crowds and to those who enjoy arthouse, foreign films and special events – all with a glass of wine in hand.”

Since its reopening, not only is the cinema thriving, so too is local business. Jill is one of many proud locals. “We are all just so pleased to have the jewel in the crown of Sawtell returned.”

For more on Majestic Cinema in Sawtell go to www.majesticcinemas.com.au Macleay Valley Coast residents can also look forward to their own local cinema with plans for a new Majestic Cinema in Kempsey Central shopping centre by late 2019.

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