I am proud to be bringing you the news that I have received confirmation, through unofficial channels, that when the proposed Wodonga Cinema Complex opens it will contain a flying car dealership. Some of you may think that this sounds far fetched so I’ll make you a deal, I’ll stop bullshitting about flying cars if Wodonga Council stops pretending that there’s going to be a Cinema Centre built any time soon.
It’s been over six months since Wodonga Council proudly trumpeted the latest proposal for a Cinema Centre in their CBD. Not just in their CBD, but in their very own car park! I’m quite sure that this headline project is doomed to failure.
There’s plenty of reasons why the Cinema project is a dud and I think that the ratepayers of Wodonga will end up wearing the cost of it for some time to come.
The first problem with this development is the location. Wodonga’s CBD is a mish mash of poor design already and this proposed development will only add to its erratic nature. The cinema centre will be neighbouring the City Offices, the civic centre and the library on one side of the road and a stretch of car parks on the other side of Hovell St. The proposed site is nowhere near Stanley St, where the Council has been trying to encourage the development of a Café strip, and will actually be competing with established businesses as it introduces its own food retailers.
The second problem with this plan is the state of the cinema business. Hoyts has been a basket case for over a decade and the CBD of Sydney has had the number of cinemas in the entertainment precinct of George St rationalised due to financial pressures. The impact that improved home theatre, Plasma TVs and DVD had on cinema since the late ’90s is nothing compared to what we see today with Bittorrent bringing new releases into peoples homes via the internet sometimes before the cinema release. Investing in a new cinema today ranks right up there with investing in Centro or MFS, so when this puppy flops what do you do with an eight cinema complex that can’t attract a tenant?
The final issue is that people in Wodonga already have access to a cinema, it’s in Dean Street, Albury. The Regent Cinema is a brilliant complex, from the vastness of Cinema One through to the comfy, if overpriced, seats in Gold Class. The Regent suffers the usual cinema crap, overpriced food and drinks and the smell of stale popcorn, but I can’t see how Wodonga will be any better. The Regent has a strong link to Village Roadshow, ensuring that it secures movies at release time and is able to show an arthouse program as well, any competitor will have to match this as it’s hard to see anyone waiting to see a new blockbuster film just to avoid driving from Wodonga to Albury.
According to Wodonga Council the developer for their cinema centre owns the cinemas in Griffith and Wangaratta, two towns where they had no established opposition. Also, the Wang and Griffith Cinemas appear to be independent of the major film distributors, which means that they are unlikely to be able to bring any competitive edge against the Regent. The other great attraction being touted for this project is an eighteen lane bowling alley, now I may simply be out of touch, but I didn’t realise that the present Wodonga Ten Pin was having trouble keeping up with the demand for this sport. If anything, Ten Pin Bowling alleys seem on the whole to be like cinemas, closing down all over the place.
The most damning thing of course is that despite promising that “An update will be provided shortly” there has been no more information about this project from Wodonga Council since June last year.
This proposed development doesn’t seem to be anything but an attempt to outshine Albury. If it gets off the ground it will be just one more piece of evidence that the Wodonga Council are spending too much time looking across the border rather than in their own backyard.