The Sky City brand is about to be moved off the Embassy Theatre, not that it’s ever been very noticeable. The Auckland casino operators have sold their cinema circuit to an Australian company, who’ll be taking over all the Sky City cinemas including the Embassy.
But the Dominion Post was wrong last week when it reported that the Australians will be buying the heritage building. What they’ll be getting is Sky City’s lease of the cinema. The landmark 1920s building – with tenants including the International Film Festival – is not part of the deal, because the Embassy is owned by the city. The council took over ownership in 2003 in return for spending several million dollars to complete restoration of the cinema for the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King.
A Trust, led by the visionary Hutt lawyer Bill Sheat, had been working since 1996 to save the neglected building and restore it as a permanent home for the Wellington Film Festival. Along with its eagerness for a red carpet event, the city got a good deal: all the tenancies were signed up, and there was annual income of $100,000 from the two billboards on top of the building.
But for the last six months, the council hasn’t been earning this revenue. The billboards – in a prime position overlooking Courtenay Place – have been empty since May. Which is hard to understand when billboards in lesser positions are all being used. The screen between the billboards isn’t carrying any advertising either, though it was also a reliable source of revenue when the council took over. Read more »