At first glance, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh's deal with Multiplex to include a "drawcard for the arts world" in the redevelopment of the Regent seems like a good outcome. But the tower will still be built and what's left of the beautiful old picture palace will be buried inside it. The venue will house the headquarters of the Brisbane International Film Festival but won't offer enough screening space for its opening and closing nights, or for other big red-capet premieres. In other words, it's just a bunch of offices.
Please ponder the following points:
* Re. the 1 x 300 seats and 2 x 60 seats venues proposed : it would appear that they are not to be dedicated cinemas, but business conference or meeting spaces and will only be available to the public as "boutique cinemas" on "weekends and public holidays". Does this mean the venue will be closed to the public during the week? And if so, what if the businesspeople want the venues on the weekend, who gets first dibs? What guarantees are there that these cinemas will be maintained?
* In any case, Brisbane already has two boutique cinemas at GoMA; and, as HD technology improves, the real boutique cinemas of the future will be in your own home.
* While the foyer will be retained, some structural reports suggest it may not survive demolition of the rest of the theatre.
* The future of cinema itself is uncertain - especially in city centres. Adelaide recently lost its last CBD cinema complex. All the action is in the suburbs where there are dozens of screens playing a range of films and free parking.
* The Regent could be a very successful 1500-2000-seat live venue. A report out last week shows Broadway is going from strength to strength, and theatre continues to thrive in other Australian capitals. Sydney and Melbourne have shows like Billy Elliott and Wicked! that will probably never come to Brisbane. Both southern capitals have several live venues - Brisbane has just one - the Lyric Theatre at QPAC - which cannot handle a long run of an Australian premiere. Big shows can be tourist attractions that bring in big money to the state as well as enhance the cultural offering to Queenslanders.
* The Regent is the last of its kind in Brisbane. The developers got Cloudland, Festival Hall, the Metro, the Paris, the Forum, the Wintergarden and Her Majesty's. Surely we can retain one historic theatre and restore it to something like its original glory - especially if it can be a viable business proposition as well.
If you believe Anna Bligh has caved in on this, please let her know by emailing or writing to her and other state and city politicians. Her address is Premier@ministerial.qld.gov.au. Other address are here.
It's not too late to have your voice heard.