New owners of the Sawtell Cinema, Stephanie May, Jill Nash and Mark Brown have plans to get the iconic landmark up and running again. Photo: Trevor Veale / Coffs Coast Advocate
New owners of the Sawtell Cinema, Stephanie May, Jill Nash and Mark Brown have plans to get the iconic landmark up and running again. Photo: Trevor Veale / Coffs Coast Advocate Trevor Veale

Two-screen cinema, toilets and cafe planned

STEPHANIE Ney's determination to save the Sawtell Cinema is paying off, with hopes high of having a refurbished cinema open for Christmas next year.

Ms Ney enrolled in the School for Social Entrepreneurs in March this year, with the aim of finding a way to return the cinema to the community.

After getting interested locals on board, her plan began to take shape.

" When I started talking to people about the idea of saving the cinema, I was overwhelmed by offers to help," Ms Ney said.

"It seemed that the whole community was desperate (for it) to happen," she said,

There are 19 investors in the project, 17 of them Sawtell locals and the other two with strong ties to the town.

Doris and Alan Brissett, whose family has owned the cinema since the 1940s, signed a deal with the investors to sell the building this week.

The purchase is, however, dependent on approval of development applications before the council, with a decision due in February.

Mark Brown, one investor, said the refurbishment would have the cinema converted to a two-screen cinema, with the main theatre to have 140 seats, and a smaller one to have 35-40 seats which would screen arthouse films.

"We physically can't fit two large screens in the building," Mr Brown said.

"We'll also add toilets inside; currently they're out the back," he said.

"There will also be a cafe added to the front of the cinema."

The Sawtell Cinema is a heritage building, so there are restrictions on what can be done.

The investors have been working with architects g2, the council's Technical Liaison Committee and a heritage consultant to ensure requirements are met.

Investor Jill Nash said: "Although the exterior will stay as it is, the inside is getting a total conversion". Ms Nash is also the founder of the Friends of the Sawtell Cinema group, which was formed in 2009 to ensure the cinema would reopen after floods closed it.

"The exciting part is the strength of support from the community," she said.

"I'm just so thrilled to see the community responding again.

"The goodwill out there is astounding."



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