Noise forces cinema sale
An art house cinema owner is closing the curtains on his beloved theatre after a long running dispute with the council over neighbouring roadworks and their effect on his business.
John Davies has refused to pay rent at the Academy Cinema under the Central City Library in Lorne St, central Auckland, for 18 months.
He estimates he has lost $500,000 in potential revenue because of noisy roadworks, a situation that has now forced him to sell.
Davies bought the cinema six years ago and has had various arguments with the council over lease conditions ever since.
He said the final nail in the coffin was roadworks that began in February 2011 to upgrade Lorne St into a shared space, ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
"Every percussive piece of work that was done on street level somehow created waves of sound that went through the ground and bounced into the cinema wall," he said.
"We were literally getting people walking out of the cinema saying there were great big banging noises during the romantic scenes."
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said "considerable efforts" were made to assist Davies during the construction.
"We offered to re-programme work on the street to avoid clashing with screenings at the Academy so it wouldn't affect Mr Davies or his customers.
"Unfortunately communication with Mr Davies was sometimes difficult," Hannan said.
He acknowledged work was disruptive but the end result was a major improvement for businesses.
"Foot traffic has increased as pedestrians discovered an enjoyable and safer environment," Hannan said.
But Davies said the cinema had to be closed for significant periods of time which has contributed to a 70 per cent drop in ticket sales.
"The problem is when you go down as low as we did last year you lose the confidence of all the film suppliers. So we've been really struggling to get any decent films in here."
He pushed for compensation to no avail and stopped paying rent to recoup his losses.
Now, he has decided to sell his business to pay his tax bill.
"If we don't pay the tax bill we'd be closed down anyway, and it's much better that I make a sale rather than an IRD appointed liquidator makes a sale."
He hopes the new owner, Andy Miller, will keep the Academy as an art house theatre.
"I'm going to miss this business, I loved that first year it was fantastic," Davies said.
"I'll miss the customers. People who come to the movies here are generally smart, interesting people coming to watch smart, interesting films. And that's what we've always done."
Davies is holding special screenings on Sunday to mark his departure. The final film he screens will be Cinema Paradiso.
Miller officially takes over the cinema on Monday.