Cinema lease now on shaky ground

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:04 27/11/2012

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The Dannevirke Regent Theatre's impending lease change has been upstaged by news that the building's back wall is earthquake prone.

The 94-year-old building's rear wall was rated as being at just 12 per cent of the building code by Tararua District Council in 2007.

After nearly a year of being closed, speculation around the renting and reopening of the town's only cinema was confirmed by the property owner Darlene Amboy lessee Bradley Knewstubb, from Christchurch, said once he started asking about leasing the cinema he found more was needed than the required Building Warrant of Fitness, including signage stating the building's earthquake risk.

"Being from Christchurch and seeing the effects of such a sign, the placement would have a detrimental effect on not only the cinema, but also on businesses operating within the cinema complex, as well as the flat upstairs," he said.

After his experiences in Christchurch quakes, he wasn't willing to take the risk with the cinema or the people of Dannevirke.

"This is the way I look at it, if you're married and you have three kids under the age of 6 and you're going to the Saturday matinee for the very first time and you see an earthquake notice on the front door. What are you going to do?

"I know what I'd do, I turn around and walk away."

He was worried if the back wall went in a quake, it would pull down the roof rafters connecting to the main body of the building and then destroy the frontage.

It's a catch-22 situation for Mr Knewstubb, because he wants the public to know the building's state but fears if they do business could be choked.

He is looking into options with the owner Miss Amboy, real estate mediators, and the council representatives to either demolish the back wall, repair it or strengthen it.

However, Mr Knewstubb was concerned the three other businesses in the theatre building - the Regent Cafe, Dannevirke's Kindergarten Association and the offices of Wairarapa MP John Hayes - had not been stickered yet.

Tararua District Council's manager of environmental services Mike Brown said the concern about the back of the building did not affect those businesses housed in the front.

If the cinema was to be used as a public building again then the council would be required to post a notice on the front entrance to warn users of the dangers.

However, the rest of the building hadn't been earthquake assessed and there was a possibility the entire building could be earthquake prone, Mr Brown said.

Miss Amboy would have to enlist a private engineering company to do an assessment to find this out, Mr Brown said.

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The council is in the process of assessing other old structures in town and has started with the council's own buildings. Buildings must reach at least 34 per cent of the safety standard to avoid being classed as earthquake-prone.

The theatre is a category two heritage building with the Historic Places Trust.

- Manawatu Standard

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