A popular Australian cinema chain has driven loyal customers to desperation after announcing the ‘difficult’ news it had turned to administrators, casting doubt on the company’s future.
Grand Cinemas started as a family business in 1928 and has grown into an iconic Western Australian independent film chain in the nearly 100 years since.
But this week, the company took to social media to reveal that the pandemic had taken a destructive toll on the company.
“Difficult news for us to share today – Covid-19 and the related movie theater closures and capacity limits had a substantial impact on the financial health of our business, and we have required outside assistance and have appointed trustees for the business,” read the message.
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“It means we will continue to trade through some venues in the short term, but the longer term is more difficult to predict as operational and recapitalization options are assessed.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our past and present employees and our customers for their support. Still owned and focused on WA, the Grand Theater Company is proud of its history – almost as long as the film industry itself – and status as one of Australia’s oldest independent film exhibitors.”
The company confirmed that Joondalup and Armadale cinemas would close “immediately”, but locations in Bunbury, Currambine and Warwick would remain open “at this time”.
The announcement shocked customers, who expressed their grief on social media – and many urged the local community to rally behind the struggling company.
“Deeply sad because I was sometimes there three times a week. I love the cinema so much. This is appalling and I am sorry to all staff affected. You guys really were one of the last safe, fun, affordable night spots in Perth. Gosh wiz again,” one loyal customer wrote.
“I am so sorry to hear this news today. I know how hard the management team and all staff have fought to keep the doors open during Covid and beyond. Hopefully the locals will come out and support a fantastic locally owned and operated business to keep the doors open,” added another.
“Come on WA, don’t give up on this WA-owned company. Get some friends together and watch a movie,” another insisted.
Grand Cinemas started out as a group of “great old theaters in the heart of Perth”, before embracing the drive-in era, which coincided with expansion into the city’s suburbs.
It eventually returned to its urban roots with the multi-screen Cinema City near Perth Town Hall and later established “a chain of hi-tech multi-screen complexes” in the early 1990s, first at Warwick in 1993, followed by Bunbury and then Currambine.
In 2004, the company acquired Joondalup and Whitford City multi-screen theaters from Greater Union and in 2005 opened its sixth complex in Armadale.
In 2014, it adopted the Gold Lounge trend at Grand Cinemas Warwick and the following year opened its “state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos cinema at Grand Cinemas Currambine”, described as “the first of its kind in Western Australia”. .
FTI Consulting trustees Ian Francis and Daniel Woodhouse have been appointed and will now review the company’s finances.
The pair told The Western Australian the chain was also influenced by broader Hollywood trends, with fewer films produced in recent years due to the pandemic.