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  • Dan Moskovitz

Council Agreement with Reading Cinemas Fails For… Reasons

DAN MOSKOVITZ (HE/HIM)


The heart of Courtney Place will stay dead, after a council agreement to reopen Reading Cinema fell through. 


Closed since 2019 for earthquake strengthening, Reading International has done everything but strengthen. The lot—prime real estate in central Courtney Place—has just been abandoned.  


The cinema involved not just a movie theater, but also an arcade and a whole suite of food and retail options. Crucially, it was large enough that there were places to exist in without paying anything, and it bridged the day and night life on Courtney Place. 


Reading choosing not to strengthen was a loss for the city. 


Enter Tory Whanau, who made it her personal mission to get the cinema reopened. After a $1400 rate-payer funded dinner with Reading’s owners, she put forward a $32 million deal to buy the land Reading’s land and lease it back to fund the renovation. The deal would have involved the council selling land to finance the purchase


This deal was shrouded in secrecy, divisive, and accused of being corporate welfare. Eventually, it just barely passed, only for negotiations to collapse last week.


Why? Who knows. The council’s press release uses many words to not give reasoning. 


A lot of time, effort, money, and media attention has been spent on this deal. Would spending $1400 of rate-payer money on a dinner be worth it to bring Reading back? That’s up to you. Regardless of your feelings, all of said cash is gone, and Reading will remain closed for the foreseeable future.


In the absence of any legal mechanisms to force Reading to use the land, the lot will remain vacant until Reading feels like doing something with it.


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