Wollongong is enjoying a live music “renaissance” and reviving the Regent Theatre is great for the perception of the city, according to a peak tourism body.
Century Venues (who own and operate the Enmore, the Metro and Factory theatres) have signalled they’re keen to purchase the historic Keira Street venue.
“Investors, such as this, have seen a supportive council in the cultural space and made decisions to invest based on this supportive environment,” Destination Wollongong (DW) general manager Mark Sleigh told the Illawarra Mercury.
“What a great selling point for the city.”
DW major events and special projects manager Jermey Wilshire said having entertainment venues ranging in size enhances the reputation of the city as a “great place to live, stay and play”.
“Another strong venue reduces the ‘escape spend’ – dollars lost from locals driving to Sydney and staying overnight to see live shows,” Mr Wilshire said.
“It will add to the profile and depth of the region’s live entertainment industry.”
Currently the Regent has a 1200 seat auditorium while the Town Hall can seat up to 944.
Estimates based on a third of patrons visiting from outside the region meant the new venues had the potential to inject more than $150,000 per concert, according to Mr Wilshire.
“Having venues that engage the community, encourage social interaction, foster the arts and innovation, and contribute to a vibrant night life is important for the city,” he said.
Demand was strong enough, Mr Wilshire said, due to the CBD population set to double over the next two years, coupled with the city being a drawcard for visitors from the Southern Highlands and South Coast.
“Supporting local talent and operators remains vitally important, but all boats rise on a tide, so a diverse and growing live entertainment scene has to be a positive thing,” he said.
Century Venues director Greg Khoury told the Mercury they were in a due diligence stage and testing the market before committing to the sale.
Anita’s Theatre managing director Nick Josifovski said as the Regent was a cinema in its heyday it would need significant work to make it an operational live music venue.
“There’s no back stage, there’s no green room, there’s no air-conditioning,” Mr Josifovski said.
“The stage was built by [Gateway City] church because they were putting music on, and the back of the wall is it, that’s where the screen is ... it needs lots of money to be spent on it.”