Protect the Astor Theatre!
IMPORTANT STATEMENT FROM FRIENDS OF THE ASTOR
16th May 2013
An article by Karl Quinn on The Age website this afternoon has raised concerns about the long term future of The Astor.
One of the statements in the article is that there is tension over who owns The Astor. This is not true. The Astor as a business is owned and operated by George Florence, and has been since 1982. Ralph Taranto owns the freehold of the building in which The Astor is situated. He has nothing to do with the running of the cinema.
One of the reasons the Friends of The Astor was established was so that a group of like minded people could work towards setting up a trust that will eventually run The Astor. This is the only way to ensure the long term viability of a single screen cinema which screens film. In time it will be realised that The Astor is as important to history and to art as any museum and art gallery. It therefore makes sense that it is run by a trust, rather than a business which has to make a profit to survive.
It has always been our opinion that the building needs to be held in trust as well. At the time of our campaign last year, our hope was that the school would let George and us buy the building. Indeed, an offer was made to do so by The Astor, which has first right of refusal under the current lease. This offer was ignored. It was put to George by a person negotiating on behalf of the school that Mr Taranto would put the building in a trust at some stage after purchase. On these grounds, and under the belief that much needed renovations would start immediately, George did not push on with his bid for the building.
Friends of The Astor believes that the parties will come to an agreement. A long term lease has been offered, which is a vast improvement on plans by the school. George did not pull out of the negotiations. Rather, the lease offer was withdrawn by Mr Taranto. Hopefully the matter will be settled at mediation next week. We hope that Mr Taranto has the best interests of The Astor at heart, and we are sure that he understands the importance of The Astor, in its current form, to the community, to the country, to the world and to the future. We wish the parties the best in the negotiations, and ask that Mr Taranto and his solicitors go to the table in good faith and with honest intent.
CONGRATULATIONS to everyone of our members and to all our committee members who have put in extremely hard work to ensure the future for The Astor Theatre. We are pleased to announce that our PROTECT THE ASTOR campaign was a HUGE success. The building that houses the Astor (1-9 Chapel St) has been sold. Full details and an official announcement will follow shortly. Right now we just really want to say THANK YOU!!!
A message from the President of FOTA, Vanda Hamilton, following Saturday June 16th’s successful Protect the Astor event:
It has been an amazing few weeks, with an outpouring of love and affection for The Astor. Both the FOTAA committee and the staff and management of The Astor remain sincerely grateful for your overwhelming and continued support.
Now is the time for us to begin seriously raising funds, and we have already had many contacts from the public and from FOTAA members with suggestions about that process and offers of donations. We are very grateful for each and every suggestion and offer.
We are currently waiting for the ATO to grant us deductible gift recipient status so that any donations made to us can be tax deductible. We expect this to be in the next few months. Until this happens, we are reluctant to take donations, but if you can hold that thought (and most importantly, hold the money) we would be very happy. We expect to be able to update you on our gift recipient status with the ATO very soon.
There has been a lot of talk about crowd funding the purchase of the building in which The Astor is a tenant, (1-9 Chapel Street). Whilst this is a possibility, and certainly crowd funding has enabled some amazing projects elsewhere, it is only one of a range of possibilities for the committee of FOTAA to consider. What is certain is that we will be seeking your donations for a Protect the Astor fund and also a separate fund to put aside for future building maintenance once it has been purchased. Your donations are important for all these purposes – so, once we receive our gift recipient status from the ATO, please consider donating!
Once again, thank you so much for all your interest, support, love and well wishes. You have played, and will continue to play, a huge part in our ongoing campaign. We look forward to working hard on your behalf to secure a result of which future Melbournians will be proud, and which will be an inspiration for communities all over the world.
Vanda Hamilton – FOTAA President
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Expressions of support
“The Astor is a Melbourne Institution up there with Luna Park and the Espy Hotel. Who hasn’t spent a night watching a great movie, eating a choc top and patting that cat that used to roam the seats? In these days of multiplexes and blockbusters, The Astor should be treasured and valued, and certainly not used as a space where only the privileged elite can watch their little darlings perform… The Astor is for everyone!” – Dave O’Neill, comedian
“The Australian film scene would be immeasurably poorer if The Astor was lost. The Astor is an architectural gem, a treasure trove of cinematic artefacts and a cultural icon. Keeping The Astor alive. I give it five stars.” – David Stratton, At the Movies, ABC TV
“We are losing the fight to retain our cultural identity piece by piece – remember the Walter Burley Griffin Capitol Theatre, The Valhalla Cinema, The Longford and the Carlton Moviehouse? Classic Australian cinemas and theatres that will never again show a movie – this is a fate we cannot let happen to the Astor Cinema, one of the last remaining pieces.” – Roy Billing, actor
“I have many fond memories of Melbourne film festival screenings at the Astor Theatre and am deeply concerned by its uncertain future as a public cinema – to lose such an integral part of Melbourne would be tragedy” – Sophie Lee, actor
“The Astor Theatre is one of kind, and it would be tremendous shame to see its doors locked to the public – we can’t let that happen.”- Michael Caton, actor
“[The Astor] is the last great movie house in Melbourne. The idea that we may lose it altogether is unthinkable.” – Tony Martin, comedian, Mx Melbourne 17 May 2012
“The Astor Theatre holds a unique place in the hearts of Melbourne’s film buffs and screen enthusiasts. As supporters of a vibrant and diverse screen culture, we at the Australian Film Institute (AFI) and Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) would like to see the Astor continuing as a public cinema contributing to the city’s cinema landscape. We send our best wishes and support to our friends at the Astor.” – Damian Trewhella, CEO, AFI | AACTA
“The ubiquitous Astor calendar is as Melbourne as you can get. When you spot it on someone’s wall or door, there’s a fair chance they’ll turn out to be someone you like. A kindred spirit that shares the understanding that cinema has so much more fun and diversity to offer than just what plays out at the multiplexes. That cinema has a rich history, preserved only when it is shared on the big screen. Melbourne has many great things that have helped define it as a cultural capital and one certainly is our passion for film. And that is further defined and embodied by the many happy people that frequent, and those that run, the wonderful institution of the Astor Theatre.” – Ivan Vukusic, Shock Entertainment
“The Astor Theatre is a bastion for the history of cinema in Melbourne. In a country whose investment in Cinema needs to be protected and celebrated – the Astor remains as the leading repertoire house in the country whose reputation and adoration in the industry is second to none. If you love movies and you love the cinema like me then you’ll get right behind this campaign. The Lowdown Under fully supports Friends Of The Astor & please join us to save this landmark of the Australian Cinema Industry.” – Aaron Rowlands, Owner & Managing Director, The Lowdown Under
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