Q&A’s on FOTAA & future of the Astor Theatre in 2015
1. Why hasn’t FOTAA publicly announced/started a campaign to save the Astor?
FOTAA is run entirely by unpaid volunteers and remains independent of the Astor. We have no input into the running of the business, the decision to close it, or the full circumstances surrounding that decision.
We remain fully supportive of the Astor as one of Melbourne’s foremost cultural gems. If a way can be agreed with all parties to continue with the ongoing operation of the Astor in its current form beyond 2015, we will go public with our campaign to do so as soon as we are able.
2. Why hasn’t FOTAA started a Kickstarter (or similar), crowd funding campaign?
There is currently nothing for FOTAA to purchase. Without a firm financial objective we therefore have no reason to launch a crowd funding campaign.
If at some point, the building which houses the Astor comes up for sale, crowd funding to acquire the building is an option. However the seven figure price the building would carry slows our ability to quickly raise funds and make an offer through crowd funding. Commercially this might make us (FOTAA) a less viable buyer, especially against a private investor or corporation in a competitive bidding scenario.
It should be understood that a crowd funding campaign to raise millions of dollars has associated with it the following risks:
- A long lead time to prepare, and conduct the campaign.
- Legal and regulatory requirements to ensure that money is donated, and properly managed as part of any campaign.
- Any Trust structure ownership takes significant time and costs money to set up and maintain, even before starting a fund raising activity.
- Specify precisely what do donors/sponsors receive for their donations?
- The Tax deductibility of donations is difficult to secure from the Australian Tax Office, as funds raised for the purposes of buying and running a business such as the Astor Cinema, and is not a clear cut case of a public charity.
- Like all financing options, crowd funding bodies take a fee for their services; e.g. Kickstarter takes 5% of the total funds raised.
3. Will the Astor actually close?
As things stand, Yes.
4. So what does FOTAA actually do, and what is it doing about the closure of the Astor?
When FOTAA was first incorporated in 2010 we stated 7 Association Objectives
Following the closure announcement we remain committed to ongoing fulfillment of our Mission, but recognise there are practical limits to our ability to do this – i.e. we remain independent of both the Astor and the company owning the building in which it operates, Ralamar Nominees.
5. Will 1 Chapel St still function as a single screen cinema at some point beyond 2015 if the Astor closes?
The building has operated as a single screen cinema for decades. Common sense suggests it would remain well suited to this purpose after the Astor closes in 2015, if an appropriate tenant or building owner/operator wanted to use it as such. In our discussions with Ralamar Nominees, we have been assured that this is also Ralamar Nominee’s committed position for any new lease.