INAUGURAL FESTIVAL: Mid North festival promises fun for everyone who wants to age creatively.
INAUGURAL FESTIVAL: Mid North festival promises fun for everyone who wants to age creatively. Contributed

Cinema's revival offers a handbook for rescues

FIRST Avenue Cinema's rescue may serve as a blueprint for other communities struggling to save their local theatres and cinemas from closure.

At least that is the hope of the author of Saving Sawtell Cinema.

The book retraces in words and pictures the journey involved in forming a community group to buy, renovate and reopen Sawtell's historic cinema.

The cinema, which began life as a dance hall, was rebuilt after the roof blew off in the 1950s. Then it was damaged in the 2009 flood and closed down in 2012.

The cinema reopened in December 2015 under the management of Majestic Cinemas.

Saving Sawtell Cinema was written by Jill Nash, who chaired the investor group whose members funded the purchase of the building, as well as the steering committee which oversaw the project.

She became involved when she bumped into an old friend, Stephanie Ney, the project initiator, in the Sawtell Post Office.

Jill had fond memories stretching back 20 years of seeing films at the cinema and over coffee, Jill and her "mover and shaker" friend discussed how it could be saved.

Jill said she put her hand up to help because of her background on the management staff of the Australian Film and Television School in Sydney as well as running her own consultancy business, teaching small arts organisations about management and governance.

"I felt I was quite well positioned to help keep the ship on course," she said.

"Looking back on it now, it is easy to forget how stressful it was at times.

"When I put my hand up, little did I realise that I would be overseeing a $2.5 million venture.

"Throughout my working life I had never managed such a large and diverse undertaking.

"And now I was doing it voluntarily, in my mid-seventies.

"It was such a privilege

"It will remain one of the highlights of my life and it's not over.

"Every time I step through the heavy glass doors with their shiny brass panels I feel a sense of joy, of pride and of satisfaction

"Above all I relish the smiles on the faces of patrons, thrilled to be in their beloved cinema once more."

Jill said the project documented in the book provided a really interesting model for other small regional cinemas.

"Very few of these places are operating as full-time cinemas," she said.

Saving Sawtell Cinema costs $15 and is available from Majestic Cinemas in Sawtell.

See the cinema's current film program online at or phone 56218101.

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