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Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas > Angelo & Spiro Notaras all smiles on opening day for the Saraton Theatre

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 08.11.2010

Angelo & Spiro Notaras all smiles on opening day for the Saraton Theatre

Angelo & Spiro Notaras all smiles on opening day for the Saraton Theatre
Copyright (2010) Clarence Valley Review

Clarence Valley Review, 16 page supplement, 22nd September, 2010.

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Back from the brink

Geoff Helisma

Article, page 2 of the supplement

In 1999 many country cinemas were enduring hard economic times. The Saraton Theatre was set to become a victim of those times, and was on the verge of being demolished to make way for a car park. The state government had imposed a temporary heritage order on the building, Grafton was divided, and the debate raged on, as highlighted in an ABC 7.30 report on the issue.

Then Grafton councillor, Peter McKenna, described it as “just a fibro building” that had passed its used-by date. Then deputy mayor, Heather Rowland, who was described in the Maxine McKew hosted story as “historically sensitive”, said: “I believe shoppers need car parks, it’s as simple as that.”

Bruno Notaras said: “We’re all sentimental about it. Unfortunately we have to face facts, facts of life.” According to Bruno, as he spoke to ABC reporter, Jacinta Tynan, the Notaras family was left with no alternative other than selling the property. “The family has voted unanimously to do what they’ve done,” he said.

“We just got to the stage we’ve got to face facts. “There are members of the family who can’t get a pension because they’ve got shares in the place, and this is tragic. I think, from our point of view, it’s the only thing to do.”

Of the 12 councillors, one, Leo Ellis, saw things differently. “This is really a historical town, Grafton, and I do believe the historical and heritage is our lifeblood, it’s our lifeblood if we look after it properly,” he said. “If we destroy the Saraton Theatre and them other buildings there, it’s going to leave a gap in an otherwise heritage street.”

The National Trust’s Graham Quint shared Cr Ellis’s opinion. “It’s one of the most decorative and architecturally handsome theatres in NSW,” he said. “It’s on the Royal Institute of Architects’ list of buildings of 20th century significance and it’s one of the last remaining theatres in NSW with a balcony.”

But, as it turns out, on that fateful day in May of 1999, the 7.30 Report ended its story with a last minute, unexpected twist, in the form of a fax from the developer “saying he intends to withdraw his application to take down the theatre”. “But the theatre hasn’t heard the news,” Jacinta Tynan concluded. “We await the sequel.”

Turns out that the sequel had a happy ending, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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