Brisbane cinema wars see iconic Red Hill Skate Rink development on hold

Brisbane cinema wars see iconic Red Hill Skate Rink development on hold

Graffiti of a colourful dragon painted on a wall of the Red Hill Skate Arena in inner-city Brisbane.

 Two builders working  at the site of the restoration of the derelict Red Hill Skate Arena in Brisbane. PHOTO: Cleaning work has begun on the arena that has been neglected since being gutted by fire in 2002. (ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)

Two builders working at the site of the restoration of the derelict Red Hill Skate Arena in Brisbane.
PHOTO: Cleaning work has begun on the arena that has been neglected since being gutted by fire in 2002. (ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)
Competing cinema groups are fighting over the future of the Red Hill Skate Rink Arena site in inner-city Brisbane.

A $10 million redevelopment proposed by Five Star Cinemas at the prominent location was given the green light by Brisbane City Council last year.

But the Reading Group, a subsidiary of Newmarket Properties Pty Ltd, is seeking to have the approval overturned in the Planning and Environment Court.

The arena, near the corner of Waterworks Road and Enoggera Terrace, burnt down on Boxing Day in 2002 and was added to the council’s heritage register in 2016.

“We never had other objections but now we have to go through the process,” Five Star Cinemas partner Peter Sourris said.

“Council is the first respondent, so they will be questioned on the application first, and then us — it’s all public information and we ticked all the boxes.

“We applied through council and we were surprised to receive an objection from the Newmarket development which has a cinema and shops down the road.”

In court filings, the Reading Group claims the development application and approval did not give “proper regard to relevant considerations”.

Last year, Reading Cinemas opened an eight-screen complex in Newmarket, less than two kilometres from the Red Hill site.

Rink part of Brisbane history

Over coming weeks, Five Star hopes to replace the roof on the complex to prevent further theft and damage to the property.

“It’s very dangerous inside and people are breaking in all the time, so we have started to clean up areas of the location,” Mr Sourris told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Craig Zonca and Rebecca Levingston.

He said existing steel trusses would be retained if the development went ahead, along with the street facade and arches.

The building is more than 100 years old and was originally an open-air theatre called the Paddington Picture Pops, then in the 1950s it became the State Theatre.

“It was competing with a theatre in Paddington which is now an antique centre that was once owned by my great uncle,” Mr Sourris said.

“It has a lot of history and has a lot of old elements that we want to bring back to life, like the terrazzo floor and the ticket-box windows.”

Car parking proves problematic

The proposed five-cinema complex will see theatres ranging from 28 to 120 seats configured on site.

“The majority of the community support the idea, it’s only a very small theatre, but everyone has different opinions,” Mr Sourris said.

“Some think parking could be an issue, but the cafes and the residents nearby really want a boutique cinema to attend.”

Artist Drapl weaved his magic on the old skate arena in Red Hill, covering the side of the building.
PHOTO: Artist Drapl weaved his magic on the old skate arena in Red Hill, covering the side of the building. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
Reactions from callers to ABC Radio Brisbane were mixed.

“There’s no doubt the whole community is happy about something happening at that site, but we’re worried about noise and parking. Anyone familiar with Paddington and Red Hill knows there’s many hills, so I think it’s unlikely many people will ride or walk there.” — Jo from Red Hill
“It’s been an eyesore for years now and we’ve watched squatters and rats use the empty building. It’s just awful and very dangerous and we’re excited that it will be something loved again.” — Roe from Red Hill
“I want to see something happen there, my kids went there when it was an arena and my husband learnt to skate there too. The streets are very steep and inappropriate for parking and I can assure you, hitting 70, I won’t be walking there … there’s a lot more people living here then there was in the 1950s.” — Anne from Paddington
The ABC has twice approached the Reading Group for comment, but on both occasions its head office said no-one was available.

The case will be heard in the Planning and Environment Court next month.

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