The thriving arthouse cinema business in Sydney has been shaken by the withdrawal of longtime exhib Ronin Films.

Ronin agreed Jan. 1 to sell its two Sydney theaters, the Academy twin and the Walker cinema, to Palace Entertainment and Village Roadshow. Palace’s managing director Tony Zeccola said he’d made offers to Ronin’s Andrew Pike long before his recent co-venture with the big Village chain. What swung the deal was Zeccola and Village securing a brand new fourplex named Verona (due to open in May) across the road from the Academy. That, plus a “very attractive offer,” affirmed Pike.

Zeccola will now be able to program the Academy and Verona theaters (his first in Sydney) effectively as one situation. He says he’ll spend close to $A1 million ($770,000) rejuvenating the Academy with new seats and carpets.

In the 50-50 co-venture with Village, Palace operates the cinemas and handles the programming, while Village negotiates booking terms. He says Village has the option of investing in any cinema he builds or acquires. The latest acquisitions will bring the total number of screens under his umbrella to 28.

Ronin still operates a cinema in Canberra and it continues as an arthouse distrib.

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