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Trak Cinema owner eyes exit as ATO circles

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EXCLUSIVE | The owner of Adelaide’s venerable Trak Cinema plans to hand over the reins of the business as he faces court action over “unpaid taxes” on another of his struggling cinemas interstate.

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A notice posted on the door of the cinema says it is closed – but only temporarily and due to renovations.

Michael Todd, owner of Republic Theatres which operates Trak Cinema on Greenhill Road at Toorak Gardens, told InDaily today a price war over movie tickets in Adelaide had caused “tough times” for the movie theatre and others like it.

Meanwhile, the Australian Taxation Office has launched court action to wind up another of Todd’s companies, Republic Theatres Darwin Pty Ltd, which runs CMAX Cinemas Palmerston in the Northern Territory.

During an interview with InDaily this morning, Todd said he had suffered both financial and health problems recently and that he was planning to give up both the Adelaide and Darwin cinema businesses.

“I won’t keep trading – there will be other operators appointed to run the businesses,” he said.

“Someone else will be appointed to run them.”

A notice posted on the door of Trak Cinema. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

The Trak Cinema opened in the mid-1970s, specialising in art-house films.

“As a pioneering art-house cinema the Trak was once the only place to see European and non-Hollywood productions, but with the rise of the Nova and the Palace the audience demographics have changed,” a newsletter of the Burnside Historical Society from 2010 reads.

According to the society’s summary of the cinema’s history, Todd purchased the Trak with a business partner in 2003.

Republic Theatres had also operated another well-known Adelaide cinema, Regal Theatre – previously known as Chelsea Cinema – until it was taken over by Burnside Council last year.

Burnside Council had declined to renew Republic Theatres’ lease.

Todd told InDaily this morning he might hand Trak Cinema over to his landlord – who he declined to identify – and act as a consultant on the business, which, he maintains, has a long future ahead of it.

“There’s every possibility that we could come to terms with the landlords where we’re just consultants,” he said.

“Conversations are ongoing.

“Trak Cinema will reopen within a week (and) it’ll stay there for years to come.”

Despite his optimism about the cinema’s prospects, he said it and other South Australian cinemas were likely to continue to struggle financially while some offer adult tickets for as little as $10.

“I think we’ll see other cinemas close or find themselves in hard times,” he said.

“Business has been bad everywhere.”

Todd joked that his plan was to win the lottery next week so that he could pay back all of his debts.

“It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances that we found ourselves in,” he said.

A screenshot of a notice published on the Cmax website.

Todd added that his Darwin cinema had become unable to pay its dues to the ATO because of “the introduction of competition” nearby.

A hearing to determine the future of Republic Theatres Darwin Pty Ltd is scheduled in Adelaide later this month.

The NT News reported on Monday that CMAX Cinemas Palmerston had closed because of a dispute with its electricity provider, and that it was seeking a new owner.

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