GU Film House
Number of locations
|Australia, New Zealand, Fiji|
Number of employees
|Parent||Event Hospitality and Entertainment|
|Footnotes / references|
Annual Reports , 2019, 2020.
Greater Union Organisation Pty Ltd, trading as Event Cinemas, Greater Union, GU Film House, Moonlight Cinema and Birch Carroll & Coyle (BCC Cinemas), is the largest movie exhibitor in Australia and New Zealand, with over 140 cinema complexes currently operating worldwide.
The Greater Union Organisation is a subsidiary of the ASX-listed Event Hospitality and Entertainment, a corporation that owns and operates brands in the entertainment, hospitality and leisure sectors, mainly within Australasia.
See also: Cinema of Australia
The Event Cinemas cinema chain has had a great impact on the Australian culture and film industry and has a history of mergers and acquisitions and liquidations that span over a century.
From 1906 to 1911, during the silent era, Australia was the most prolific producer of feature films in the world, a period which included the creation of the first feature-length film The Kelly Gang. This creative and fertile period in Australian film history was largely created by competition between West's Pictures, Spencer's Pictures and Amalgamated Pictures. On 4 May 1912 the three joined to form The General Film Company of Australasia. On 4 January 1913 it then merged with The Greater J.D. Williams Amusement Co and restructured to become The Combine, a famous partnership between exhibition wing Union Theatres and the production and distribution wing Australasian Films.
The Combine monopoly was highly influential on the early twentieth-century Australian film industry. However, it came under heavy criticism for its low interest in producing Australian films, its preference for imported cinema, and its reluctance to exhibit Australian films by other producers. Film icon and director Raymond Longford, whose independent production company had come under attack by the group, said in 1927 that "had it not been for the activities of that firm in its endeavour to crush it in its infancy, the local picture would now be 10 years at least advanced to the height now attained by the Americans." Historians have traced the sharp decline of the Australian film industry in 1913 to the repercussions of these series of takeovers and mergers. James Sabine has said that "the stranglehold of The Combine forced a decline in local production and contributed to many Australian production companies closing their doors."
The Combine continued to grow into the 1920s during the genesis of the Hollywood era with its focus on exhibiting American films. The Great Depression saw Union Theatres being liquidated in 1931 and its assets purchased by newly formed Greater Union Theatres. This new company split from Australasian Films, established the Hollywood-model subsidiary Cinesound Productions, expanded into radio and newspaper, and kept its major focus on building and managing cinemas. Due to The Depression, Greater Union Theatres merged into the General Film Corporation with Hoyts, a competitor who had secured Fox Film as a shareholder. In 1937 Norman Rydge became managing director and removed the company from the previous merger. In 1945 in the last year of World War II there was a box office boom and the British Rank Organisation purchased a half share in Greater Union Theatres. During this time Greater Union acquired the rights of ownership of many theatres across the country including what became the Phoenician Club in Broadway, Sydney in 1943, originally owned by McIntyre's Broadway Theatres and established as a cinema in 1911.
In 1958 the four holding companies in the Greater Union Theatres group were merged into the Rydge family Amalgamated Holdings Limited (AHL), and in 1965 Greater Union Theatres was renamed the Greater Union Organisation (GUO). In 1980 billionaire Alan Rydge was appointed Chairman of AHL to become the youngest chairman of an Australian public company. In 1984 AHL regained control over the now-defunct Rank Organisation's half share, meaning that it once again became fully Australian owned. In 1987 GUO merged with Village Roadshow to form the distribution company Roadshow Film Distributors. In 1991 GUO acquired Birch, Carroll & Coyle. In 2003 AHL and Village Roadshow combined to form Australian Theatres.
Since 2009 a number of cinemas have been renamed from Greater Union Cinemas to Event Cinemas. On 22 December 2015 AHL was renamed Event Hospitality and Entertainment.
In 2019, Birch Carroll & Coyle was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame in recognition of being Australia's leading provincial film distributor and its industry leadership throughout Queensland for 80 years.
Event Cinemas have over sixty cinema venues around Australia, many of which are located in large shopping centres. The cinema complexes comprise multiple screens. The below locations do not include sites that operate under the joint venture between Village Roadshow and Event Hospitality & Entertainment known as Australian Theatres.
With cinema admissions in decline, Event Cinemas has continued to experience growth by raising the price of admissions and offering "premium experiences" such as "Gold Class" which offers more luxury seating and food, "Vmax" which offers a larger screen, and alternate content including Bollywood films, football, gaming, film festivals, opera and stand-up comedy events.
Within Fiji, Damodar Event Cinemas is a joint venture between Village Cinemas, and the Fijian-based, Damodar Brothers, who operate the existing two-cinema chain under licence since 2010.
Event Cinemas operates cinemas in New Zealand's major urban centres, including the Embassy Theatre in Wellington. Hollywood blockbusters are regularly shown alongside arthouse features and film festivals such as the New Zealand International Film Festival.
Gold Class cinemas, a luxury cinema format, is provided at a number of Event/BCC/Greater Union Cinemas locations in Australia, New Zealand & Fiji. Gold Class Cinemas include butlered refreshments, à la carte menu offerings and reclining seats in a cinema with a small number of seats. Village Cinemas first originated the concept of Gold Class, and has since popularised with the integration into the Event Group.
All Gold Class Cinemas are operated in separate areas within regular cinema complexes. Event/BCC/Greater Union Gold Class branded cinemas are located at:
In New Zealand:
V-max cinemas feature enhanced film display, picture quality, and digital sound. The screens at V-max used to be a minimum width of 25 meters or greater, however, that was lowered to 20 metres in 2010. V-max cinemas are placed in large auditoriums which feature larger seats, stadium seating and wider armrests. Some locations also feature Dolby Atmos. The V-max format is also provided at many Event Cinema sites in Australia and New Zealand.
V-max Cinemas are usually separate from the normal cinema complexes, like the Gold Class. There are certain locations that has Dolby Atmos surround sound included in their V-max Cinemas (brackets indicating). V-max Cinema locations include:
In New Zealand:
IMAX with Laser uses precision lasers a sharper brighter images. This technology is currently exclusive to Event Cinemas Auckland (Queen St).
GUO converted most of their Australian auditoriums and flagship cinemas to digital projectors. The installation of these projectors means that most auditoriums are now RealD Cinema 3D capable.
In late 2018, the first 4DX screen owned by the Event Group was opened in George Street (Sydney CBD). 4DX stimulates all five senses, featuring moving seats and special effects including wind, fog, water and scents that synchronise with the action on screen.
EVENT Boutique cinemas feature recliners with footrest, and in-cinema food-and-drink service. Guests have access to the Boutique Cinema 30 minutes prior to their session. Boutique is currently available at Event Cinemas George St (Sydney CBD).
Moonlight Cinema is an outdoor seasonal exhibitor that operates in most Australian metropolitan areas. Moonlight was acquired by EVENT in 2010 from Prime Media Group for $1.75million. The division continues to grow and has signed 3 new venue contracts since its acquisition, and currently operates in:
New South Wales
In addition, each venue offers 'Gold Grass' a luxurious outdoor-cinema experience, similar to the offerings of Event Cinemas' 'Gold Class'.
All cinema brands trading under EVENT, including Greater Union and BCC cinemas, share the benefits of the Cinebuzz Rewards Program. Free for members, the program grants access to advance screenings, ticket discounts, and one free movie ticket for every six movies viewed at EVENT. The program is aimed at encouraging brand loyalty and recognising VIP Customers and currently has over 3 million members in Australia.
The exhibition and production company that became Event Cinemas has been widely criticised as the cause of the downfall of early Australian film, which was argued to be the best in the world at the time.
In 2005, Event Cinemas banned people from bringing their own food and drink into the cinema. After negative public reaction and a threat of investigation by NSW Fair Trading, the company was forced to revoke the rule. People complained that Event Cinema's food was more than double the price of that in supermarkets and had less variety.
In 2012, Australian journalist Tim Burrowes attended a screening of Skyfall at an Event Cinema. There were various technical difficulties which resulted in the audience being asked to leave and a manager threatening Burrowes for filming the crowd's reactions.
In the lead up to the 2016 Australian Federal Election, Chairman Alan Rydge was reported to have donated to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's controversial political fund the Wentworth Forum.
There have been numerous incidents of faulty popcorn machines causing fires to break out in Event Cinema complexes, including Adelaide and Rockhampton in September 2015, Perth in December 2015, and Sydney in August 2016.