Australia markets closed

    -28.20 (-0.40%)
  • ASX 200

    -23.30 (-0.34%)

    -0.0050 (-0.65%)
  • OIL

    -1.15 (-2.16%)
  • GOLD

    -10.40 (-0.56%)

    +432.87 (+1.05%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    +41.45 (+6.79%)

    -0.0044 (-0.69%)

    -0.0017 (-0.16%)
  • NZX 50

    +221.24 (+1.69%)

    -38.59 (-0.29%)
  • FTSE

    -20.35 (-0.30%)
  • Dow Jones

    -179.03 (-0.57%)
  • DAX

    -32.70 (-0.24%)
  • Hang Seng

    -479.91 (-1.60%)
  • NIKKEI 225

    -125.41 (-0.44%)

The email that could save Australia’s cinemas

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
When's the last time you went to the movies? Images: Getty
When's the last time you went to the movies? Images: Getty

Australia’s cinemas have had a year like no other, as COVID-19 forced viewers to stay at home and filmmakers began to cater to an online audience in a significant way.

However, former opera singer and founder of independent cinema chain United Cinemas, Roy Mustaca, has a plan to get Aussies back into the movies: burgers.

United Cinemas, which employs 450 people across 10 cinemas in Australia, has partnered with American burger chain, Wahlburgers, to revitalise the Australian cinema sector.

“I thought, what can we position with our cinemas that’s in line with our brands, and I saw [Wahlburgers],” United Cinemas CEO Sam Mustaca said.

The critical email

Mark Wahlberg arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Mile 22" on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Mark Wahlberg. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

He said he was always considering new ways to build on the business, and when he came across Wahlburgers three years ago, he knew he had to send an email to the American company immediately.

Wahlburgers is a 52-restaurant chain run by Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg and his brothers, and will partner with United Cinemas to roll out restaurants attached to the cinemas, along with 20 other standalone restaurants across Australia and New Zealand.

“I went over to the US looking for brands to expand in our properties… [Wahlburgers] stuck out because of the history that there was a bit of a theatrical spin, and that’s what attracted me to it three years ago.”

The first Wahlburgers will open in Sydney’s CBD in the second half of 2021, with CEO Paul Wahlberg saying his family is “very excited” to launch in Australia.

Cinema challenges

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mustaca said the company saw the need to diversify the group’s portfolio from cinema exhibition to food, beverage and entertainment as the sector faced growing challenges.

Mustaca has been an outspoken critic of the narrowing gap between the dates of cinematic and streaming or home rental releases, warning they have the capacity to destroy the sector.

According to Screen Australia, the average Australian has visited the movies seven times a year since 2000,

Image: Screen Australias
Image: Screen Australias

In the years leading up to 2020, the average number of visits also fell from 8.4 annual visits in 2000 to 6.3 visits.

However, the National Association of Cinema Operators-Australasia is optimistic that cinemas will survive COVID-19, just as they have survived every other major challenge thrown at them.

“The movie business has faced off against many adversaries over the years – world wars; depressions; the Global Financial Crisis; television, video and DVD; and piracy to name a few – and has not just survived but thrived, for one simple reason: the cinema experience is unique,” executive director Michael Hawkins said.

“The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in its scale and impact, but this too shall pass – and when it is safe to reopen and populate our cinemas, there will be a raft of excellent movies for our patrons to enjoy.”

Sign up to Yahoo Finance’s 6-week financial bootcamp here and master your money in 2021.