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Show goes on for iconic Heddon Greta Drive-in

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The show will go on for the iconic Heddon Greta Drive-in after it received an unexpected 12-month reprieve.

Despite surviving the rigours of bushfires, floods and a global pandemic in recent times, the much-loved entertainment venue was scheduled to close its doors in July after developers purchased the site to build 44 residential lots.

However, the current economic climate has temporarily delayed the construction of the project, allowing the theatre’s owner, Scott Seddon, to grasp the lifeline with both hands.

“In September, we made the announcement the Heddon Greta Drive-in had been sold to a group of developers, who had plans to turn the area into a housing estate,” he said.

“At the time, we stated we’d be here until July 2023; even though a lot of people thought we’d already stopped trading.

“But, I had a meeting with the developers last week.

“They, like many other people, are in a position where they’re being affected by interest rates, while the demand for new housing and property has quietened a bit.

“So, to give us some certainty, they’ve told us they’ve extended the date by another year.

“Now, we’ll be here until the end of July 2024.”

While Mr Seddon welcomed the news, another concern remains – attracting crowds.

“We still have the same pressure and the same requirements this cinema has had for 57 years,” he said.

“And, that is we need people to come through the gates.

“Things have been a little quiet.

“However, at least we’re open.

“We have similar issues to most cinemas as far as the number of movie titles that are currently available.

“It usually takes five years to go from script to screen for a film.

“Right now, when we look at the movies available internationally, we’re being affected by the decisions made in 2020 during the middle of COVID.

“I think, mid-to-late this year, the industry should be back up and running to near full capacity.

“In the meantime, we can do a few extra things around the place… like work on the screen, change light fittings and splash a bit of paint around.”

Mr Sedden admitted relocation was an option, but highly unlikely.

“In reality, to build a single screen drive-in like this one in the mid-2020s would be about $4 million,” he said.

“So, it wouldn’t make any sense.

“Yes, it’s possible. But, what we need is multiple screens and to be utilised during the daylight hours.

“So, we’d require something in one of the tourist-type areas in the Hunter, which might be attached to a water park or go-karts, for example.

“That way, when the facility is constructed, it’s doing more things for visitors during the day as well as the night.”

Mr Seddon opened the Heddon Greta Drive-in in 1996, with two Hollywood blockbusters at his disposal, Babe and Apollo 13.

“It was just three days after the Academy Awards,” he said.

“And, it’s probably the best programming choice I’ve made in my life.

“Since that evening in March (1996), many thousands of families have sat together as a group for more hours than they would have otherwise.

“I truly believe we’ve given them an experience they’ll always remember.

“On top of that, in excess of 100 people, mostly youngsters, have worked here during their late high school, TAFE and university days.

“Historically, drive-ins were built on the outskirts of towns and cities on semi-rural land which, as the towns and cities grew, were taken over by suburbia.

“The thing with Heddon Greta was that it took a few more decades before progress caught up with us.

“From those early days in October 1995, when we started to hack down the undergrowth, I’ve been blessed to have so many amazing people join the team and support us.

“And, even though it was tough for us over the past couple of years, due to the pandemic, we were able to open before cinema complexes throughout the region.”

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