Event Cinemas

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Greater Union Organisation Pty Ltd
Event Cinemas
Greater Union
BCC Cinemas
GU Filmhouse
Moonlight Cinema
Cinebuzz Rewards
Founded1913; 106 years ago (1913)
Areas served
Australia, New Zealand, Fiji
ParentEvent Hospitality and Entertainment

Greater Union Organisation Pty Ltd,[1] operating as Event Cinemas, Greater Union, GU Filmhouse and Birch Carroll & Coyle (BCC Cinemas), is Australia's largest cinema chain. Expansion into New Zealand, Fiji and Germany has aimed to increase the brands international market share, under Australian parent company Event Hospitality and Entertainment.[1]


The Event Cinemas cinema chain has greatly impacted 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,[2] 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.[3] On 4 May 1912 the three joined to form The General Film Company of Australasia.[4] 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.[2] 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.[5] Film icon and director Raymond Longford, whose independent production company had come under attack by the group,[6] 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."[5] Historians have traced the sharp decline of the Australian film industry in 1913 to the repercussions of these series of takeovers and mergers.[3][7] 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."[7]

1930 Cinesound studios and Crew

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.[8] 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.[citation needed]

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.[9] 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.

A man outside an Event Cinemas theatre



Event Cinemas have over fifty cinema venues around Australia, many located in large shopping centres. The cinema complexes comprise multiple screens.

The interior of Event Cinemas Whitford, which opened on 21 September 2017

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 standup comedy events.[10][11][12]

New Zealand[edit]

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.


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.[3][7]

In 2005 Event Cinemas banned people from bringing their own food and drink into the cinema. After negative public attention and a threat of investigation by the Fair Trading Commission they were forced to revoke the rule. People complained that Event Cinema's food cost more than double the price of Supermarket stores and had less variety.[13][14][15][16]

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.[17]

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.[18][19][20]

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.[21][22][23][24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b http://www.eventcinemas.com.au/Terms
  2. ^ a b "AMALGAMATED PICTURES, LIMITED. – Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930) – 12 Apr 1914". Trove. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "The first wave of Australian feature film production: From early promise to fading hopes" (PDF). Australian Film Commission Archive. Screen Australia. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  4. ^ "AMALGAMATED PICTURES, LIMITED. – Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930) – 12 Apr 1914". Trove. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b "FILM". Trove. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  6. ^ Mayer, Geoff; Beattie, Keith (1 January 2007). The Cinema of Australia and New Zealand. Wallflower Press. ISBN 9781904764960.
  7. ^ a b c "Chronology 1910s on ASO – Australia's audio and visual heritage online". aso.gov.au. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  8. ^ "CAARP: Cinema and Audience Research Project". caarp.edu.au. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Alan Ridge: Australian billionaire and business prodigy". Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  10. ^ Quinn, Karl. "A cinema ticket in Australia can cost up to $40. Here's why". Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  11. ^ "Event Hospitality & Entertainment Limited: Financial Results for the half year ended 31 December 2015" (PDF). Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Alternate Content".
  13. ^ "Cinema chain pulls food ban". 23 June 2005. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  14. ^ "Cinema Chain Scraps Snack Ban". findlaw.com.au. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Greater Union food ban is incredible, say moviegoers – National – www.smh.com.au". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  16. ^ Kidman, Angus. "Ask LH: Can Cinemas Stop Me Bringing My Own Food To The Movies?". Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Skyfail: How Event Cinemas kicked 700 people out of the Bond movie and threatened to have me arrested – Mumbrella". 26 November 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  18. ^ McColl, Gina (19 June 2016). "New expose of Libs exploiting donations loopholes ensares Turnbull". Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  19. ^ Thomson, James (14 July 2009). "Rich entrepreneurs flock to support Malcolm Turnbull – SmartCompany". Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  20. ^ "Money and Influence". ABC's Four Corners. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  21. ^ "Popcorn machine causes SA cinema fire". NewsComAu. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  22. ^ "Cinemas evacuated after popcorn machine catches on fire". Rockhampton Morning Bulletin. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Cinema evacuated after popcorn fire". NewsComAu. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  24. ^ "Popcorn machine fire forces evacuation of Parramatta cinema". ABC News. 18 August 2016. Retrieved 6 January 2018.

External links[edit]