WORK on the heritage-listed Saraton Theatre is taking longer than first thought with a finishing date now pushed back to June.
WORK on the heritage-listed Saraton Theatre is taking longer than first thought with a finishing date now pushed back to June. Terry Deefholts

More delays for Saraton Theatre

GRAFTON will be without a cinema until at least June with renovations at the historic Saraton Theatre expected to drag out over the next four months.

Saraton co-owner Spiro Notaras said he and his cousins, who are also co-owners, were just as frustrated with the slow pace as Clarence Valley film buffs.

“At the moment we're hoping to have it open early June, but even that's subject to problems,” Mr Notaras said.

“It's very frustrating because we haven't been able to continue on as quickly as we'd like.”

Last March the cinema, built in 1926, was closed for renovations that initially were earmarked to finish by Christmas.

Since then problems with renovating the heritage listed building have included waiting for the colour scheme to be approved by the Heritage Council of NSW, a process which took nearly eight months.

“We only had it approved two weeks ago,” Mr Notaras said.

A Department of Planning heritage branch spokeswoman said the applicant submitted four separate modification applications, each requiring thorough assessment before they could be approved.

She said although the department received an application to vary the original consent, including the colour scheme on June 6, they only received the required information to assess the modification in December.

Mr Notaras said new regulations relating to climate change and fire precautions had also delayed construction.

Despite the delay, he said he did not think council or Department of Planning were dragging their feet and renovations on such a large scale took time.

“We wanted to do the job properly,” he said.

The Notaras family have not revealed how much they have invested in the project, but the amount is expected to run into the millions with Mr Notaras admitting a NSW Government grant of $250,000 “wouldn't even cover the painting”, while additional thousands will be required for seating and digital equipment once the inside decor is complete.

“We could have sold the building to someone who didn't do it up but we wanted to keep it for Grafton,” he said.

The renovated original cinema is earmarked to open first, with two smaller, brand-new screens expected to open about three months later.

As for the sign hanging in the Saraton window claiming the cinema will reopen on April 1, it looks as though it is an April Fool's joke.

“We still need new tiles, new seating, new projectors,” he said.



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