Greater Union Organisation Pty Ltd, operating as Event Cinemas, Greater Union, GU Filmhouse and Birch Carroll & Coyle (BCC Cinemas), is a group of cinema chains operating in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji under Australian parent company Event Hospitality and Entertainment.
|Greater Union Organisation Pty Ltd|
|Australia, New Zealand, Fiji|
|Parent||Event Hospitality and Entertainment|
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.
Event Cinemas have over fifty cinema venues around Australia, many located in large shopping centres. The cinema complexes comprise multiple screens.
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.
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.
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.
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.