12 July, 2021
Star Cinema drops final curtain
We say goodbye to an important part of our community.
AFTER decades on the main drag of Eagle Street, the historic Star Cinema has closed for good.
Norm Salsbury and his wife Edna have lived in Longreach for 45 years and have upheld the Roxy Theatre through the Star Cinema for over 33 years.
Mr Salsbury and his wife operated the Roxy Theatre until the end of 1987 when the popular venue became the Star Cinema.
In 2017, Mr Salsbury was awarded Queensland’s Cinema Pioneer of the Year for his dedication to the film industry.
However, he first began his venture into the film industry where he and his father ran open-air shows in Jericho.
The Jericho Shire Council recognised the benefits the open-air screenings had for the area and in 1969 decided to build a brand new 36 car drive-in theatre.
Despite a career in cinema that is decades-long, attendance numbers have been on the decline, and the industry was hit hard by COVID-19.
Mr Salsbury said COVID brought not only financial pressures, but movies were not being marketed or released meaning people weren't aware of or excited to see a film.
“When we closed during the first period with COVID it was 16 weeks, and that was the main damage,” said Mr Salsbury.
“When they allowed us to reopen it was split seating and also, we had to do all the cleaning and disinfecting after each session.
“After COVID, people didn’t plan to come back to the movies, a lot of people purchased their own TV screens and movie subscriptions digitally.
Cinemas across the world were not receiving the latest films from distributors like Roadshow Films, Sony Pictures and Walt Disney.
“The Blockbuster films were being held back as they wouldn’t release them out of the states or the UK.
“We had a lot of good films on, but people didn’t know what they were, as distributors weren't spending any money on publicity, it was very hard, and it's unfortunate but we had to make the decision to close.
Box office revenue is split between the movie theater and studio, but the split varies from week to week.
For the Star Cinema, films cost around $1000, with the distributors taking a 55 per cent take from the box office.
“There were times when we ran these bigger films and then had no customers, so a $1000 film with no return is very hard.
“The film industry will never come back onto its feet again, not like it was,” said Mr Salsbury.
Video may have killed the radio star, but online streaming platforms have killed our local Star.
‘Stay at home’ was the campaign slogan embedded into Australians, but now people are reluctant to venture outside, with less need to leave home.
A forced lockdown and work from home have enabled many businesses to downsize and cut costs while still running an effective business.
Mr Salsbury said he appreciates all the support that Longreach has given over the years, but in this day and age, they just cannot compete.
“Online streaming services like Netflix are the biggest killers for movie theatres,” he said.
“People are used to staying home now and the conveniences and comfort of being at home., and we just can't compete.
“If we continue to invest in thousands of dollars for a movie screening, then no one shows up, then we cannot operate.
“There is a high cost of the film hire and electricity, and I doubt that the cinema will ever be able to reopen.
“I expect there will be more cinemas that won't survive and will close their doors, it's already happening.
“The cinema in Ayr has already closed and that is a very prosperous place, when you see places like that closing, it's sort of the start of the end,” said Mr Salsbury.
Mr and Mrs Salsbury said it has been a long journey in film and that they would like to thank everyone for their support over the years.
“The people here are so friendly and once you get to know everybody, they are all so welcoming.
“I don’t think we will ever leave Longreach,” said Mr Salsbury.