Not “THE END” for Mercury Twin Cinemas

23 Nov 2021

Not “THE END” for Mercury Twin Cinemas

If you every fancied a career in the movie business, this might be your big chance - Whitianga’s Mercury Twin Cinemas is up for sale.

After seven years in charge, owners Glen Parker and Gisella Colquhoun are selling up to move on to the next stage in their life. “We are sad and disappointed to be leaving the cinema because 99 percent of the time we have thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Glen, who was keen to put an end to any rumours that the cinema was shutting its doors. “Nothing could be further from the truth and though we were hit by the fallout from Covid like everyone else, things are getting better and better all the time.

“In fact, we have just had our best October on record, despite there being no visitors from Auckland during the school holidays or for Labour Weekend, and also having to apply social distancing for customers which lost about 20 per cent of our seating capacity. If it had been normal times, business would have been absolutely crazy.”

Glen said that whoever buys the cinema will be getting a good, sound business. “Business is building back up to pre-Covid levels, which is encouraging,” he said. 

Covid did not influence Glen and Gisella’s decision to sell, rather they just felt it was time to move on to the next stage in life. “When you are in your 70s, like me [Gisella is somewhat younger], you get to a point where you realise you have to make some changes,” said Glen.

Glen and Gisella will also sell their Whitianga home as they want to spend more time closer to family in Tauranga. They are furthermore in the process of buying a large articulated caravan to go touring around the country. “It is time to retire and start to take it easy,” said Glen.

Eight years ago when the couple were living in Tauranga, they were looking for “somewhere nice” where they could moor their boat when they spotted an advertisement for the Whitianga Waterways. “So we bought a section in the Waterways and built a house with a pontoon in 2013, and then we saw the cinema for sale, so we bought it for something to do in retirement,” said Glen.

Interestingly, Mercury Twin Cinemas was Glen’s second venture into the movie world, having spent eight years in the 1960s and early 1970s as a projectionist and managing a number of small suburban cinemas in Auckland. “It is not like the old days with 35mm film that required a trained projectionist,” said Glen. “These days, the skills to run a cinema are very easy to learn. It is all digital, computer-controlled and runs automatically - it does everything from dimming the lights to opening the curtains.”

The only thing a new owner needed to do was secure a liquor licence from the authorities. “Apart from that, I can’t think of anything else, though being a good ‘people person’ would be a great asset for front of house,” said Glen. “It is quite an easy business to run in many respects.”

In the quiet times only one person was needed to run the twin cinemas, which have a combined seating for 136 patrons.

Glen said he had a love of the cinema industry, but not necessarily of the movies themselves. “The difference is if you just love movies, you are liable to run it as your own personal cinema and you will get movies you want to see,” he said. “But we run it as a business, getting movies our customers want to see. You have to play to your audience and that also means that during holiday times the movies we show are often different from other times because there is a different audience.”

Glen said that people from Whitianga were quite sophisticated in their tastes, which resulted in a good mix of mainstream and arthouse offerings. Despite owning the cinema, he said that he and Gisella did not get the chance to see every movie, though they had managed to see “quite a few” over time.

Sometimes they would be invited to movie previews, but as they were held in Auckland, it was not always possible to go, so they had to choose what films to order, relying on the word of the distributors that a particular movie was good, helped in their choice by getting to see the trailers.

Glen’s personal taste in films tends towards comedies and musicals, with his vote for the best movie of all time going to West Side Story. “That is probably one I would go and watch again and again, and there is a re-make coming out on Boxing Day, which I am looking forward to,” he said.

Glen said that during the “year of Covid”, as he called it, they had difficulty getting some of the bigger titles which the studios were not releasing worldwide, such as the new James Bond film, No Time to Diewhich was 18 months late in hitting the cinemas. 

Further difficulties were caused by some distributors deciding to put movies out on platforms such as Netflix at the same time as releasing them to the cinemas, but Glen said that had since turned around and cinemas now generally had a 45-day opportunity to show films before they were offered to other viewing platforms. “What we find happens is that, especially with the big action movies, you really have to see them on the big screen rather than on a TV, so people are coming back, not just to see the movie but also as a social occasion,” he said. “Once the big titles came out, the audiences came back in droves, as we saw with our best ever October.”

Interested purchasers should contact selling agent, Michelle Boag, at Barker Business Brokerage in Auckland.