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Cinema And Planetarium Proposed For Airlie Beach

By Mark Beale

Ron Harris wasn’t looking for another project when he sold his helicopter business, Helitaxi, last year, but he just so happens to have stumbled on one that is likely to capture the Whitsunday community’s hearts.

Mr Harris is lodging an application with the council to establish two cinemas and a planetarium in Airlie Beach.

Mr Harris wants to create two 42-seat cinemas on the ground floor of the Airlie Esplanade’s Beach Plaza, with a third, “planetarium” cinema upstairs.

The two ground level cinemas would be equipped with the latest projection technology, 3D and 2D screens and high quality sound.

The planetarium would feature full dome technology, manufactured in Thailand.

Mr Harris’s material change of use application, expected to be heard by the council next week, would allow him to soundproof two of the vacant ground floor shops, with a bar area in between and booking area across the hall.

Mr Harris wants to show “all sorts of films” including the latest releases, old movies and, in the planetarium, educational and 360-degree films.

“We want to ask the community what films they would like to see and we’ll get them in,” he said.

“And we’ll have theme days like Star Wars days… Mad Max days, Jurassic Park, or some of the old films – golden oldies.”

Mr Harris is expecting to invest about $750,000 to get the project over the line and says he’s “very confident” the investment will pay off.

“For a while we’ve been talking to people around Airlie and without exception, everyone… is excited,” he said.

The restaurants currently at Beach Plaza would remain, with Mr Harris saying he’d like to time screenings so customers could have a meal before or afterwards.

Salt owner Wayne Aspland said he thought this would be “fantastic”.

“We’ve been chasing a cinema for years. We need things for families to do… anything that’s entertainment will be helpful to the whole of the area,” he said,

Airlie’s councillor Jan Clifford said she was “over the moon”.

“I will certainly be supporting it when it comes before council, just as I supported the Tuk Tuks and the (Aqua) ‘duck’ and all sorts of other things that are mainland attractions,” she said.


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