Jails have long starred in cinema – think The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and even Escape from Alcatraz.
Now a cinema is going to star in a jail.
A 15-screen cinema is planned to open at the former Pentridge Prison at Coburg, north of Melbourne, as part of the transformation of the historical site by developer Shayher Group.
The new movie house operated by Palace Cinemas will be part of a 3650-square-metre boutique shopping precinct at the infamous old prison, which will also have a 120-room apartment hotel.
Artist’s impression: The 15-screen cinema complex will be part of a shopping and dining precinct. Photo: Supplied
Construction on the two-level retail precinct on Champ Street is expected to begin in 2017 and completed in 2019. The cinema is expected to open in mid-2019 and the hotel by 2020.
Perhaps prophetically, the boutique cinema company’s film distribution arm, Palace Films, released the feature film Chopper in 2001, which tells the story of criminal Mark “Chopper” Read who wrote his autobiography while he was a prisoner at Pentridge.
Shayher Group project spokesman Anthony Goh says Palace Cinemas will play an important role in establishing a new, stylish urban village that celebrates the site’s heritage and brings together the local community.
The cinema will screen mainstream and contemporary films, as well as presenting international film festivals, and is described as “a natural alignment” for the Pentridge retail precinct.
“Our vision for Pentridge is to create a vibrant, well-designed urban village that breathes new life into this historical asset, transforming it from one of Australia’s most prominent jails into a new community hub complete with retail, housing, community areas and open public spaces,” Mr Goh says.
“We want to celebrate and retain the rich historical elements of Pentridge by creating an authentic place that Melbourne’s arts, community, cultural and boutique business groups want to be associated with.”
An artist’s impression of Pentridge B division being converted to an Adina apartment hotel. Image: Supplied
In August, the plan was revealed to develop a TFE Hotels-operated Adina apartment hotel within the walls of Pentridge, with modern hotel rooms in the jail cells where prisoners once served hard time.
Palace Cinemas has also recently announced it will open cinemas in the Sydney suburbs of Double Bay and Chippendale.
Palace chief executive Benjamin Zeccola says his family’s vision for the Coburg cinemas is to create a warm and vibrant hub for film, arts and hospitality to unite movie-lovers of all ages and backgrounds.
Shayher Group bought the Pentridge site in 2013 after the site’s masterplan was finalised and incorporated in February 2009 through state government consultation.
In May, the group announced its plan to reactivate the heritage buildings around the piazza, at the south-east corner of the site, to become a hub for shopping, dining and socialising.
In 2016, Shayher Group will undertake a $2 million restoration of the former jail’s seven guard towers.
Her Majesty’s Prison Pentridge was established in 1850 and last held prisoners in 1997.
It was the biggest jail built in Victoria in the 19th century and housed men, women and children, according to the Heritage Council Victoria.
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