Outspoken advocate for the Regent Theatre, Simone Sheridan says the historic building has more attention than it's ever had thanks to the work of the group, Revive the Regent, which she founded nearly three years ago.
As the March 6 auction date approaches, Revive the Regent and its founder is exploring what the future of the theatre could look like with the groups involvement.
Simone described the situation with the Regent as 'shifting sand' for the group which is also exploring a transformation from community group into a fully-fledged organisation as it continues to grow.
"There's been so many things changing, whether it's the development application being changed or now we have a heritage council asking for input. We've had to remain very flexible, which means that many of our committee members and myself as the founder are doing very different tasks each month." she said.
Simone said she's very happy to see that the Regent Theatre is set to change hands again, given the group's opposition to previous developer proposals.
Read more: Theatre not viable: What a load of BS
Speaking with the Mudgee Guardian in January, Andrew Palmer at The Property Shop confirmed that an offer can't be made ahead of the auction. Simone said that while an advance offer to purchase the building was a preferred outcome, they have a series of other options in the pipeline which will be discussed when Revive the Regent members meet at the end of January.
"That's the ideal outcome, we get it bought before the 21st," she said.
"The other outcome is that we do go to auction and we have a number of interested buyers. So I've got a contact in Sydney who represents a guy from Victoria and he's apparently looking into it. Not to mention our various ideas.
"We've got a lot of people are suggesting crowdsource funding. Now I don't think we can raise over a million dollars in less than 30 days, but we might be able to do something. You know, it could be that our organisation does get a loan and makes an offer and we have some people in our community willing to come on board and take that risk with us.
"We're getting to the pointy end where we finally can make some decisions and there will be a bit of transparency once it is up for auction."
An ideal outcome
Separate to the group, Simone said that her personal opinion is that it would be great to attract a buyer and have Revive the Regent become a tenant and managing group of sorts.
"I believe that we may have more potential to attract a personal buyer, someone who actually is an investor in this kind of domain and then - say someone comes and buys it - that is either a company or they're in this industry," she said.
"Myself, I've got a lot of arts management experience, so if I was able to create a five-year plan and like - I've got a very ambitious fundraising plan for various things to do inside the theatre. And so for example if someone said I'd love to invest in the building but we can't run it, we feel we could help with that.
I don't think we should think about this sale as like all the others - which of course people in Mudgee do.Simone Sheridan
"Whether that's us a committee or attracting a tenant to come in the theatre, we feel that as a committee group we've been working around this for three years in March, we've attracted a lot of people who are interested in either.
"...A lot of people say 'raise the money'. What if we raised $600,000 and then it wasn't for sale? That's responsibility and it's also work, which we just didn't want to do unless we knew we could buy it. Now we're at that stage where we can, we're going to have to move quite quickly."
But what if a new owner's vision doesn't again gel with that of the Revive the Regent group? Simone said there would be issues for that buyer, but that you can never guess what will happen, considering the possibility of a State Heritage listing.
"I think that there's going to be issues for that potential buyer. That's been shown by the outcome of this hotel. Yeah, I think that we can't guess that, I don't think we can. If there's one thing we've learned from the Regent is that you can't guess what's going to happen," she said.
If that [State Heritage Order] comes through, I believe it attracts a whole different buyer so I don't think we should think about this sale as like all the others - which of course people in Mudgee do. You can see they're like 'oh, it's happening again' and that's where we need leadership and to say 'actually now that it's state...' now that it's got all this state attention where it didn't have that before."
Heritage order disappoints
Simone expressed her disappointment that the Interim Heritage Order (IHO), placed on the building in February 2019 seemed to little to protect the building from decay.
"The IHO is still standing. So that's been a major concern for the committee, one thing that they're really concerned about is that for 12 months this interim heritage order was supposed to protect the building and we can see that it didn't," she said.
"So you can see even now that that front door, the glass door is broken and really these issues are indicative of planning problems and lack of responsibility on the owner and I think we need to - as citizens - do more, we could have been sending more letters to the government.
"This act was used to protect buildings like this and no one really did anything. I think that complacency in small towns happens and things get a bit overlooked. So I guess one of the things that we've learned is you have to make noise - use your voice to have laws followed.
"These are laws for a reason. A lot of buildings have been lost due to negligence on the owners behalf. I think that's one of the key things with the theatre is that it degraded significantly since the developer had it and that's also why there was an interim heritage order.
"It's not bad but it isn't what it was the last time they sold it."
Regent in the spotlight
Simone said the increased attention the Regent has garnered in the last three years marks an exciting time for not just Mudgee but the Central West.
"When The Property Shop was trying to sell it before. They honestly didn't have the coverage that I've been able to get or that we've been able to get through all these heritage networks, it just was not there," she said.
"It was just a small little town cinema and a heritage building and now it's got all this stature, there's all these people in Sydney and Melbourne thinking about it across the world - we even have a member in...the UK somewhere.
"So I don't consider it the Mudgee small town problem anymore it's so much bigger and better and that's very exciting for the Central West."
'Much more than a cinema'
Simone said Newcastle's Victoria Theatre is a perfect example of what could become of the Regent and naysayers need only think creatively.
"It's the oldest theatre in NSW. I just think people need to think a little bit more creatively I guess and not based on economics from the past, you know," she said.
"Because even with the fires, you can see how many arts orgs are funding the bushfire appeal so arts, the comedians and all of the people that we have on the stage at the Regent, there is economy in that and so People seem really fixed on the cost of the building.
It's so much more than a cinema, that's the real thing that needs to come out.Simone Sheridan
"Unlike when like a bridge is built and they don't understand that cost and they just say 'okay' but somehow with a theatre and the arts it's just under the microscopic eye and that's because it's sort of subjective.
"People don't like art, they don't know art so they can just sort of judge more easily and I think that's one of the things that's been a problem for the theatre.
"That constant reference to film and movies, it's just so much more. We know people that want to have weddings there and Mudgee's - people come out here to have weddings for goodness sake.
"It's so much more than a cinema, that's the real thing that needs to come out."
The Regent Theatre will be sold at auction by The Property Shop on Friday, March 6.
Note: An earlier version of this story had the former auction date of February 21. This has been updated to the newer date of March 6.
For more Regent Theatre news and updates, sign up for our free regular and breaking news emails.