The Regal Cinema at Birmingham Gardens has been given a cash injection of just over $180,000 to help get audiences back into the cinema once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The money will be put towards organising the inaugural Newcastle International Film Festival designed to become and annual event to entice regional audiences back to the cinema, which hasn’t shown a move since March 2020.

The grants comes as part of the federal governments Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund.

Regal Cinema Owner George Merryman says the name of the fund is fitting considering The Regals history.

“It’s called RISE which is perfect because The Regal has a history of rising again. It was closed for many years and then there was a community campaign to save it which was successful. We have had our struggles but every time it comes back,” Mr Merryman said.

The idea for the Newcastle International Film Festival was conceived by Mr Merryman and his Wife Jo about ten years ago when they registered the name.

Mr Merryman says its something they’ve always wanted to do.

“We used to direct the travelling film festival for the Sydney film festival, so we have a history in film exhibition. We have always wanted to do our own festival.

“One of the great things about film festivals is that they do bring people back to the cinema. We were actually inspired by the Tribeca Film Festival which was founded in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  

“After the attacks in 2001, people stopped going below 14th Street where the most damage had been done. The festival set itself in that exact area just to bring people back and it was successful. 

“That’s what a film festival does. It’s a big event that brings people together and that’s our thinking. After COVID which has been an extinction event for many cinemas,” Mr Merryman said.

The Regal is also in discussions with the University of Newcastle to use as a proposed second venue to expand its capacity as it only has around 150 seats.

The festival is planned for a late 2022 premiere while The Regal hopes to reopen its doors by November this year.