Sotheby’s Australia founder lists art house cinema

Nicole Kidman opened the cinema, part of a mixed-use complex, in 1996.

Sotheby’s Australia founder Robert Bleakley is selling Paddington’s Verona Cinema.

The executive, who picked the building at 17 Oxford Street up in 1992 – shortly after selling his remaining 30 per cent stake in the auction house business to its US parent – can expect about $30m.

Robert Bleakley paid $1.75m for the then two storey building on 1137 square metres.

He paid $1.75m.

At the time the c1946 two storey structure at the corner of Verona St was part-occupied by an architectural antiques firm.

Mr Bleakley then appointed architect Tonkin Zulaikha to extend it by two levels creating a mixed-use investment with the four-screen cinema.

Nicole Kidman opened the theatre in it 1996 with the launch of Gus Van Sant directed movie To Die For.

Another part of the complex also housed Sydney’s first dedicated yoga studio.

Palace took its lease in 2010.

CBRE’s Harry George with IB Property’s Steffan Ippolito close an expression of interest campaign next month.

Development upside

On a 1137 square metre site presently the subject of a planning amendment which could see it make way for a 20 metre (or circa-six storey) building, 17 Oxford St is tipped to sell to a developer.

Any upper levels would capture north facing views up West St to Sydney Harbour.

A new building – possibly an education or medical facility given its proximity to the National Art School, The University of Tasmania, UNSW Art and Design and St Vincent’s Hospital – could spread a gross floor area of about 3983 sqm.

Developers have in recent years snapped up properties on either side of the theatre; one is coincidentally making way for another Tonkin Zulaikha project – a 25 Hours Hotel, being delivered by a partnership comprising Boston Global, directed by ex-Macquarie Bank chief Bill Moss, and Central Element.

Verona Cinema

Seventeen Oxford St contains 2992 sqm of lettable area – about 1200 sqm more than it did with Mr Bleakley bought it – and eight car parks (story continues below).

Robert Bleakley reportedly tried to buy the ex-Armadale Theatre which Sotheby’s occupied until eight years ago.

The cinemas can seat a total of 366 people.

A 450 sqm ground floor tenancy, which for a decade after 1996 accommodated the country’s first Mambo store, is nowadays known as Verona Studios and used for exhibitions, pop-up stores and events; Chanel, Deus Ex Machina, Google and Tommy Hilfiger have hired it.

AsheMorgan and TOGA are proposing a mixed-use complex on a nearby Oxford St block.

Channel Nine has also used it for filming.

The property is licensed.

“The Verona has been a significant focal point for contemporary culture in Sydney for more than 25 years,” Mr Bleakley said.

“There is a deep patina to the location, which has hosted countless events and many of the major creatives, and its patrons include a who’s who of Australian cinema,” he added.

“Now it can be expanded to express the best of a perfectly positioned city-fringe venue”.

The businessman reportedly unsuccessfully tried to buy Melbourne’s c1912 ex-Armadale Theatre, which Sotheby’s occupied for decades until about eight years ago.

Elsewhere in the area

Last December, Moelis paid $45m for the nearby Kinselas Hotel which, combined with Courthouse Hotel it acquired a month earlier, is now the subject of a hospitality-based redevelopment.

Also late last year, John Azar’s Good Beer Co sold the Four in Hand hotel at 105 Sutherland Street, Paddington, to publican Colin M Paris, following a renovation.

At an amalgamation of nearby Oxford St properties – 56-76, 82-106 and 110-112 – AsheMorgan and TOGA are proposing a mixed-use project with retail, hotel and offices.

The partnership acquired the historic buildings which will make way for the project after signing a 99 year lease with the City of Sydney.

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of