ASX-listed Abacus Property Group has emerged as the buyer of one of Sydney’s oldest cinemas, the historic Metro Theatre in Potts Point.
The group exchanged on the property at 28-30 Orwell Street in May and has now settled the purchase for $19.8 million, owning one of the area’s real estate gems.
Owner George Miller, the director of Mad Max and Babe, sold the property, which had been used as his production house, trading for the first time in 35 years. The property was used for the production of many Hollywood films including Mad Max and Babe, and had generated several Oscar-winning movies.
The cinema opened in 1939 as the The Minerva Theatre and attracted many Hollywood identities.
The 1255 sq m site has a 22-metre height limit and has development potential to be turned into retail and commercial property, a hotel, a restaurant or a residential project, although it is approved for commercial office use. The building on the site measures 2300 sq m.
The City of Sydney council was one of the contenders for the site last year but plans to buy it were voted down. JLL’s James Aroney and Gordon McFadyen marketed the property.
Abacus declined to comment on its plans for the building at this early stage. The purchase of the building could mark a new heritage direction for Abacus, which has progressively accumulated a number of heritage investments in its portfolio.
It owns 50 per cent of office building at 14 Martin Place, which has a heritage facade, in Sydney’s centre.
It fully owns the heritage-listed former railway warehouse known as the Good Shed at 710 Collins Street, in Melbourne’s Docklands. The property is leased to the Victorian government until 2024.
In Brisbane, the group owns two buildings at 33 Queen Street and 199 George Street with 33 Queen Street being a historic seven-level building.
Abacus has previously flagged that its ability to reinvent and take a new investment directions such as self-storage, away from the fading residential and retail sectors, was key to its strong returns. Managing director Steven Sewell said during the group’s half-year results in February that its $835 million self-storage portfolio was instrumental to its profit uplift.
The company has also continued its asset recycling strategy, recently selling Liverpool Plaza near its book value of $46 million, after an unsolicited offer by a local investor group.
The centre was considered a non-core asset, allowing the group to focus on better-performing retail assets, namely its super convenience shopping centres in Ashfield, Sydney and Lutwyche, Brisbane.
The sale of Liverpool Plaza will be used to reduce debt.