Credits roll for customer loyalty

The paid parking charges in Tauranga CBD are pushing a long-standing customer to a cinema elsewhere in the region. Photo: John Borren.

A decade-plus customer is finding elsewhere to get their cinema fix due to paid parking charges in downtown Tauranga.

Two weeks ago Mount Maunganui resident Carol Etherington wrote to The Weekend Sun’s editor announcing that “enough is enough” with the paid parking in Tauranga's CBD.

Catching up with Carol, she says it was midday on a Tuesday last month when she saw an “unusually long movie” at Rialto Cinemas, and paid $12 to cover her parking.

That’s $2 less than her $14 senior movie ticket cost. 

“I’ve been going to Rialto Cinema I’d say for 12 years. I don’t go anymore because of the parking, but I used to go about three times a week.”

She describes Rialto as a “lovely” place.

“It’s an arthouse cinema and I think it’s classy to have [that]...”

When paid parking charges returned to the CBD last year, Carol strategically chose movies less than two hours – putting in $4 at the parking metre.

“I mean I’ve had both knees replaced, and it’s not easy for me to run back to the car…you just get in [the cinema] and you get out so you can get back to your car, and not incur a parking fine.

"So you know, the poor Rialto – it’s suffering. I’d like to sit and have lunch, and meet somebody before a movie but that’s impossible now.”

Instead Carol will now go to Tivoli Cinema Pāpāmoa.

“I’ll be driving a little further to Pāpāmoa and enjoy a movie plus free parking.”

In response, The Sun asked Rialto Cinema how business has been faring since paid parking returned.

“The biggest effect is on our staff,” says Rod Taylor, who took ownership of the cinema three months ago.

“They’re really struggling. They’re not overly high paid people, so having to pay for parking is certainly affecting them.”

With cinemas at Bayfair and Tauranga Crossing with free parking, Rod hopes customers see Rialto as a destination cinema.

“We’ve got a slightly different market and we do a lot more arthouse-type movies, but yeah it does make it difficult [to compete], but I’m not quite sure what the solution is.”

When Carol lived in Canberra cinema customers could validate their parking and receive a discount. She suggests the same for our CBD.

“Support the cinemas. Give them half-price parking or something like that.”

The Sun asked Tauranga City Council whether it would consider such an incentive.

“There are no current plans for council to offer parking discounts for people visiting Rialto Cinema or any other city centre business as ultimately that cost burden would sit with the ratepayer and we don’t feel that is the best use of ratepayer money right now," says TCC parking strategy manager Reece Wilkinson.

Nonetheless, Rod is here to stay with Rialto Cinema and has a positive outlook for his business, which is currently getting a makeover.

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