THEATRE operators Theo and Margaret Goumas were in Europe when they heard that GPT had pulled the plug on its Newcastle development.
They arrived home on Thursday, and in an interview with the Newcastle Herald yesterday, the well-known couple lamented the loss to film-lovers that had flowed from GPT's controversial decision to shut their Showcase and Lyrique cinema in May 2008.
"There's the loss to us, as business operators, but more importantly it's the loss to Newcastle of art films, of opera films, of culture that people would come a long way to see," Mr Goumas said.
The couple recalled a saga of negotiations that began when the GPT plan became public in mid-2007.
"They were going to have cinemas from the start and originally, as part of the deal to buy the building, they told us we could stay rent free for the last 11 months," Ms Goumas said.
"We didn't like it, but we were getting towards retirement age and it was better than nothing.
"Then out of nowhere, in May 2008, they said a dividing wall between us and next door was not fire-compliant and we were told to shut the doors immediately. We had to beg them to let us show a final film. And that was it."
Looking at the still-empty building yesterday, the couple said they would love to see the Showcase reopen, but Ms Goumas said the seats and all of the projection equipment had been sold "at fire sale prices after GPT threatened to throw it out as rubbish".
An angry Mr Goumas said GPT had treated Newcastle "shabbily" and he feared for the future of the mall area unless the city could band together to force the issue.
But while in Poland, the couple saw their ideal model for a rejuvenated inner Newcastle - the historic Warsaw market square.
"With the harbour right next door, Newcastle could put Warsaw to shame," Mr Goumas said.