The Rex: a few questions

January 19th, 2023The Rex: a few questions

Who are the Comellis and the Bromleys?

Who are the Comellis and the Bromleys?
Eddy and Malinka Comelli are long-term locals. Eddy received a life membership
of the Central Highlands Football League in 2021 after many years as president and
describes himself as a farmer, businessman and property developer.
In an interview with The Local in 2016, Eddy said he had a desire to see
Daylesford become a better place to live, with more maintenance, landscape and

Eddie’s forebears came from Udine, in north-east Italy, spreading across the
world in search of work in the 1960s. Eddie grew up in Preston, and his family began
farming in Daylesford in 1969, moving to meat wholesaling, pig raising and on to
buying the local abattoir in 1980. The Comellis own a number of rental properties
and businesses throughout Daylesford and the wider region.
Artists and entrepreneurs Yuge and David Bromley have lived in Daylesford for
the past 12 years but Yuge, also a lawyer, says her husband has had a connection to
Daylesford for about 18 years.
On their website, the artist couple says they “usually take on projects based on
our passion/obsession for art, design, interiors, fashion and generally liking to get our
hands dirty with whatever creative scenario we can immerse ourselves in”.
A biography for Harvey Galleries says David was born in Sheffield, England
and emmigrated with his family in 1964. “Bromley emerged as a painter in the
mid-1980s. In the early stages of his career, he held solo exhibitions in Sydney and
Adelaide and represented works in state and regional galleries, to include finalist in
the Archibald Prize, AGNSW, in 1999, 2001 and 2004.” David’s work is now known
around the globe.
Will the Daylesford Community Cinema go ahead?
Neither the Comellis nor the Bromleys are ready to say either way if the cinema
will be part of their plans. The volunteer-run cinema was already in The Rex when
it was sold to the council in 2016. After some concerns it would not return after
renovations, the council promised it would be a part of the Hepburn Hub. As
pictured, opposite below right, a shell was constructed upstairs to house the cinema
with room for seating, a ticket booth, the screen, a projector room and public toilets.
What about the long awaited public toilets?
Former Hepburn Shire Council CEO Aaron van Egmond first approached the
owners of The Rex when they closed the public toilets in the building. The council
eventually bought the property for $6 million in 2016 with public toilets, including
accessible toilets, part of the deal for its reopening as the Hepburn Hub.
When asked by The Local if public toilets were on the agenda, Yuge said they
“definitely plan to include toilets in line with our design”. “We want it to be a place
that people enjoy coming to and that includes providing even things like rubbish
However Eddy said specific details including those relating to provision of public
toilet facilities still needed to be worked out. “There’ll definitely be toilets, but
whether they’re public …we haven’t had time yet to sit down and work that out yet.”
Hepburn Shire Mayor Cr Brian Hood said CEO Bradley Thomas would prepare
a scope to undertake a planning project reviewing possible solutions for staffing
accommodation and community facilities that were to be included in the Hepburn
Hub. “This will include consideration of accessible public toilets and will be carried
out during 2023 now that The Rex has been sold.”
Where is the Aboriginal artwork Fish Traps going to end up?
Cr Hood said with the sale of The Rex, the council had been working with artist
Aunty Marilyn on an alternative site. “A council briefing report was completed
prior to the end of year closure explaining that a range of council facilities had been
explored, and we are currently working on final details of the preferred location. We
are committed to the finalisation and installation of this artwork and will be able to
provide the location in the near future.”
Finally, will the Chips Rafferty signature remain?
When acting legend Chips Rafferty visited Daylesford in 1954 he left behind
his signature on one of the walls of The Rex when it was still operating as a theatre.
Historian Winsome Moffat remembers the day well.
“Chips was going around to all the theatres in Australia to try and drum up
money for a film he was planning (Walk into Paradise). He came and made a little
speech at The Rex and then just went into the street to talk to people.” A council
spokesperson said the preservation, or not, of the signature would now be up to the
new owners.
Words & image: Donna Kelly

We bought the Rex: a Bromley-Comelli coup

January 18th, 2023We bought the Rex: a Bromley-Comelli coup

CHRISTMAS '22 came a few days early for two of Daylesford's best known families who discovered they'd just become the proud new owners of The Rex.

CHRISTMAS ’22 came a few days early for two of Daylesford’s best known families who discovered they’d just become the proud new owners of The Rex.

Following a unanimous councillor decision at Hepburn Shire Council’s December 20 meeting, Eddy and Malinka Comelli and David and Yuge Bromley were delighted to discover their $3.75 million bid to purchase The Rex had been successful – from among the six EOIs formally submitted.
David Bromley said a clinching factor in their decision to submit their joint EOI together with the Comellis was a mutual love of the town and a wish to see The Rex become a vibrant contributor to showcasing its main street.
“Our mutual love of the town, our belief that the main street is one of the figureheads that you get to see when you come to town.
“We’re really keen to see it come alive and stop the blockage in the street and, ideally, to become the complete opposite – a resounding symbol for how stunning the street is. We all have a similar feeling about it. Between us we think we’ve got what it takes.”
Both the Comelli and Bromley families live in Daylesford, have strong connections in the community and say they’re now keen to make the most of The Rex’s considerable potential. They would not be drawn on whether the cinema will stay – or not – at this stage.
“We want to make it a really culturally rich hub, whether it’s retail, hospitality, art, entertainment. It’s going to be a real combination,” Yuge Bromley said.
“I think being part of the community, we are the consumers of those things ourselves so we feel like we do have a heartbeat connected with it.
“With both of our families local to the Daylesford community, the honour of purchasing and developing this iconic building into a thriving destination spot for both locals and visitors alike was our key driver,” Yuge said.
“We will take time to regroup and plan but our intention is to tap into our combined passions, connections and resources to transform the building into an evolving dining, retail and entertainment destination with a diversity of culture, food, art, music and entertainment.
“We have some initial plans regarding the arcade and atrium, making it a place where visitors local and from afar can frequent time and time again.”
Malinka Comelli said “honouring” the heritage-protected building was part of their plans for the future.
“Let’s see what we can do with it. It’s like a blank canvas but we’re going to honour the building for what it is,” she said.
And the new owners are also not closed to creative ideas and input from the community either, Eddy Comelli says.
“I’m excited to work with someone as creative as the Bromleys. I think we can turn this into something,” Eddy said. “We’ll give it our best shot.”
The price paid for the building – that’s sited next door to the Bromley&Co Daylesford gallery – was just above the reserve price of $3.7 million set in accordance with an independent property valuation and the Local Government Act 2020.
Hepburn Shire mayor Cr Brian Hood said the sale proceeds would be used to repay the loan linked to the council’s 2016 purchase of the site with remaining funds allocated to a financial reserve for future expenditure on staff accommodation and community facilities.
We bought The Rex – Bromley/Comelli coup
“We have begun our planning, and we will progress our investigation into options for staff accommodation and community facilities throughout 2023. This will include community consultation,” Cr Hood said.
He also acknowledged the challenging history of the building since the council bought it in 2016.
The council’s original purchase of The Rex building and other matters relating to the Hepburn at The Hub project remain under investigation by the Local Government Inspectorate.
Cr Hood was keen to point out that the council had cooperated fully with the investigation and called for the release of the inspectorate report.
“We’ve repeatedly asked for it to be released and we would welcome the release of the report as soon as possible,” he said.
He also emphasised that the decision to endorse the Comelli-Bromley bid was unanimous among councillors and followed careful consideration of each of the EOIs against multiple criteria, of which price was just one factor.
Cr Hood said the sale of the landmark building enabled the council and community to “move on to the next chapter of what’s been a long and problematic saga”.
“The saga has brought damage to council’s reputation and one thing I want to stress is that there is a huge difference between the 2016 councillors and management team and the current council and management team.
“It should never have been bought by council. This was a legacy issue, an inherited problem that we’ve had to fix.This is a decent outcome out of a very tricky and problematic situation.”
As to what the future now holds in store for The Rex, Cr Hood admits he personally would like to see the cinema within the building retained but says that decision rests with the new owners.
“It would be lovely to see that retained. I suspect most, if not all, of the councillors would be keen to see the cinema survive and thrive. It would be a shame to lose it but that’s now up to the new owners.”
Mr Bromley says the path ahead for The Rex will not be rushed.
“I think we’ll give ourselves a good three to four months if not longer to really make sure that we get it right,” he said.
“We’re going to be getting a lot of advice and really making sure that this time it is a big success. We’re open to the challenges.
“We’ll be making a lot of commercial decisions about its wellbeing. We’ll have to weigh up everything with a common-sense approach.”

Words & image: Eve Lamb

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