Melbourne holds the unofficial title of Australia’s most cultured and sophisticated city, so it is no surprise that there are a plethora of different cinematic experiences on offer. It is not just about finding the latest blockbuster, arthouse, cult, Bollywood or classic film — Melbourne is full of unique movie houses in which to watch them. With such a bounty available, you are bound to find the right cinema and film to suit your style.
Cinemas with a difference
If there is a way to differentiate
the movie-going experience, Melbourne has it covered. These cinemas will whisk
you away on a twilight picnic, leave you on a city rooftop, lead you down a
secret garden path or even take you back in time -- all while enjoying an
arthouse classic or new release.
Melbourne’s Underground Cinema,
a monthly cinema costume party held in secret locations across the city, does
not come with a bucket of stale popcorn. Punters pay for tickets to see an
unnamed film at an unknown location with instructions to dress to a certain
theme. Locations are shared online 24 hours before the event, whereupon
attendees step into a themed party, filled with performances and flowing wine.
The movie choice is always a surprise, and half the fun is trying to work out
which film will be screened.
Melburnians are obsessed with putting things on rooftops (pools, bars, beehives and sometimes even actual roofs), so it should come as no surprise
that there is a cinema on one. Though the climb up the stairs to Rooftop
Cinema is quite
a workout, an array of drinks and food await at the top. As dusk falls, settle
into your deckchair, grab a blanket and watch from a selection of cult classics while surrounded by
the twinkling lights of a busy city.
Cinema, a warm-weather favourite, screens every summer in Melbourne’s stunning Royal Botanic
Gardens. Sit on the grass and watch the bats swoop
across the dusk skyline to give a
dramatic air to the evening. If you are feeling flush, upgrade to
“Gold Grass”, the best
spot on the lawn and a beanbag.
Street Cinema is so magically 1980s that crossing the threshold will instantly
transform your iPhone into a Sony Walkman. Also known as Event Cinema or Greater Union, the movie
house features a carpet so aggressively ugly it almost qualifies as modern art
and is worth the cost of admission alone. Inside, a mixture of blockbuster and Bollywood favourites play
on its cavernous array of screens.
Art Deco dames
Renowned as the antipodean epicentre
of Art Deco architecture, Melbourne is littered with gigantic cinemas of
yesteryear. With the Art Deco style going hand-in-hand with the burgeoning
popularity of the silver screen, these old dames continue to age gracefully.
In the “hills”, Melbourne’s verdant
forests southeast of the
city, the Cameo’s Art Deco
complex screens a variety of new releases year-round. But in the summer, the
cinema offers deckchairs, blankets and headphones for outdoor evening
screenings surrounded by gumtrees and kookaburra. Its recent refurbishment has
not diminished its character or charm.
Though originally conceived as a
Classical building, the
Westgarth has been given an Art Deco facelift.
Previously known for showing raucous cult classics and all-night sci-fi
marathons, this cinema now shows the latest blockbusters.
People will tell you to go to the Rivoli for true Art Deco charm,
and perhaps you too will be won over by the grand scale of excessively tasteful
redecoration. Though some might debate it has lost its charm – its rooftop bar
and new releases regularly draw in a well-heeled crowd.
With buckets of charm, the Sun, an honest
inner-city stalwart, is well-loved by its local community. Located in the
bubbling hub of Yarraville, relax in the downstairs café or wander around the quaint neighbourhood cafes and
boutique shops before venturing in for a new release.
Of all the
Art Deco delights on offer in Melbourne, the Astor is possibly the most
quintessential. This glorious building continues to screen double-features of
cult classics, select new releases and art house favourites. Say hello to the
resident cat Marzipan, who, if you are lucky, will sit on your lap during one
of the films.
While there are not many left in
existence, there are still some options for those hankering for the old school
experience. Close to the city, the Coburg
drive-in is an inner-city family favourite that admits kids under 12
for free. The heritage-listed beachside Dromana
drive-in is one of the oldest within the state.
The article 'Cinetastic Melbourne' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.