Picture this: the sky is fading to flamingo pink over the historic quarters of the Abbotsford Convent’s oldest building, the former industrial school. You’ve taken up residence in a comfortable director’s chair and are imbibing an icy libation as the film’s credits begin to roll. In the dwindling light of the courtyard, laughter turns to whispers as you settle back to enjoy the enduring magic of the silver screen. This is the Shadow Electric Open-Air Cinema.
Shadow Electric Director Jay Rayner says the independent cinema is aimed at “film buffs who love outdoor cinema” and the atmospheric venue chosen for the project certainly does this idea justice.
The program features an eclectic selection of recent releases, cult and classic arthouse fare. Jean Lizza, programming coordinator, says Shadow Electric is trying to show films that don’t generally get shown at outdoor film nights. “We’re trying to marry the arthouse world with the outdoor cinema world, which tends to be more kitsch,” Lizza says. Describing the films chosen for the program as “quality and thought-provoking”, she says that Shadow Electric is also reflective of the Convent’s investment in community issues.
A major attraction is Shadow Electric’s commitment to screening a selection of local content – including short films and music clips straight out of Melbourne – before each feature.
The program moves from documentaries on Thursday nights to cult and classic films on Sunday, when uplifting flicks will be preceded by an afternoon of live music, DJs and ping-pong in the spacious courtyard.
The cinema, which has a 250-seat capacity, features a 28ft x 15.75ft custom-made Hurley screen and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound system, ensuring a similar quality of sound and vision to an indoor theatre.
Snacks reminiscent of yesteryear, such as burnt meringue-topped gelato, will be on offer alongside a selection of wine, spirits, boutique beers and fruity cocktails including Negronis and Pimms'.
The Industrial School’s historic appeal and its perfect balance of indoor and outdoor space suggests that the cinema will be equally popular as a rendezvous and a film-lover’s paradise this summer.
The season kicks off on Friday January 13 with the bumper-bashing fantasy thriller Drive, and runs until mid April.