For a long time, Melbourne’s cinema scene was settled into a quiet groove. But in an unexpected flurry of activity The Astor was saved from purgatory, the all-new Lido opened and the pop-up Speakeasy Cinema got a permanent home at Grey Gardens in Fitzroy. News of the death of the movie theatre has been greatly exaggerated.
The Astor, St Kilda
When the revered Astor locked its doors just a few months ago, it looked very much like it might be for good. Instead, Palace Cinemas swept in and ensured the closure was only temporary. It has now reopened and is neatly refurbished. The key elements remain: it still has just one giant screen (it’s the last single-screener in Melbourne), and it still specialises in double bills and matinees of classic films, on glorious celluloid where possible and digital everywhere else. The Astor has also just announced the adoption of a new resident cinema cat, Duke, to carry on the good work of Marzipan, who passed away in 2013.
What to see: The program is as varied as ever. This Sunday, catch up with an epic James Bond marathon followed by Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece North by Northwest. Running away from spies in dapper suits has never looked so easy.
Candy bar: The new manager has been keen to point out that the choc-top recipe remains unchanged. Some things aren’t worth messing with.
The Lido, Hawthorn
The sudden cinema boom is very much a revival of past splendour. Hawthorn’s Lido building has a long history. It’s been a dance studio and a theatre restaurant, but somewhere in the dim past, it was a cinema. And now it is again. For owner Eddie Tamir, also owner of the Classic in Elsternwick and Cameo in Belgrave, the Lido is a personal project. With eight screens (including one on the rooftop), a theatre bar you actually want to hang out in and a live jazz room, it’s an impressive feat, and one that restores the original fittings wherever possible.
What to see: As well as the usual high-profile new releases, the Lido is promising a number of interesting local partnerships, including student films from across the street at Swinburne University. Next week its Australian Film Focus series will start with Last Cab to Darwin, starring Michael Caton, and new thriller The Fear of Darkness, both accompanied by live cast and crew Q&A sessions.
Candy bar: The bar is incredibly well stocked, with craft beers and local wines, as well as coffee from nearby Axil. And downstairs in the arcade there's a dangerously well-stocked candy store. But our advice is don’t go past the gourmet cheese platter.
Grey Gardens, Fitzroy
Speakeasy Cinema isn’t new, but its home is. Since 2009, Speakeasy has hosted nomadic screenings of overlooked classics and arthouse gems around Melbourne. Now, it has a permanent spot in Fitzroy’s Grey Gardens. It may be named after one of cinema’s most unliveable mansions, but Grey Gardens is a pristine and versatile refurbished warehouse space which triples as an art gallery and a cafe.
What to see: Get in this weekend to a screening of the Marina Abramovic documentary The Artist is Present. Grey Gardens will also host Breaching Transmissions, an immersive artwork involving 16mm projections and performance art, in association with MIFF.
Candy bar: The cafe is open all day, serving coffee from Three Thousand Thieves and small-but-satisfying food menu. For screenings, think wine and olives.