In an arcade on Hawthorn’s busy Glenferrie Road, up a long-hidden staircase, the Lido is taking shape. The building has a history as a cinema, but it closed in 1960 and became a dance school, and then a cabaret theatre. That closed a decade ago, and since then, it had been what owner Eddie Tamir describes as a “dead building”.
When the doors fling open on June 25, what will be revealed is no ordinary cinema. The foyer opens out to a bar serving Victorian cheeses, wine, beer on tap, dumplings and toasties. There are eight screens, including a rooftop outdoor screen, and a street-level arcade with a ridiculously well-stocked sweet shop – and a Huxtaburger.
When Tamir purchased the Lido with his partner Lindy (their third cinema after the Classic in Elsternwick and the Cameo in Belgrave), they discovered many old fittings still there, hidden by time and decades of slapdash renovation. “Whatever we could keep, we’ve kept,” says Tamir.
Stained glass portholes that once overlooked Glenferrie road, elaborate ceiling decorations, the original terrazzo flooring – all have been recovered and made part of a retro-modern design. “I’m into the energy of old cinemas, and I get a kick out of bringing them back to life, and the whole circus of creating these atmospheres,” he says. “They have to be beautiful, welcoming. It’s about bringing spectacle back to the cinema environment.”
The screen will host spectacle as well. There’s the obvious big stuff, and the indie films you rely on your local independent cinema to show. But the Lido is also around the corner from Swinburne University, and will play student films and host public lectures. Tamir has also booked in a series of what he calls “commercial orphans”: low-budget films that need a leg-up to get distribution, as well as an exclusive series of documentary shorts by Clayton Jacobson which bring Hawthorn’s local stories to the screen.
But for the moment, the building is the real star. “Everybody said we were crazy not to just take the roof off and start again. But we’d lose those layers of history,” says Tamir. “Hopefully this way it feels like you’re in a special place.”
The Lido opens on June 25.