Thornbury Picture House is a retro-style local cinema and bar that feels tailor made for the north-side suburb.

The building spent many years as a vintage-furniture shop and was one of Melbourne’s first drive-through petrol stations, so owner Gus Berger restored its exterior with those roots in mind. Original tile signs promising service and “motor spirit” – a romantic early name for what we now refer to as petrol – were discovered under decades of shoddy paint jobs. And the vintage petrol bowser out front has been freshly painted with the image of the airborne 1966 Ford Thunderbird from Thelma and Louise.

But inside is where all the glam Art Deco-style action is. The bar is fitted out with refurbished 1930s vintage cinema seats, which Berger traced back to the old Carlton Movie House. The walls are lined with photographs from classic Hollywood and beyond: David Lynch, Jack Nicholson, Agnes Varda.

And then there’s the 57-seat theatre, which eschews vintage chic for comfort. On any given week expect three or four new-release films.

Beyond the usual popcorn and choc-tops, the bar has a local focus too. A simple menu, done in collaboration with Umberto, the fine Italian restaurant up the road, includes antipasto, meatballs, polenta chips and calamari. Drinks come from Three Ravens, Hawkers and Noisy Ritual, and there’s a batch-brew coffee from Padre. In an ode to the building’s history, there’s also a cocktail called Motor Spirit.

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Updated: February 17th, 2019

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