When you enter the niche Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Surry Hills, sit in the middle of the fourth row. That’s where the venue’s film programmer, Kate Jinx, sits. But if she’s staked her spot, take heart, for all the seats in this intimate 60-seater historical theatrette are sublimely comfortable. “Our cinema seats are from a private cinema in Switzerland from the ’40s. They’ve been shipped over and reupholstered. The curtains, also green, match them and the bar outside is a dark wood with gold and copper fittings,” says Jinx. “We’re trying to bring the charm of going to the movies here.”
And it’s not hard to imagine. With popcorn served in cocktail shakers and photographs of bygone eras hung on walls, the cinema is certainly brining back the Golden Age. “Paramount Pictures used the building from the late ’30s and early ’40s through to the ’70s as their office space,” says Jinx. Back then, exhibitors came here to view Paramount’s films before purchasing movie reels in what is now the bar space. “During the war, they turned the theatre into a screening room where service men and women could watch news reels,” says Jinx. “We’ve got amazing photographs of people in their military finery watching them. It’s incredible.”
Another incredible thing is the success the cinema has seen only a fortnight into its launch. “Opening week only two sessions didn’t sell out,” says Jinx. “This has been living in my head a long time. It’s nice to see it come into fruition and that Sydney’s behind it. It’s not just me. It’s something Sydney wants.”
The Golden Age Cinema & Bar project has been five years in the making, since Melbourne’s Right Angle Studio began eyeing the premises for a Rooftop Bar. But after complaints, they moved the theatrics several flights down to the basement where the cinema was already established. They then named it Golden Age in honour of the here and now. “The idea being we shouldn’t think of, the good old days as the past. We’re living it,” says Jinx. “There’s something exciting happening in Sydney with businesses, bars, retail spaces and community groups doing exciting new things. We’re living in the Golden Age and should be celebrating it. We’re screening both old and new films.”
And the actual program? That’s turned into somewhat of a guilty pleasure for Jinx, the movie buff. “As a film critic, I see what’s going to hit the cinemas no matter how big or small. But sometimes you’ll see a film and six months later, it won’t get released despite being amazing. That’s quite distressing; to see these films that get screened for critics or at festivals slip away. That was a big thing for me –to pick the best of the new releases and exclusives. We’ve just shown Tiny Furniture, the Lena Dunham film, which never got a theatrical release here, which is absolutely criminal,” she says. Other films getting their Sydney debut here include documentaries Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori’s Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me and Matt Wolf’s I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard.
Just as exciting are the genre sessions. There’s Friday Fright for all things horror, Saturday afternoons’ child friendlies and Sunday’s back to back classic/modern combo. According to Jinx, however, Tuesday nights are “the most exciting and fun thing to do”. “Instead of cheap Tuesdays, we’re doing Golden Price Tuesdays. It’s a grab-bag of films,” she says. “No genre is too unruly for that 6.30pm slot. All you pay is the approximate admission price of when the film came out. So The Graduate cost $2. Duck Soup is from 1933, so was 5c. The most expensive one coming up is Muriel’s Wedding.” It’s going to be a bargain at just $11. Go for gold.
BY STEPHANIE YIP
*Image:Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (still), dir. Olivia Mori.
Golden Age Cinema & Bar is located at Paramount House, 80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills.