If you have fond memories of New Farm’s grand old Village Twin cinema, you might think new owner Peter Sourris has got it pretty easy.
After all, the Village Twin was designed by Ron Monsborough, perhaps Australia’s most acclaimed cinema architect, and it was widely hailed as his masterpiece. Sure, the theatre shut in 2001, but with that sort of pedigree — and Heritage status — how bad could it have been when Peter Sourris and his brother Stephen bought it last year?
“It was like a bomb had hit it,” Sourris laughs. “It was like walking onto a construction site. Everything had been ripped out – carpets, ceilings, bathrooms, candy bar. There was just rubble inside. It was like a disaster when we first bought it. But it’s probably better that it was like that, because it gave us a fresh slate to start the development and put everything new in.”
Well, sort of. Sourris may have had a clean slate, but he didn’t want to stray too far from what made the cinema iconic in the first place. When the first stage of the redeveloped New Farm Cinema opens in early August, it will look familiar to anyone who’s familiar with Monsborough’s designs — and it will be very, very purple.
“We’re nearly finished the first stage,” Sourris explains. “That’s the Heritage-listed ‘Purple Room’, which has 220 seats. That was built in 1970, and we’ve gone back to its original look – purple carpet, purple seats, purple curtains. So we’ve gone back to the way it was when it was first built… I’m kind of piggybacking off what Monsborough did. I’m sticking to his design, really. I mean, I’ve added to it, but I’m sticking to that ‘70s feel.
“So that’s one room. The other room is smaller, it’s a premium 70-seater, and we’ve got a little gelato bar in there, a coffee shop, a licensed bar, and a few of the old arcade games like Space Invaders to give it that ‘70s feel.”
The next stage of development will see a restaurant open within the cinema, as well as another four screens. All six screens will be capable of showing 3D films, and all will be equipped with Vine audio by Christie Digital, a surround sound system that no other theatre in Australia has.
The New Farm Cinemas won’t be tied to any of the big cinema chains, but the Sourris brothers — who also run Yatala’s drive-in movie theatre — are confident they can succeed where other indie cinemas have failed.
“New Farm residents have an attachment to the cinema because they remember it being so iconic in its heyday,” Peter says. “The drive-in is also very iconic. That’s an original drive-in from the early ‘70s, and it’s still the way it was. It’s had a few refurbs here and there, but it’s an original drive-in, and you get that feeling of nostalgia when you go there. We just try to do something a little bit different to the normal square box cinema where you go in and there’s no character. This cinema in New Farm has a lot of character.
“Ever since The Regent closed, there’s been something missing… that was a very grand cinema and it felt a little bit Hollywood when you went there. That’s what we’re trying to recreate here, because this will be the only cinema like that in Brisbane, the only one that will give you that feeling when you walk in. It’s got a lot of class about it, and that’s what it needs to have. You’ve got to provide an experience.
“It’s not just about going to watch a movie. You’re going to get something nice to eat, have a nice drink, get an ice cream or a coffee, and sit down and hang out before the movie. It’s actually going to be a pretty cool place to hang out, even if you’re not watching a movie. People will come here just for a cocktail. It’ll be like Hollywood, but in Brisbane.”
The new cinema will show the blockbusters, “because that’s what people want to see”. By concentrating on mainstream fare and largely avoiding arthouse films, the New Farm Cinemas will seek to “complement” Palace Centro, rather than compete directly with the established theatre.
Because of the site’s Heritage listing, the new developers haven’t been able to build a car park to go with their cinemas, but Sourris doesn’t think that will be a problem for most people. “We couldn’t really demolish any of the building to put parking in,” he says, “but there is a lot of car parking around the street, and it’s unlimited. It’s not in a two-hour zone, so people can stay for a few hours and watch a movie.
“New Farm is a very high-density suburb, too. There are 6,000 people per square kilometre here, so hopefully people will walk to us. There’s also a bus stop right out the front and a taxi rank right out the front. And the cinemas are fairly small; they’re not the big, big cinemas, the 500-seaters they have everywhere else. These are smaller, boutique cinemas that suit the area.”
New Farm Cinemas will host the invite-only Queensland premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy on Thursday 31 July, followed by the grand re-opening for the public on Friday 1 August. Ticket prices have yet to be confirmed.
Will you be checking out the revamped cinemas? Do you remember the Village Twin? Let us know below!