Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A Guide to Melbourne Cinemas

It may come as no surprise that my favourite places to be are cinemas. My city, Melbourne, is a kind creature to my habits (or rather manic obsessions), the various cinemas allowing me to rub shoulders with other cinephiles, or rather listen into their beautiful conversations and having me wonder why most movie buffs in Melbourne are middle-aged, wine-sipping, beard-stroking civil engineers who have friends "in the industry" and a bookshelf of screenplays in working progress. In the years since I've graduated high school I have come to appreciate Melbourne and its cultural audacity. Melbourne, like San Francisco and Toronto, is a melting pot society, made up, of, as I like to call it, klepto-culture, like the Quentin Tarantino's of cities, borrowing endlessly from well-established cultures. As far as cinemas go, there are hundreds in Melbourne and if I haven't been to it, then I know of it.


Age of Ultron played for almost a year
Movies: commercial, a few foreign and indies some weeks after the Oscars

Tickets: less than $13 if you get a student edge card (free online), AACTA/AFI card, buy them at a post office, look through your health insurance benefits. Tuesdays are discount days but expect horrendous lines, packed cinemas and shitty seats unless you turn up at least half an hour earlier.

Membership: $12 membership will get you 2 free tickets, one on your birthday and one upon purchase. There is also a points accumulation system and if you go as often as I do (and remember to bring your card) free popcorn is not unusual. A nominated movie will also go for $10 each week.

Hoyts is your typical baseline mainstream cinema. It is one of three chain cinemas in Melbourne. You get your standard run-of-the mill big budget, Hollywood releases. I can guarantee every Avengers movie will run for half a year every hour. Your independents and foreign films don't get a chance at these cinemas, unless they star some highly marketable actor like DiCaprio, Ruffalo or Winslet or manage to sweep up some Oscars, after which Hoyts will show them for about a week. Each year in February, inspired by the award season, the Michael Bay loving masses will attempt to watch a film of substance only to have their resolves crushed by their comically short attention spans and desire to experience a story arc their brains have been programmed to understand. At this point, once the audience disappears, so will the screenings. Hoyts will show David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Luc Besson's stuff but don't ever expect something from Lars Von Trier,  David Cronenberg or Terrence Malick. If half of Melbourne doesn't want to see it, they won't show it. Hoyts' upgrade "Xtreme Screen" is actually pretty impressive. For a few dollars extra you get a massive screen, a better sound system and a leather seats. Don't try sneaking into any Hoyts screenings though. They send a pimply teenage employee to check allocated seating. I give it 3 stars for a decent membership program and upgrade cinema but points are taken off for sticky seats and a frustratingly slim catalogue.



Movies: commercial except for Rivoli

Tickets: $16 +

Membership: $9 ticket for every 5 movies watched and free ticket for every 10 movies.

By far my least favourite cinemas are Village cinemas. Seriously fuck Village. The tickets are the most expensive, least value for money and show the least variety. The exception to this is the Rivoli Village Cinema in Hawthorn which has a similar catalogue to Palace Cinemas. The membership is one of the few which doesn't come with a free ticket upon purchase. The recent Quentin Tarantino and Kurt Russell Hateful Eight Q&A conspiracy clusterfuck has attracted the wrath of every Melbournian cinephile. Still. Won't stop me from hanging around the foyer this Sunday in hopes of being metres within genius in its purest form.



Movies: indiscriminate catalogue, varies widely between locations

Tickets: $15.5 for students and $20.50 for adults (varies for Astor theatre)

Membership: the student membership costs $13 a year and will give you a free ticket upon purchase, a $10 candy bar voucher on your birthday and unlimited $11.50 tickets for you and a friend.

Palace Cinemas is the only Melbourne chain cinema to show small-budget indie films and a select few blockbusters. These are the cinemas I frequent the most, however they vary in what they show quite widely between locations. Kino Cinemas on Collins St (about 10 minutes from Flinders Street) has the best catalogue and times and $7 discount Mondays. Palace Cinema Como on Chapel St is the fanciest of the lot and is the main host of opening and closing events of film festivals and has discount Tuesdays. Palace Cinemas also swallowed Astor last year, or rather swooped in and saved it from closing down after legal tenancy issues involving VCAT and various restraining orders. Astor Theatre is one of the last single-screen cinemas left in Australia and shows various films in their original glory including 70mm screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A number of film festivals are held at Palace cinemas each year including the Alliance French Film Festival, Lavazza Italian Film Festival, BBC British Film Festival, the Israeli Film Festival and they host many exciting special events every year. I've met Ralph Fiennes, Brenton Thwaites, Alicia Vikander, Don Hany and a few others at their Q&A events. Listening to Ralph Fiennes talk about his entire filmography for an hour was a highlight. Also you can bring wine into the cinemas and they sell pasta in some of their foyers.


Cinema Nova

The Room: "oh hi mark"
Movies: assorted blockbusters, all indies, all foreign films

Tickets: $16.50 for students and $19.50 for adults. Discount day is Monday where tickets are $7 before 4pm and $9 after 4pm.

Membership: for $13 students get $11.50 opening day (Thursday) tickets and $15.50 for other sessions

Cinema Nova, one of few independent cinemas in Melbourne, is my favourite cinema with easily the most comprehensive catalogue, showing up to 20 films at one time. It consists of a maze of cinemas catering to intimate showings, as well as the big screens. It is not uncommon to find yourself in a 6 seat cinema. You will be compensated for these intimate screenings with huge velvety seats akin to Village's gold class and interesting wallpaper (look out for the bookshelf wallpaper). During my uni breaks and holidays I spend my Mondays here watching one film in the afternoon and another at night. Tucked in a plaza on Lygon St next to Brunettis, there are heaps of great Italian places to eat at before or after your movie. Nova's hipster candy bar will also give you a run for your money, selling house made choc tops, kale chips and wine by the glass. The cinema also hosts the AACTA/AFI screenings ($70 a year for every Australian film released followed by Q&A sessions), cinetrivia and a screening of The Room once a month. Beware their discount days however. I have missed out on sessions when attempting to buy tickets a whole hour before the screening. Mornings and afternoons are better.



Movies: foreign, indie, commercial

Tickets: same as Cinema Nova including discount day which is Tuesdays

Membership: for $10 a year you'll get $10 entry to any movie any time and exclusive access to special events

Lido Cinemas is a testament to Melbourne's love of cinema. In an age when online streaming has made video stores redundant and the masses are satisfied with watching technical masterpieces like Gravity and Children of Men on their tiny phone screens, Melbourne opens a brand new multiplex cinema complete with a jazz room and rooftop cinema. Lido also hosts a variety of film festivals and event screenings. Lido was also the only cinema to show Gaspar Noé's endlessly controversial new flick Love.


Outdoor Cinemas

Melbourne plays host to a number of outdoor cinemas which run during the summer months. Moonlight Cinema in the botanical gardens is perhaps the most established, with a comprehensive program, pet nights and food trucks. The Ben and Jerry's Open Air Cinema, located in St Kilda, is another popular choice. There is also the Rooftop Cinema on Swanston St and the great Shadow Electric cinema in the Abbotsford Convent (movies shown in an actual convent). They all show a mixture of new releases and classics. 

The Melbourne Cinémathèque 

Movies: foreign, classics, indies
Tickets: purchase with membership 

Located in AACMI at Fed Square, this one is strictly for cinephiles and I'm yet to attend a screening due to the less than favourable pricing system. To attend, a membership is required: either a 3 consecutive day pass for $24 for students, a $135 annual pass allowing unlimited entry for 12 months or a $250 pass which includes unlimited entry and a range of discounts and special event entry including a limited bring-a-friend system. The Melbourne Cinémathèque shows a range of filmmaker retrospectives with seasons dedicated to Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and Ingmar Bergman and a select few films not released in other cinemas in Melbourne. Last year they showed 3rd generation Coppola's debut Palo Alto for a few months. If you're dying to see a favourite classic in its former glory have a search through the Cinémathèque program. This is my dream birthday present and I can't help thinking if everyone put together the money they're spending to buy me candles and photo frames I could live here. A girl can dream.


  1. Very very cool idea for a post. Nova, Rivoli, Palace and Lido are definitely my fav ones. Yet to try The Melbourne Cinematheque but its on my bucket list.
    Another pretty good one (for me at least) is Cameo Cinemas (in Belgrave). Has a mix of mainstream and arthouse but also occasional Q&A screenings of independent aus films. Plus outdoor screenings over summer.
    I'm shattered about missing out on tickets for Tarantino at Rivoli. I remember The Astor uploaded their Q&A with Paul Thomas Anderson a few years ago so I'm hoping they at least do that (but they probably won't).

    P.S. I used to work at Village and yeah I pretty much agree with everything you said.

    1. Nova, Palace Westgarth and Kino are my second homes! I'm waiting for a Kieślowski retrospective season where I can justify going for 3 consecutive nights to see the Three Colour Trilogy! Cameo sounds great. I'll need to head over there one night.
      As its Village I do doubt they'll be so kind. He's made some surprise visits to a few opening nights around Australia so I'm thinking of going to a 70mm screening as Astor in hopes he'll make an appearance!

      You worked at a cinema! I can imagine there were many perks of that job for a movie buff. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    2. $1 movie tickets was a pretty good perk!

      Did you manage to see QT anywhere? I decided to see a showing of the Revenant that would finish around the time he might enter the cinema for his Q&A at Rivoli and was lucky enough to see him (with Kurt Russell). Really genuine guy, made an effort with everyone who waited to say hi to him.

    3. $1 tickets? Amazing.

      No I didn't! I'm so jealous. That week he hung around Melbourne was torturous. He made quite a few surprise visits with Samuel L. Jackson and I missed all of them. Really good of him to do that though.

  2. I've never been to Australia, but I feel like I know these theaters thanks to this post. Great job!

    1. Australia is definitely worth a visit! If not for the natural beauty, then come to Melbourne for the cinema, the food and the music! Thanks Wendell!

  3. Village isn't too bad! Drive ins at Coburg have $7.50 for students every Monday as well as two for $25 'date night' package in regular cinemas this same night. Plus with telstra it's only $12.50 for any standard movie any time :) thought I'd mention it in case you weren't aware

    1. Every cinema in Melbourne offers a discount day where tickets are below $12.50 and doesn't require a double purchase, $7 at Kino, $7/$9 at Nova and Lido, and around $12 any day at Hoyts if tickets are purchased at a post office. I wasn't aware of the discount at Coburg Drive-In but maybe the problem there lies in poor promotion as it can't be found anywhere on the website. Thanks for commenting but I still think Village has alot to improve on!