The joys of a community cinema

The Regal Cinema, NewcastleOn the weekend we went to see the Australian movie Paper Planes at the Regal Cinema in Birmingham Gardens (a western suburb in Newcastle) with my brother and two of the girls’ cousins. Besides being a fun movie (see the trailer at the end of the post) I love this theatre . It is such a different experience to going to one of the big chains of cinemas.

The Regal had been a commercially operated single screen cinema run by Bruce Avard from 1950 until late 2006 when the building was declared unsafe. Over the years it had developed quite a reputation for showing high quality films, many of which would not otherwise have been shown in Newcastle.

Following its closure, a community group, The Friends of the Regal, was formed to have it reopened. They worked very hard and creatively to raise funds, obtain support from the city council and other bodies, and overcome red tape. After seven years and Newcastle Council establishing an independent Trust to maintain the cinema as a working heritage cinema, the State Government providing $140,000 funding for internal repair work, and George Miller (who directed Happy Feet) donating a digital projector; the Regal reopened in February 2014.

We love going to this cinema. George Merryman (the Regal’s programmer) and his 14 year old dog Frankie introduce each film in a very relaxed, welcoming style. There is normally a little snack provided at no extra cost – for Paper Planes there was tea and coffee or a small cup of orange juice, a small packet of chips and a small chocolate. Because they attract lots of people, (they had to bring in extra chairs for this film) the costs are kept down – a movie is only $7 (compared to over $10 in most of the cinema chains).

They quite often have a special theme based on the movie. This time they had a paper plane competition before the movie. My nephew was one of the three junior winners, and I won the adult competition (after a fly-off against my brother) with a plane made by my daughter, Jasmine. My prize was choc tops for our group and a family pass to see another movie!

Despite the cinema essentially being an old hall with a flat floor which means you can get a head in your way, our girls love going to the Regal and enjoy the whole experience. They can see through the trappings of the cinema chains. The Regal has something not available at other cinemas. To quote Dennis Denuto from The Castle, “it’s the vibe of the thing“.

To me it highlights the difference between standard of living and quality of life. Yes, the new cinemas are of a much higher standard with bigger screens and nicer chairs, but going to the Regal is a community event which helps build social capital (or connections between people) and provides a memorable experience. It’s almost like sitting in someone’s large living room watching a show together.

And here’s the trailer for Paper Planes. The ending is a bit predictable and over the top, but it is a fun, family-friendly Aussie movie.

If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
  2. A great 1 minute video of fathers and their kids
  3. A story of two communities
  4. How painting can transform communities
  5. When is it OK for kids to walk home alone?
  6. Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
This entry was posted in Personal, Working with communities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The joys of a community cinema

  1. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    I think you cheated by having your talented daughter make your paper plane…. Uncle Chris the second place getter.

    Seconded on the experience of seeing movies in this theatre. It’s very friendly; easy to talk to other people who are there as well. Sharing the snacks before hand I think contributes to breaking down the inhibitions against talking to strangers. (Though I confess, I don’t have much of those inhibitions in any case.)

    Liked by 1 person

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