Once Upon a Time in an Australian Cinema…

It’s easy to assume with the rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Stan (as well as the ever-present small group of people who continue to choose to illegally download movies) that cinemas may have become a dying industry. But while being able to watch a movie at home, curled up with a blanket and your own not exuberantly overpriced snacks while being free to scroll through your social media may be super appealing, there is a certain charm about cinemas that still seems to be attracting kids, teens and adults by their millions.

Going to the cinema is an experience which has evolved over time and has meant different things for different people and generations. For my Grandparents generation, going to the cinema was an event. You couldn’t just rock up in jeans and a t-shirt as so many people do today, you had to wear your best clothes and you had to stand for the National Anthem before the movie. During WW2, going to the cinema was a way for families to escape, to be absorbed by something other than death and fighting for just a few hours. The actual cinemas which they attended during these times were also very different, with the art deco style theatres, drive-ins and open air theatres being the ‘norm’. My Aunt talks very fondly of being told of my Grandpa’s first movie; surprisingly it was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, shown on an open air theatre in his home town of Werris Creek.

The Capitol Theatre, Wagga Wagga. Opened in December 1931, this was the smaller of two Art Deco style theatres in the city while my grandma was growing up.

My parents generation have a slightly different connection to the cinema experience. Being one of 6, my mum’s family seldom went to the movies because it was just too expensive. It was an outing generally reserved for special occasions like birthdays. My mum says going to the cinema and visiting the ‘Candy Bar’ was seen as a very American thing. This was also the booming era of the drive-in; my aunty remembers seeing ‘The Sound of Music’ countless times, piled up in the backseat between her siblings at the drive-in.

My first memory of going to a ‘cinema’ doesn’t actually involve a cinema in the context that most people think of them today. The RAAF base in my hometown used to have a ‘cinema’ (I honestly couldn’t tell you if it’s still there) that showed movies super cheap, but you had to have a connection to someone in the RAAF, which we did, and so we saw ‘Finding Nemo’. From what I (vaguely) remember, not a bad movie.

Forum 6 Cinemas, Wagga Wagga. This was (and still is) the only cinema in the city while I was growing up. The building itself still showcases some of the styling of the Art Deco theatres, something which isn’t overly common in modern cinemas.

My mum’s memories of taking to me to the movies as a kid is a little different. According to her, the first time she took me to the movies, I got so scared when the lights went out that I had to hold her hand while she reassured me it was okay. I, obviously, have no recollection of this and don’t believe it actually happened.

These days, my mum is still my favourite cinema companion. While the overall experience of going to the cinema may have changed and evolved since my grandma was a child and again since my mum and her siblings were children, there is one thing which will (hopefully) never change; you’re never too old to go to the cinema with your family.

Catch ya on the flip side,

Jess x



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