In praise of the flicks

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

Sun Pic­tures in Broome is cel­e­brat­ing its cen­te­nary. Built in the West Aus­tralian pearling port’s Chi­na­town in 1917 and var­i­ously an Asian em­po­rium and Ja­panese play­house be­fore it be­came a semi-out­doors cin­ema, its his­tory is as much about mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism as the sur­vival of a her­itage build­ing. Broome has been a melt­ing pot of re­li­gions and races, a place unto it­self up there on the bloody top of nowhere as it would have been back then.

But what so­phis­ti­ca­tion for cinemagoers with a marble soda foun­tain, con­fec­tionery counter and deckchair seat­ing. Talkies were still a way off so films were ac­com­pa­nied by a pi­anist and you can imag­ine the melo­dra­matic pound­ing of keys dur­ing, say, The Per­ils of Pauline. Recog­nised as the “world’s old­est op­er­at­ing pic­ture gar­dens” — de­spite floods, the wartime bomb­ing of Broome and man­age­ment changes — Sun Pic­tures is a trea­sure, es­pe­cially in our on-de­mand era of Net­flix and the like.

Go­ing to the “flicks”, as my par­ents al­ways called such out­ings, was a big deal in my girl­hood. In Sur­rey, England, dogs were al­lowed in cin­e­mas, and it was noth­ing to have a woolly Westie on your feet or a sheep­dog snooz­ing in the aisle. I begged Mother and Dad to let me take my pony Peter Ed­ward “to see the cow­boys and In­di­ans” but that idea was smartly ve­toed.

Cig­a­rettes were per­mit­ted, and the screen was so wreathed in smoke that for years I thought ev­ery moun­tain was a vol­cano. The Smiths crisps came with salt in tiny twists of paper for the DIY ap­proach. I would squir­rel th­ese away and tricked Dad one day by telling him it was a new kind of sugar and he popped it in his cuppa.

The Cin­ema and His­tor­i­cal Theatre So­ci­ety of Aus­tralia’s site has info on her­itage screens and stages across the coun­try and it’s sur­pris­ing how many are still op­er­at­ing and be­ing well-sup­ported by com­mu­ni­ties and vol­un­teers. Some have di­ver­si­fied into mul­ti­pur­pose venues, and who wouldn’t want to go to a rock ’n ’roll party and swivel on the stage.

At Wanaka, near Queen­stown on New Zealand’s South Is­land, the am­bi­tiously named Cin­ema Par­adiso fea­tures comfy old lounges and even a roof­less Mor­ris Mi­nor as seat­ing. Re­sorts are into hol­i­day screen­ings, too, some­times with sheets as screens, hung be­tween palms, wire­less head­sets for guests and prowl­ing wait­ers.

Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman is one fun ex­am­ple, and LUX South Ari Atoll in The Mal­dives, an­other. Cruise lines have got into the act and on a voy­age of coastal Ja­pan aboard Di­a­mond Princess a few years back, there were matcha ice cream cones and sumo-sized blan­kets for princessy cinemagoers afloat. There was no pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment for added ef­fect but we did sing along, scar­ing the seag­ulls off course.

Sun Pic­tures will un­veil its Walk of Fame on Carnar­von Street, Broome, at 4pm on Satur­day, Au­gust 26, fol­lowed by a tick­eted event ($75 with sup­per and en­ter­tain­ment; cash bar) from 7.30pm; broomem­o­vies.com.au.

Dogs were al­lowed in cin­e­mas, and it was noth­ing to have a woolly Westie on your feet

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