Lo­cal cin­ema a pic­ture of coun­try town health

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

ABLOKE in a bar once said there are two things that keep a coun­try town from tum­bling over the cliff into obliv­ion: chooks at the lo­cal show and an op­er­at­ing pic­ture theatre.

“Lose them and there goes your town down into the land of the dodo and the Tassie tiger,” said our mate at the bar.

The town­ship of Ing­ham is a case in point. Still has chooks at the show and the pic­ture theatre, which closed briefly in 2013, is up and run­ning … thanks to the lo­cal coun­cil and Ing­ham Dis­abil­ity Sup­port Ser­vices.

IDSS took over the theatre when it closed and ever since has been go­ing great guns at mak­ing it an in­te­gral part of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

He­len Shoubridge is the fi­nance man­ager for IDSS. She loves movies, live theatre and the arts in gen­eral, and has taken on the role of theatre man­ager. Through sheer ex­u­ber­ance and plenty of “front” when it comes to seek­ing ad­vice from other in­de­pen­dent movie theatre own­ers – such as War­rina here in Townsville – she is, with the help of a sup­port­ive coun­cil and a for­ward- think­ing board of di­rec­tors, rein­vent­ing the coun­try pic­ture theatre.

IDSS took it over just as the dig­i­tal age was sweep­ing the coun­try, bring­ing with it mas­sive and costly change to the op­er­a­tion of Aus­tralian cine­mas. It was ei­ther get rid of reel- to- reel and go dig­i­tal, or go down with­out a fight.

The cost of con­vert­ing to dig­i­tal was huge, well into six fig­ures.

“An­drew Cripps, our lo­cal Mem­ber, and the coun­cil came to the res­cue with fund­ing. Our board of di­rec­tors had the idea to take the cin­ema over and to use the com­plex as a place the com­mu­nity could be part of.

“The board wanted to keep the cin­ema op­er­at­ing. Their at­ti­tude was that if you lose the cin­ema it means the town is dy­ing,” Ms Shoubridge said.

Cru­cial to all of this is the fact the cin­ema pro­vides mean­ing­ful and fully paid work to clients from IDSS.

The IDSS board is unique in that it op­er­ates a cin­ema and uses it as a place of em­ploy­ment and a job train­ing ground for its dis­abled clients.

“We have peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who work here part- time and get real wages in a real job. We’ve had clients go to other jobs from here,” Ms Shoubridge said.

She said that as a young girl grow­ing up in Bris­bane she was nuts about the movies. It was the love of cin­ema that car­ried her into the role of look­ing af­ter the cin­ema for IDSS. But lov­ing movies and run­ning a cin­ema are two vastly dif­fer­ent beasts, and the learn­ing curve in run­ning the busi­ness was colos­sal.

“The War­rina peo­ple in Townsville helped us. They gave us ad­vice on what to stock, how to run the cin­ema and what pro­jec­tors to use, that sort of thing. In­de­pen­dent cin­ema op­er­a­tors all help each other out,” she said.

The oft- heard com­plaint from the in­de­pen­dents is about the time lag be­tween them and the ma­jor chains get­ting new re­leases. The chains usu­ally get first bite of all new re­leases.

Through its ad­vice chan­nels, Ing­ham is now se­cur­ing new movies on the “first run”, the same as the big chains.

“Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble – Rogue Na­tion started here the same time as Townsville. War­rina put us on to the pro­gram­mer who got us con­nected,” she said.

It all helps put bums on seats. So do other ac­tiv­i­ties such as youth or­ches­tra per­for­mances and com­mu­nity events like kinder­garten and drought ap­peal fundrais­ers.

The IDSS board wants the com­mu­nity to view the theatre as an as­set they can use.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions like IDSS can no longer rely on gov­ern­ment fund­ing and spon­sor­ship for their sur­vival. Across the board, char­i­ties now have to think cre­atively when it comes to in­vent­ing in­come streams to take the place of an ever- shrink­ing pool of gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

“You can’t be solely re­liant on gov­ern­ment fund­ing any more. It is harder and harder to ac­cess. Now, with our cin­ema here, ev­ery time some­one buys some­thing they are putting money back into our or­gan­i­sa­tion. It is not go­ing into some­one else’s back pocket. With­out that sort of com­mu­nity sup­port, we don’t ex­ist,” she said.

The 263- seat cin­ema theatre ( there is a 63- seat sec­ond cin­ema up­stairs) screens movies ev­ery Tues­day, Thurs­day, Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day night. Tues­day night is pizza night.

“You can bring along a pizza. Thurs­day night is date night and it doesn’t have to be boy- girl dates,” she said.

They screened Magic Mike, the male strip­per movie, a week ago. The packed- out fe­male au­di­ence was hang­ing from the rafters.

“It was a fundraiser for the kinder­garten,” Ms Shoubridge said.

Like the chooks at the show, the theatre is a sym­bol of a well- ad­justed, func­tion­ing com­mu­nity. The bloke in the bar was right. If the chooks and the cin­ema go, so does Ing­ham.

Pic­ture: JOHN AN­DER­SEN

FRONTING UP: He­len Shoubridge says the Ing­ham pic­ture theatre has be­come an im­por­tant part of the com­mu­nity.

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