The Central Goldfields, with the addition in late 2017 of the Paramount Theatre in Maryborough has seen cinema-going become a lot more convenient for movie fans in Maryborough and surrounds.
In the years since the 1990s revamp and subsequent closure in the early 2010s of the Paramount Twin (as it was called at the time) Central Goldfields residents have had to make 2 hour round trips to get to Ballarat, Bendigo, Ararat, Castlemaine or Daylesford to use their cinema facilities. With some, including myself even making it all the way down to Melbourne to catch more niche arthouse type fare.
The landscape for Maryborough and district cinema-goers in 2019 is much better if you are looking to save on petrol and car wear or the convenience of not having to drive an hour home at night after you’ve just experienced cinematic pleasure.
- Paramount Theatre Maryborough — re-launched in late 2017 just in time for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Revamped with a lot of effort in the months preceding after being purchased by the proprietors of Colac Cinemas in 2016. With 2 screens there is plenty of choice on offer and the programmers seem to have an eye for pleasing the Maryborough and district audiences. With digital projectors and excellent sound the locals are lucky to have the Paramount. There is also a movie loyalty club that reduces ticket prices to $10 year round if you don’t get to the cinemas Monday to Wednesday when tickets are $10 for everyone. This is also a licensed premises. So you can watch a movie with an extra edge. And their Facebook presence is excellent with the week’s session times added as a photo a few days before Thursday, when all the new releases come out. Also a handy website with online ticketing.
- Regent Cinemas, Ballarat — the crowd pleaser of Ballarat, especially the auditorium sized Cinema 1. The complex has been renovated in recent years with new seating in a lot of the cinema rooms. Has an excellent selection of mainstream blockbuster type movies as well as arthouse selections in their Showcase Cinema 6. The Regent is a multiplex with 8 screens. Also has a luxurious Gold Class theatre if you want to treat yourself. A movie loyalty club is also available here. For less than the price of a full adult ticket per year you can gain entry to a complimentary movie and subsequently will get access to movies year round for $10.50.
- Bendigo Cinemas — in partnership with Village Cinemas Bendigo Cinemas is a 7 screen multiplex that has been renovated extensively in recent years and those renovations included adding a Gold Class theatre. Bendigo Cinemas has a great selection of blockbuster movies all the way down to the occasional arthouse film. They also cater to a lot of niches with Bollywood cinema occasionally making its way into their session times. The Gold Class experience is great too and the food and drink I had when I went was quite nice. Gold Class is also a licensed premises at Bendigo. The movie loyalty club with Bendigo Cinemas is through Village Cinemas and is more expensive than the other options mentioned at $15 a ticket.
- Showbiz Cinemas, Ballarat — opened about three years ago as part of the Delacombe Town Centre development, it’s a little further than Regent Cinemas coming from Maryborough but if the session times work for you it can be very handy. For instance I went to see Long Shot here yesterday and the session time was on a lot earlier than even the earliest session time at Regent Cinemas so it worked well for me. Long Shot was unfortunately not playing at the Paramount. The seats here are lean back and very comfortable. There are 6 cinemas and as it’s been built very recently the facilities are modern and comfortable. Licensed to serve alcohol in the afternoon/night. Similar programming as Regent Cinemas, Ballarat but it’s quite great to have different session times to attend throughout the day.
- Theatre Royal, Castlemaine — A single screen cinema with mainstream movies but more of a focus on arthouse programming. There is a cafe attached which is wonderful. And the movies they program show that the owners really care about cinema. Also doubles as a live music venue.
- Star Cinema, Eaglehawk — I have never been here myself but they do have a passionate following from what I can glean on Facebook. The programmers have good taste from what I can tell.
- Astor Cinema, Ararat — I’ve never been here personally but it’s on my radar as an option. They mainly have quite mainstream Hollywood blockbusters from the few times I’ve looked at their website.
- Daylesford Cinema — I think they are moving into a new premises. But when they do if you are ever over near the area and feel the need for some reel entertainment this could be the go for you.
If you are in Melbourne (by car or train):
- Cinema Nova, Carlton — my favourite Melbourne cinema. I don’t get down to Melbourne very often but when I do I love to try and make time for a session at Cinema Nova. They have a massive 16 theatres showing a smorgasbord of cinematic variety. They have the blockbusters, yes, but they also have arthouse and everything in between. As well as putting on film festivals many times a year. I attended a full screening of The Cabin in the Woods a few years back that was so much fun because of the amount of what seemed to be film fans in the audience. Cinema Nova also has a bar and cafe with movie themed drinks and food. Watch out for the movie themed choc tops.
- The Astor Theatre, St. Kilda — The Astor puts out a film fans’ dream of a programme with classics galore programmed around themes, directors, actors and much more crazy collections. If I lived closer it would be a lot more useful but I do remember seeing Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine there when not many theatres were showing it in Australia.
- Village Cinemas Crown — Village Cinemas Crown originally started off as a 24 hour a day cinema complex in the late 90s but that only lasted three or four years. But if you want to experience blockbuster Hollywood movies on big screens for what is usually a big price this is the place for you.
So I’ve laid out all Central Goldfields Shire residents cinema-going options which is all well and good but we are living in 2019. The age of Netflix. The age of must see TV like Game of Thrones. And in the darker areas of the Internet digital piracy. How are these cinemas competing against all these threats? I think the best way they can do that is by providing a great experience for the movie-going consumer. If they can try and start screening movies in their cinemas as soon as they can possibly get them on the screen that’s an excellent start.
Avengers: Endgame was a huge hit and cultural phenomenon. The culmination of 22 Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It made $1.2 billion USD ($1.7 billion AUD) this past weekend at the worldwide box office. $34 million AUD of that came from Australia so people will turn up to the cinema when they are tempted enough by the content on offer. I saw it at the Paramount with a nearly full Cinema 1 on day 1. It was an event experience right here in Maryborough amongst my fellow residents.
Game of Thrones is another of the must see experiences of our time with millions tuning in on HBO in the US as well as a million locally on Foxtel. But around 50 million people pirated the season 8 premiere in one way or another. And that’s with legal options provided in most countries where people want to watch it.
I wrote about day and date releases for movies in a Medium article in 2016. The promise of having movies that would usually go straight to the cinema in your home on demand for a premium seemed wonderful when I didn’t have the Paramount Theatre in Maryborough. I’d prefer to go to the cinema if a movie is showing for $10 than pay $50 to see it at home. But I wonder how it would be if the movie wasn’t showing anywhere but Melbourne, or not at all for instance. These movies would surely be pirated if the copy protection was not super secure.
With the NBN in Maryborough being the pathetic copper based Fibre to the Node the speeds required to stream Netflix might be tested for some residents let alone 4K streaming so I can see how the cinemas would have an edge there. I wrote in an article that went viral about the tragedy of the NBN and I hope Central Goldfields residents take some of its points onboard when voting in the upcoming Federal election.
I’m getting a little off topic here. Thanks for indulging me. I’m in summary extremely happy about the state of cinemas in the Central Goldfields shire and the hour drives it takes to get to alternatives. I think we are very lucky.
The reason I wrote this article is I was inspired by this video. It’s not related to Australian cinemas but AMC is the world’s largest cinema chain and this YouTube video delves into a bit of the history of cinemas in the US and the world:
And this got me to reading about Australia’s largest cinema chain Village Cinemas. You can read the excellent Wikipedia article about their history here.
Don’t forget to support your local cinemas if you want them to continue existing.
Anthony Eales is a media, tech and news junkie as well as big movie fan based in Maryborough, Victoria, Australia. You can reach him at @ants000 on Twitter.