Art & Design


The Outstanding Astor

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One of the things my father passed down to me was his love of Star Trek. But wait! Please! This isn’t about Kirk and Co. I promise, just bear with me here. What I enjoy about Star Trek is the total immersion felt when watching it, like being beamed up to another place and time. It’s the same feeling I got as a kid when I first stepped into The Astor Theatre, to see a double-bill of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan.

Built on the site of some old horse stables in the early 1900’s and originally known as The Diamond Theatre, the venue played host to cinema a well as vaudeville theatre. This continued until the mid 1930’s, when it was demolished and rebuilt as The Astor Theatre. In 1956 the Olympic games came to Melbourne and with it television and dwindling cinema audiences. The Astor was transformed into a Greek cinema, which prospered for the next 17 years running a mix of Greek films and concerts.

In 1981 The Astor was in trouble once again and closed it’s doors for more than a year, until projectionist and cinema lover George Florence jumped at the idea of fulfilling his dream of running a cinema. He re-opened the cinema with the 1933 classic, King Kong. It was at this time that Florence developed the unusual and diverse format that is still so successful today – a mixture of recent and classic double-bill presentations every day of the week for the price of one.

One of only two cinemas in Australia that regularly screen 70mm films, The Astor is the only place in Melbourne to see wide screen movies as their directors intended. Seeing a classic or cult film at The Astor is an experience akin to going to see an old band you really love. All the people are there for the same reason – they love film; it’s a unifying experience. Sometimes when you’re sitting in the darkness, choc-top in hand, you can feel the anticipation as the dialogue builds into a classic line. Everyone’s been waiting for this moment, then the sound of hundreds of whispers fills the room as a cinema full of fans mouth the dialogue in sync.

So, Astor, don’t you go changing anytime soon. In the words of Dr. Spock, “Live long and Prosper, my old friend.”

The Astor
1 Chapel St, St. Kilda

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