5 Sensational Cinemas Every Movie Buff Must Visit
Like so many things that used to be glamorous, going to the cinema has become as formulaic an activity as the weekly shop. Cavernous multiplexes, over-priced concessions, screening times that seem selected to guarantee the maximum convenience – it’s become something to endure rather than enjoy. Go that little way off the beaten track, however, and it’s still possible to savour what our grandparents took for granted – namely the notion that a night at the pictures could be every bit as exciting, sumptuous and elegant as the on-screen entertainment.
The Cinematheque Francaise isn’t like most cinemas. But then again, most cinemas aren’t designed by the great Frank Gehry. A building to rival the architect’s celebrated Bilbao branch of the Guggenheim, the Cinematheque houses one of the world’s largest collections of movie prints. One of the true wonders of Paris, it’s a great place to take in a retrospective of one of the country’s great auteurs. Then again, whether it’s playing Godard’s greatest or Get Him To The Greek, the stunning lobby is worth the admission price on its own.
One couldn’t hail the Avoca for its sound system or its state-of-the-art fittings. But lying just a stone’s throw from New South Wales’ Central Coast, its location is impossible to beat. And only the most dyed-in-the-wool cineaste would refuse to be charmed by its beach hut appearance. The home to an acclaimed film society, the Avoca’s terrace is a terrific place for a post-screening pint. As for ideal screening material, you could do a lot worse than such sand ‘n’ sea heavy Aussie cult classics as Puberty Blues and Long Weekend.
Built in 1921 at a cost of four million gilders, Amsterdam’s Pathe Tuschinski looks more like a temple than a movie house. The sort of building that was constructed to draw awe from passers-by, it’s easy to understand why the man who paid for it – Abraham Icek Tuschinki – insisted it carry his name. While always ravishing to look at, Tuschinski’s wasn’t historically a great place to ‘watch’ movies. Refitted in accordance with the original designs in 2002, it now stands as a great monument both to cinema and the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements.
To watch a Bollywood movie on television is an entertaining novelty. But to understand what all the fuss is really about, you have to head to somewhere like the Raj Mandir. Nearly always sold-out, almost always raucous, this Jaipur institution has been packing them in since 1976. With the Raj Mandir’s commitment to the all-round Bollywood experience extending to pumping in exotic floral scents via the air conditioning, the more excessive elements of Indian cinema make full sense in this environment that’s more Maharajah’s palace than movie theatre.
Once San Francisco’s most risque district, both the Castro and the cinema from which it takes its name are rather more sedate affairs these days. If the midnight screenings aren’t as daring as they were during the days of Harvey Milk, this Timothy Pflueger creation still looks as good as it did the day it opened in 1921. And while the venue’s importance to the gay community remains undimmed, the Castro functions equally well as art house cinema and mainstream movie theatre. And for a taste of how things used to be, the singalong screenings are truly fabulous.
Words by Richard Luck