Some Clarification

It’s been a very difficult and emotional weekend as our announcement has reached far and beyond 100,000 people. We have received thousands of messages across email, twitter, Facebook, this blog, through our website and of course at the theatre itself. There has been an incredible and surmounting support for what we do here at the Astor Theatre, for that we are grateful and humbled.

A number of questions have arisen from those messages and though we do our best to reply personally to every query we receive, we feel that it might be best to address here some of what is most frequently asked.

IS THE BUILDING HERITAGE LISTED?

The building, the land, the 1929 Western Electric amplifier, original screen and original projector are registered. The details of that listing can be found in the Victorian Heritage Database.  The building is also listed on the National Trust register. This means that elements of the current building and site cannot be changed (i.e. the building cannot be demolished to put up an apartment complex).

What it does not protect, however, are other important aspects of what “The Astor” (the business inside the building) has cultivated for Melbourne cinema-goers. These include but are not limited to; the purpose (as a single screen cinema), the capacity of the auditorium, chattels, interior design, lighting, candy bar, office spaces, projection booth, etc.

Most significantly, Victorian Heritage and National Trust listings do not protect what you have come to know and love as The Astor Theatre: the entity that has created and maintained a unique cinema-going experience since 1982, under the proprietorship of George Florence. That includes but is not limited to; the unique programming, the Astor Calendar, our incredibly passionate and personable staff, Astor Choc-Ices, beloved theatre cats (Magenta, Marzipan), the very best in film and digital presentation, regular presentation of rare 35mm and 70mm film prints, masterful projection, personalised and genuine love and passion for cinema, cinema-going, film and so much more.

WHAT DOES THE LANDLORD INTEND TO DO?

This is unknown. We have not been told what the future plans are, only that they do not include us.

The following articles, that were published over the weekend, include comments from a spokesperson for Ralph Taranto, but they do not state clearly what will happen.

SBS; ‘Melbourne’s cherished cinema The Astor to close May 2015′

The Age; ‘The Astor Theatre to close in 2015′

WA Today; ‘The Astor will live as a cinema, the owner vows’

CAN WE START A FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN?

It is not advisable at this time to begin fundraising. Though we are most certainly moved by the overwhelming response from everyone and the intense passion we all share to keep the Astor as it is, we cannot, at this time, launch a fundraising campaign.

As far as we are aware, the landlord has no intention to sell the property. We appreciate your support very much but we cannot take money unless we know that there is an option to purchase.

We hope this serves to clear up some of your many questions. We also want to thank you for your unwavering love and support of what we do and absolutely encourage you to continue to visit the theatre and celebrate what’s so great about The Astor in the coming months.

Astor Theatre: 1982-2015

It is with heavy hearts that we make this announcement.

In 2015 the Astor Theatre as you know it will close its doors.

Melbourne has seen thirty-two years of the finest repertory programming and the very best in film and now digital presentation thanks to George Florence. It has always been George’s vision that the Astor would take on a new lease of life under a not-for-profit trust so that the Astor could continue on into the future in perpetuity.

This was always the long-term plan and before St Michel’s Grammar School sold the building to Ralamar Nominees, we were led to believe that our new landlord would work together with Friends of the Astor Association to build that long and prosperous future for the programming, atmosphere and passion that the Astor has brought to Melburnians for so long. We stepped back from exercising our first option to purchase the property, based on these concept that a trust would be put in place. Unfortunately, the implementation of a trust was off the table after the contract of sale.

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Without a lease renewal, the expert repertory programming we have cultivated for a community of Melbourne moviegoers, and the ‘Astor Experience’ will come to an end. We were offered a lease that would have been financially and operationally crippling, but negotiations failed to resolve the key issues.

The Astor is so much more than just the bricks and mortar that has become Melbourne’s spiritual home for film. Without a lease renewal and without any intention to include FOTAA in future plans, the expert repertory programming we have cultivated for a community of Melbourne moviegoers will come to an end.

We do not know what the landlord has planned for the future of the building, only that we are not included in those plans.

It is no doubt as difficult to read these words, as it has been to write them. We want to take this opportunity to thank the many tens of thousands of people who have supported us over the years. We also hope you will continue to visit the Astor until our doors close, to celebrate the few final months of something so special, that has contributed to the rich film culture we have here in Melbourne. Our final months will no doubt be emotional, but they will also be some of the most special, as we put together more of the very best in film and ignite the most fantastic atmosphere to celebrate everything everyone who’s ever been here has loved so dearly about the Astor.

007 Festival – 4K Digital remasters

This one has been a long time in the pipeline. It’s probably close to two years since we first heard that the James Bond titles would be getting the 4K treatment. Digitally remastered DCPs – when done well – can look glorious (not ‘better’ than film – they’re different formats and not truly comparable – but spectacular in their own way). Having made room on a couple of calendars to date, the DCPs will finally be ready for us to unveil onscreen this year, starting on October 18th with the very first and second 007 titles: Dr No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963).

Beginning with Sean Connery and making our way forwards with George Lazenby and Roger Moore, our 007 Festival brings a popular character back to the big screen where he belongs. According to our calendar (which will be hitting the streets next week!) Sean Connery is the Bond we love best. Who’s your favourite Bond? And what about Bond villains? Does 7’2″ with steel teeth impress you or are you more interested in plots focused on world domination? There’s plenty of nefarious types to choose from and yes, the series does come with a large dose of sexism delivered through dialogue, narrative and lack of agency. In typical Bond style the women are showcased as beautiful but aren’t given all that much to do besides.

In terms of further exploring the world of 007 we’ve got you covered there too – the Sunday before our 007 Festival begins we’ll be screening a documentary that delves into the world of villains, beauties and a British guy who values being suave above all else. It’s called Everything or Nothing (2012) and it screens Sunday October 12th at 4.30pm. 

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Full listings and details will soon be up on our website but until then, here’s the line up for our 007 Festival:

Bond 1Saturday October 18th 7.30pm
Dr No [1962] (PG) + From Russia With Love [1963] (PG)
Sean Connery, the Bond we love the best, investigates strange occurrences in Jamaica and overcomes the evil Dr. No, who of course has a serious plot to rule the world. After intermission, pitted against a blonde Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya with a dagger in her shoe, Connery returns. Plenty of suspense and action, and one of the longest, most exciting fight scenes ever staged.

Bond 2Saturday October 25th 7.30pm
Goldfinger [1964] (PG) + Thunderball [1965] (PG)
Full of ingenious gadgets and nefarious villains, with a hair-raising climax inside Fort Knox. After intermission there are plenty of gimmicks and Academy Award winning special effects as the world is threatened with destruction, set in the Caribbean.

Bond 3

Saturday November 1st 7.30pm
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [1969] (PG)
Lazenby, as the first non-Connery Bond, battles Blofeld amidst incredible action sequences, and a plot with a novel twist. The requisite components persist: nefarious villain, beautiful women and scenery, and great action sequences, but this Bond film is set apart by its maturity and emotional depth of characterization.

Bond 4Saturday November 8th 7.30pm
The Spy Who Loved Me [1977] (PG) + For Your Eyes Only [1981] (M)
In this lavish adventure 007 joins forces with a seductive Russian agent to quash arch villain Stromberg’s plans for world destruction. Nobody does it better, indeed. After intermission, bereft of the space age gadgetry, cartoon villains and female mannequins, we have the Bond film that has created the most debate among 007 fans.

Bond 5Saturday November 15th 7.30pm
Octopussy [1983] (PG) + A View to Kill [1985] (M)
When a “00” agent is found holding a Faberge egg, the British are suspicious and send James Bond to investigate. 007 discovers a connection between the priceless egg, an elaborate smuggling operation and a plot by a renegade Soviet general to instigate World War Three. After intermission, it’s Moore’s final appearance as 007, but hardly the strongest of the Bond series. An investigation of a horse-racing scam leads 007 to a mad industrialist who plans to create a worldwide microchip monopoly by destroying California’s Silicon Valley.

All films presented in brand new, remastered 4K DCP format.

Missed it at MIFF – catch it at the Astor

Every year we take a gander at some of the titles screening during MIFF (sadly we can’t get along to all of them – there are just too many!) and this year we’ve been programming while the festival was going which made it that little bit harder to see enough before we chose titles to hit our own very big screen. We know many of the films do get a release and working out which ones will be best BIG, shining on our glorious SuperScreen (across 19m and up 9m), is always both a joy and a challenge.

grandmaster001-thumb-630xauto-35213Add to that a schedule already jam-packed with so many great retrospective titles across cult and classic cinema and the space certainly is limited! But the ones that we can tell you about, for now, are: The Grandmaster, screening Wednesday October 8th, The Immigrant, screening Sunday October 19th, Locke screening Wednesday November 5th and Two Days, One Night screening Sunday December 14th. We’ll admit that there’s a bit of a wait for some of those but we know it’ll be worth it because each of those films will look incredible up on our SuperScreen.

snowpiercer-1We’ve also made sure you’ll get a chance to see and hear Snowpiercer as large and loud as it ought to be experienced (what a wild ride that’s going to be!) so we’ve programmed it twice – Friday September 12th in a double bill with Under the Skin and again on Wednesday October 22nd in a double bill with The Matrix. Don’t say we never give you anything ;)

medium_emma_smokingWe’re also bringing Palo Alto – Gia Coppola’s stunning adaptation of James Franco’s not so wonderful short story collection – because it simply has to have the big screen treatment: the cinematography is every bit as breathtaking here as it is in her aunt Sophia’s films. What an insanely talented family those Coppolas are. Plus, Luc Besson’s latest, crazy blockbuster Lucy is another that we are pleased to announce. How could you possibly imagine what it would be like to use 100% of your brain capacity anywhere other than in the opulent surrounds of the Astor?

5703_TPT_00043R_720For festival lovers who missed it earlier this year there’s the Swedish/Croatian screen adaptation of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, screening Sunday October 12th. AND, we are definitely screening the comic book adaptation that has become a recent hit sensation, Guardians of the Galaxy, set for Thursday September 11th – that’s soon!

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-second-movie-trailerThat’s a lot of great cinema coming to our SuperScreen and we haven’t even started telling you about the incredible rep content we have in store! Keep an eye on our social media this week as we slowly unveil some of the brilliant things our next calendar is truly bursting with. It’s going to be another three months of stupendous good fun so grab your diary and start making some serious time for the Astor experience.

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

Edge of Tomorrow

The Astor calendar has, over more than thirty years, become a staple fixture on fridges and toilet doors across Melbourne. In fact, it’s so iconic that we even get requests to send the calendar to the odd ex-pat overseas! There’s something comforting about seeing it taped up on a wall, or stuck to the door you’re about to open each time you eat or make tea. One hitch that comes with quarterly programming, however, is changes to release dates. Occasionally distributors will move the release date of a given title and, as in this instance, that release date will be after our previously confirmed screening date.

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As a rep theatre, we don’t run new release titles on their first run. We usually screen ‘new’ titles 5-8 weeks out from their theatrical release, which is called second run. And so you have it as we do with Thursday night’s calendar listed double bill of Earth to Echo and Edge of Tomorrow. The release date for Earth to Echo has been delayed (for reasons we don’t know so please don’t ask!) which means that we had to pull the title from our double bill. We looked at the options for replacing the film with another recent release title (from the same distributor, as all double bills must come from the same distributor) and, in this instance, didn’t find a substitute that we felt would work too well with Edge of Tomorrow.

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Which brings me to the point of this here blog post: Thursday August 7th will now be a single session screening of Edge of Tomorrow. From what we hear (we still haven’t quite caught up with the film ourselves) there’s plenty to keep you occupied in this bombastic blockbuster as Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt go through a futuristic type of groundhog day at war. With a finger on the reset button, we’re sure there’ll be more than enough Tom Cruise for everyone!

Edge of Tomorrow screens Thursday August 7th at 7.30pm.

Your year long film festival is always here, at the Astor

Victoria has been dubbed (via number plates) “the garden state”, “on the move” and “the place to be”. The state as a whole is a pretty big place (larger than the entire UK if we’re talking physical land mass) and it’s difficult when you work in Melbourne and dwell only around its suburban fringes to know just how garden like, moving and ‘to be’ it really is elsewhere. That said, when I think specifically about Melbourne, one of the things that springs to mind is how very many festivals the city plays host to.

Speaking specifically about film, over the years, the Astor has housed far more than a handful of brilliant festivals including; MIFF, St Kilda, MIM (Made in Melbourne), Manhattan Short, Australia’s Silent, Yew TV, NZ Short, and many others. It’s always a pleasure to host the buzz that comes along with a designated event – but then, that’s no surprise seeing as it’s also what we do all year round!

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The Astor is known for many things – from its grand foyers, golden curtains and famous Choc-Ices to the unique style of programming we do, keeping cult and classic cinema alive with many a double bill on our awesome, toilet-door/refrigerator-adorning quarterly calendars – and it’s the unique style of diverse programming from recent releases to repertory titles that we pride ourselves upon most of all. The programming – which proprietor George Florence has crafted since 1982 (!) – offers a year long film festival with all manner of different strands for Melbourne cinephiles and movie-goers to enjoy.

We’re currently putting together the next one and we can already tell you that it’s a cracker! There’ll be so much to announce in the coming weeks (keep an eye on our social media for updates and announcements) but something we can tell you right now is that we are truly Melbourne’s (and Australia’s) home to the grand film print format known as 70mm.

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It’s incredibly rare to have the opportunity to see some of the brilliant things we regularly show, like Baraka (1992), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Vertigo (1958), Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982), Aliens (1986), Hamlet (1996), The Master (2012) and, in the past, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Titanic (1997), Ben Hur (2003) and a number of blow-ups like Gremlins 2 (1990), The Mission (1986), The Right Stuff (1983) and The Last Starfighter (1984).

Now, not all of these films are available for us to screen – y’all know the Titanic story because we posted it about a week ago, and if you’ve been attending the theatre or following up online updates for a while you’ll also know what happened to Lawrence (short version: we loaned it to a film festival in Korea and they burnt Korean subtitles into the print) – but what we can still screen, you can bet we will. We’re always working on bringing you the very best year-long film festival in an environment abuzz with grandeur and great atmosphere!

Written by Tara Judah for the Astor Theatre.

Cinema Fiasco Presents… HERCULES!

Fresh from its triumphal tour of Tasmania, Cinema Fiasco returns to the Astor this Friday, July 25 at 8pm, for a presentation of the 1983 version of Hercules starring Lou Ferrigno.

Clearly the Hercules getting all the press right now is the soon-to-be-released version starring The Rock and, even though I haven’t seen that one yet, I can tell you categorically right now that Lou’s version is the one to see.

Hercules

Why? Well, first of all, Lou’s version doesn’t have a lot of expensive, fake-looking CGI. You want to create a startlingly realistic bear fight? Stick a stuntman in a bear suit, cut in some stock footage of a grumpy grizzly and there’s the job done and at half the price.

Secondly The Rock is too good an actor to play Hercules. Hercules doesn’t have to act. He just has to lift up heavy things and throw them into outer space. And when The Rock speaks you hear his real voice. Hercules is supposed to be dubbed. Lou is. Thank the gods!

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Thirdly, the costumes for the new version were not designed by a drag queen on acid.

Fourthly Lou has a bigger chest than The Rock.

Fifthly Lou’s co-star Sybil Danning has a chest almost as big as his.

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Finally, Friday night’s screening will have commentary by Geoff Wallis and Janet A. McLeod, whose appreciation of bad movie-making is matched only by their need to talk. It will be an epic experience in every sense of the word. Please note that Janet and Geoff will be talking all the way through Hercules. If you want to see it without commentary, please get some professional help.

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Written by  Geoff Wallis 2014

Cinema Fiasco Presents HERCULES screens Friday July 25th at 8pm.