Farewell Marzipan

Thank you. We are overwhelmed by the many expressions of love and condolences and by the wonderful, kind, funny and caring tributes sent in over this past week to honour Melbourne’s most loved feline, Marzipan. Below is a collection of your memories and sentiments, of which we are sure Marzipan would be most pleased and proud to see.

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Painting by Jo Lias

Farewell Ms. Marzipan,
You where always  a dignified and welcoming presence on the couch and strolling  the foyer.
You will be missed by me and I’m sure thousands more. – Philip Byrt

Marzipan represented the whole ‘old friend feel’ of the Astor… My mother went there in the ’40s, I have been going there since the ’70s and my daughter since the ’80s, she remembers Marzipan when she was a little girl of 4 in the ’90s as she got a fright when Marzipan brushed up against her in the dark, which soon became total delight that they let a cat in!! – Jewd

While alive she met more people than the Prime Minister ever will and was better liked. – Graeme and Lucile

Dear Marzipan, you have been the resident cat at the Astor Theatre for many years and today we lost you to heaven…the Astor Theatre will always be your home so thank you for sharing your love and your home with us all over the last 21 years….you will be forever missed and your, grace and presence will be forever remembered by those who got to meet you …your spirit will live on..Rest in Peace Marzipan – Love Nicole, Michael, Bailey and Harvey xxxx

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Photo by Alex Fraser

The long life that she enjoyed inside the historic Astor Theatre is testimony to the extreme love and care demonstrated by yourself and the cinema staff.  Her life was most enviable even to humans. She will be missed for so long as she is remembered. – Mark Vanselow

Rest in peace Marzipan. You will always be the true lady of the theatre. May your memory live on in all of us that witnessed your extraordinary ‘mad cat dash’ through the cinema. We will forever miss your strategically placed couch presence and, on occasion, a snuggle before the show.  You will be missed. – Lou & Mick XOXOX

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Photo by Gail Greatorex

Goodbye Ms Marzipan, it has been a pleasure. Frolic happily in catty heaven. My Max is up there & he will show you the ropes xx – Rina Chia

Dear Little Marzipan, A beautiful gentle little cat that was one of the joys of visiting the Astor. How very sad it will be that you are not there to let us greet you. Marzipan, you will always be in our memory – Jill Cook

Marzipan was a great comfort to me in the weeks after my beloved pet’s death.
I am not a natural cat person, due to being allergic, so I never went out of my way to get her attention. But just week’s after my bereavement she came and sat on my lap during The Master, and stayed for the entire film. Like Marzipan, my dog didn’t cope well with the heat. My heart goes out to her, and all her human friends. – Louise Maskell

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Photo by Dinja

So sorry to hear Marzipan’s left us. What a great and long life she had – how many cats get to have a cinema as their home ?  She will be sadly missed. – B.Stevens

Dear Astor Theatre, Our condolences at the passing of Mazipan. She was such a delightful hostess, always greeting us while we were waiting in the foyer. I’m sure she is now happily greeting eternal movie goers in the great art deco foyer in the sky.
She will be sorely missed. – Anita Sloss and family

Many years ago, I was watching a film whose title I have long forgotten. What I do remember is that Al Stewart’s song “Year of the Cat” was playing before the movie. As if on cue, Marzipan strolled across the stage … – Mike Krochmal

You brought joy to many people, and were a constant companion as you moved around from couch to couch, looking for a warm spot or another friend. You did have a sneaky side jumping up on people at the scary parts of movies. – Jason Grasso

To Marzipan, thank you for the love and warmth you showed on each of my visits to the Astor.  Although there were long gaps when we did not meet you were always welcoming and happy to share your space and your time and it takes a special being to rule at such a place.  Queen of the Astor, you will always have a space in my heart.  – Caroline Waters

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Photo by Dinja

What a lovely and lucky cat to have such a special home and have so many care for her. – Sally Jandric

I have had four cats in my life, I count Marzipan as number five.  it was always a pleasure to see her mooching about and it was always an honour to have her sit on my lap for a few minutes.  I remember in the past year during a screening of Iron Man, she jumped up on the bannister in front of the screen and created a cat shaped silhouette during a battle scene. The audience simultaneously went ‘awww Marzipan so cute’.  Thank you to the staff of the Astor for looking after Marzipan over her 21 years. – Laura Devenish.

She was a gracious, beautiful feline and I remember vivdly; her jumping onto the couch to sit next to my 85-year-old dad to be patted and cooed to! I think they were both purring that evening. You will be missed Marzipan. – Elly Levis

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Photo by Aidan and Shami

Marzipan has been such an important part of mine and my partner’s cinema going experience at the Astor over the past 20 years. I will never forget the time when Marzipan leapt up onto my lap during a screening of Giant. She stayed there for the first half of the film and sweetly purred her way through it.  I am normally allergic to cats but for some reason I never had an allergic reaction to Marzipan. I think this says something. Goodbye sweet lady. You will be sorely missed and fondly remembered for years to come. – Stuart and Steven

Live in Nashville now but use to love going to the Astor and spending time with Marzipan in the foyer before a film. She was so friendly and definitely a little celebrity. Remember the last time I saw her after leaving the theatre curled up sleeping on a chair. Will always associate her with the Astor Theatre. Sad to hear of her passing. – Leon Wilks

My friends and I are very sad to hear of the passing of our favourite cinema cat, Marzipan. Every time we went to see a movie at the Astor we always looked forward to seeing and patting Marzipan. We hope she is in a better place now. – Karen

So very sad to hear of the passing of our much loved Marzipan, I will forever remember her habit of jumping on people’s laps at the most scary part of a movie – hearing the squeaks from an audience member followed by a relieved whisper “it was only Marzipan”.  Such a privilege when she chose you to grace with her presence on your lap. Thank you for sharing her with us all. Vale Marzipan.  – Michelle Hendrie

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Photo by Katherine Potter

Marzipan’s residency at the Astor always lifted my spirits, and even more so if I managed to catch sight of her as she strolled through her home.
Will miss her  greatly. – Margaret Byron

What a beautiful animal and loved by so many. I can remember my surprise and my joy the first time I saw her in the Astor lobby (a few years ago). Cat lovers ourselves, it was lovely to be able to bond with her whenever we were at the movies and we always made a point of seeking her out when we came to Astor (and a few times even coming in as we were passing, just to see her). May she rest in peace. – Ross S

Only having arrived in Melbourne ten years ago, I remember first meeting Marzipan at a screening of Lord of the rings.  As the fireworks were going off at Bibos party, she sat on my lap and let me pet her.  A Lovely moment having a cat in a lovely old cinema.  Which was rather short lived as she hissed at me when it was time to stop petting.  I then learned that moving my legs or body was not allowed and I had to remain where I was, for the next two and a half hours!  It was cold and she was warm.  I will miss her, cantankerous or not. So long. – Dean.

So much sorrow over the loss of this beloved aspect of the Astor, though made more bearable by the especially long life she achieved. Well done, Marzipan. – Pat Grainger

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Photo by Andrew Baylis

You made an already unique and incredible place that much more special, it’s going to feel so strange not playing “Find Marzipan” during intermission now. – Nick Zam

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Photo by Melanie McClure

 I have been coming to the Astor for so many years and always looked out for Marzipan because she would never run away and loved the attention. I had brought one of my friends to the Astor for a night of choc tops and flicks when she saw Marzipan. I told her that sometimes Marzipan would come into the movie and sit on people’s knees. She did not believe me until it happened to her one night. She sent me a picture of Marzipan on her knee and a message saying that at intermission she wanted to get up but Marzipan would not let her move. She may not have had a choc top that night but it’s a memory she will always have. RIP Marzipan. – Cheryl Morgan

What can I say that thousands of others haven’t already said? This truly is terribly sad news and Marzipan will be sorely missed. I always made a point of finding her after the screening to give her a quick scratch before heading home. Maybe we as FOTA members can arrange for a life-sized statue to be commissioned one day … – Chris Hiscock

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Photo by Fiona Davis

I first saw Marzipan years ago on the sofa in the foyer – I dutifully informed the box office that a cat had wandered in – and was amazed and delighted to learn she lived there. Going to the Astor  meant playing “Where’s Marzipan?” and she was always there at double bills, retrospectives, film festivals and special screenings. Hope that Marzipan enjoys her new view from (film) star studded, choc-ice heaven. – Melinda O’Connor

I first came across Marzipan by accident when walking along the footpath outside the Astor Theatre a year or so ago, whereby I & a couple of other people who where also walking past thought that she was a lost kitty or perhaps a stray, in which case we both entered the building to see if anyone knew about this tortoiseshell cat wandering outside near a very busy street only to find  that she happened to reside in the theatre, a long term resident. There were one or two accassions since that day that i had the chance to pat Marzipan as she was walking past or was sleeping on a chair in the hallway upstairs, such a novel and welcome experience added immeasurably to what is more than just a heritage listed building but is also an institution and a santuary which we could do with more of in today’s world. Sometimes the unexpected things in life can leave the greatest mark on us all, both far and wide. Pets can have the most profound effect on our lives and we are all the richer for it. I hope as Marzipan has left us that she perhaps is looking down on us on a comfy couch next to the great director upstairs as kitty cats should; and we as mere humans are touched by her existance. – Glenn

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Photo by Claire Davie

My favourite memory of Marzipan was from a visit to the Astor a couple of years ago to see Alien. I was sitting in an aisle seat in the dress circle. As the tension mounted on-screen, Marzipan appeared, walking down the aisle, and sat on a step alongside a seat on the opposite side from me. She proceeded to watch the movie for a few minutes (which she appeared to be quite enjoying) and just at a key moment of suspense when the music reached a crescendo and the alien suddenly appeared, she leapt up, straight into the lap of the poor guy in the seat alongside her! He hadn’t seen her sitting there and got a fright which meant he nearly had to be peeled off the Astor ceiling. There were numerous giggles and muffled laughs from those of us sitting nearby who had seen what had happened. I swear she did this on purpose, as her timing was perfect. She was the best ever cinema cat and will be sorely missed. – Greg Burns

Marzipan was my little friend who used to keep me company when I waited for the tram out the front of the Astor Theatre. – Lee-Anne

The Beloved Ms Marzipan. Out of all the Theatres in Melbourne, you had to walk in The Astor! There was something different about this cat, she was casual and very cool, and when she walked into the theatre she owned it, so she made it her own.
When I saw you for the first time many years ago, I was drawn to you straight away. You will be in my heart forever, and the Astor cinematic experience will never be the same without you. Here is a final Le Reow- Reow  to you my darling Marzipan.  – Desi Glaros

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Photo by Claire Davie

Marzipan was always a highlight of any visit to the Astor Theatre, whether she was watching impassively from the aisle as Jonesy the cat and Ripley almost got chomped by the Alien in Alien, or cuddling up to patrons in the foyer in the wee hours during intermission of a midnight screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I’ll always associate her most closely with Hitchcock: my first visit to the Astor Theatre as a cinema-obsessed teenager was to the Early Hitchcock Festival the Astor held in the mid nineties, and it was during a screening of The Birds seventeen years ago that Marzipan first deigned to sit on my lap. She also once gave the whole cinema a fright during the tension-filled climax of Rear Window when Raymond Burr is closing in on Jimmy Stewart, by nimbly running the length of the theatre’s front banister. So it seems somehow fitting that the last time I saw Marzipan was two weeks ago at a screening of that beautifully restored North by Northwest. I’m so glad I was able to pay my respects in person one final time. She will be dearly missed. – Claire Davie

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Photo by Danielle Howe

I always sought out Marzipan for a pat in the foyer and noticed the frizzle of excitment through the crowd when she would be in the cinema with us. Often looking for a lap. We were honoured with her attention twice. I had her on my lap both times – briefly – while she sought the bigger warmer lap of my husband Colin. There she snuggled up til just before the end of the film. It was like she knew when the film was over and headed out to the foyer. She was usually to be found upstairs before the film and downstairs afterwards, perched on the counter or the couch, seeing us all off. As if she was saying ‘Thanks for visiting, see you next time’. Colin suggested that it might also be, ‘Get out of my house you lot so I can have my din dins!’ But I prefer the former. – Lisa Flaherty

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Photo by Michael Graves

I loved it when I met marzipan on my first visit to the Astor. I came to see Metropolis on the big screen and I was also realy wanted to meet the famous cat that lived there. After a while of searching around (before the film) I eventualy found her and went to say hello (not aware she was deaf) I was a little starstruck but was very happy to finaly meet her. I gave her a little pat, she seemed quite happy and didn’t mind. I got a couple of photos and went to watch Metropolis a very happy person. When I came out I could not find her, oh well, my short time with her was short and sweet. I will cherish it for a long time to come. When she accepted my friend request on Facebook I was over the moon. I loved to visit her page (and still do) we even had a little conversation (not via chat, on her time line) and it was so lovely. – Meran Covolo

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Photo by Flynn Francis.
[Ed's note - Marzi loved the camera but gee she didn't like being picked up!]

Growing up so far away from the city, it was not easy to get to The Astor Theatre, but my friends and I managed it anyway. Films were far from ubiquitous, and the Astor was out best way to see them properly, so we would make the journey often on weekends and sometimes on school nights. We were enamoured by the cat that would be so casually sprawled across the couches, and one day dared to ask one of the staff what its name was. “Marzipan,” we were told. This was years before Facebook, and The Astor felt like our own special secret; knowing Marzipan’s name felt like a secret within that secret. From that point on, “I’m off to visit Marzipan” became code for an Astor visit, and we would see her nearly every time. We had the scratches to prove it. Thankfully — to me, anyway — she mellowed with age, and eventually expressed the fact that patting time was over by walking away instead of physical violence. My favourite memory of her was when I watched Antonioni’s Blow Up for the first time. I was completely gripped, and as the film reached its denouement in those tense final minutes, Marzipan chose to leap up onto my lap. It was the scariest, funniest, and most cinematically-enhancing thing I’d ever experienced. William Castle couldn’t have orchestrated it. Farewell, Mazipan. You will definitely be missed and remembered. – Lee Zachariah

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Photo by Jay Rottem

My last, lovely memory of Marzipan is of her selecting us to sit with during a screening of Lawrence of Arabia last year. She was truly the heart and soul of the Astor, and will live on at every screening and in all our treasured memories. – Lisa Smith

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Photo by Cam Grace

Many years ago both my daughters were attending Presentation College, Windsor. One afternoon they came home (Toorak) with a sad young cat, lost and wandering around Dandenong Road. We already had two pet cats, one three legged dog and several mice (caged)…and another mouth to feed would have been just another mouth to feed, and be loved and cared for,  we could never turn a lost animal away. I’m not sure of the details of how Marzipan came to be rescued by her rightful owner, who arrived distraught and
teary, and so grateful…and who promptly handed out many freebie tickets to the Astor. We went several times, and there she was, usually lounging around on the stairs and carpet, totally in charge of the scene. Your devotion to Marzipan is legendary, as is the puss herself.  There are not enough people left in this world who care as much as you. So vale Marzipan, hope the movies in feline heaven are as good as the Astor. – Paulette Calhoun

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Photo by Greg Strahan

Ms Marzipan, we first met when you and I were just young little
things. You welcomed us each night out with haughty grace, allowing us
into ‘your’ theatre, gave us champagne, interrupted our view of the
screen with your silhouette, and even sat on my lap once (2001: A Space
Odyssey, I’m sure you’ll remember!) Though I haven’t seen you for
many years, I’ve told your story many times, you beautiful little soul
xx – Sam Hicks

So sad to hear about Marzipan. She was a much loved part of the Astor and part of its special quality. Will be remembered fondly as a the greatest film buff cat ever. – Helen Laffin

Marzipan provided a truly unique movie going experience.  We will all miss her greatly – I’m sure there’ll never be another quite like her. – Katherine Fox

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Photo by Steven Sheeran

I’m almost thirty, and Marzipan seems to have been around almost as long as I’ve been going to the movies. I remember my parents telling me about her as a kid, and just like for everyone else, getting to see Marzipan was always a highlight of going to the Astor. One of my favourite memories of her is from a couple of years ago. I was running late for the movie, and shortly before leaving home I discovered that one of my cats had peed on my shoes. I thought I’d cleaned them thoroughly, but then half way through the film, Marzipan came over and started sniffing the tip of my shoe. She seemed to be thinking, “Who is *this*?” There is something so civilised about a cinema taking good care of a kitty. And by extension, the cinema as public meeting place involving the general public taking good care of the kitty, too. I’m so happy that Marzipan got to live a full and long life with lots of people to love her, and can only wish the same for my own cats. – Andrew Serong.

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Photo by John Raptis

One of my friends said he missed all the trains and trams home one night and had to walk back to Brunswick due to patting you too long. – Tim Chmielewski

Marzipan – you have been part of our social world but more importantly part of our hearts for many, many wonderful years. I recall with joy regularly the time you honoured me by plonking on my lap and sleeping through the evening. I am sure everyone who has visited the Astor will miss you dearly. Most fond memories!!! – Jon

I am so sad that Marzipan is no longer with us in the physical sense. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that such a tiny, beautiful creature had the power to bring so much joy to hundreds of people in 21 years, which is more than more most humans are able to do in a life time. She will live for ever in our hearts and minds. – Julianne

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Photo by Tammy Davis

I went to high school at PCW across the road and I’d get the tram home from the stop outside the Astor. Marzipan would hang out with me on the steps waiting for the tram and kept me company. She was never shy, would always sit with me and let me say hello.  Whenever I wanted someone to come to the Astor for the first time, I always told them about the choc tops and Marzipan. – Andi Pullar

Marzi was an icon and loved seeing her about the Astor going there and walking past. – Sarah

With tears welling in my eyes, I am honoured to have had the chance to have met her and had a pat or two on many occasions.Definitely the most loved cat in Melbourne. Always in our hesrts to be. – Steve

What an extraordinary life Marzipan lead. We so enjoyed her presence at the marvellous Astor theatre. We always had anticipation of seeing Marzipan and, on arrival, would look around hopefully. It was a lovely thought to know she was there somewhere. The Astor was her home and she
inhabited it with great style. Loved the photo of her on that gorgeous carpet. – Pam & Dinny

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Photo by Emily Goyder

Marzipan was the funniest cat, always appearing out of nowhere.  One minute you were sitting alone and the next minute she was at your feet or sitting next to you DEMANDING attention.  But she had to come to you………..there was never any hope of anyone but her making the first move.  You also had to keep a sharp eye out for her. I nearly sat on her once when at the last second she decided my chosen seat was for her and not me! – Robyn Carmichael

My treasured memory is from many years back when my house was being renovated, and I was between jobs so came to the St.Kilda Film Festival and sat there for two weeks in the magic of the theatre itself and the event…..And then….out of the darkness, a cat came and sat on my knee. I thought I may be dreaming, as this may have been my introduction to Marzipan. I felt utterly blessed and blissed and have never forgotten it. – Lyn Biner

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Photo by Jane Ormond

My favourite memory of Marzipan is that at key moments in a screening, usually when the hero was at the final point of life or death confrontation, the audience was hushed and completely still – no rattle of cellophane, no peep of mobiles, not a breath of movement – Marzipan would delicately begin her transit across the balcony rail.  Leisurely, measured, a casual cat saunter that inevitably drew every eye.  She would pause at mid-point, sit, maybe groom a little in an elegant way, and then resume. Forget the hero! We have Marzipan! A little murmur would run through the audience,  she’d be satisfied and exit. A blockbuster Hollywood epic, elegantly upstaged. Beautiful. Thank you for having her at Astor, and sharing her with us all.  A cat with the personality of a diva, and the heart of a lion.  – Kathleen Lloyd

One of the finest art deco buildings in Melbourne is the Astor Theatre, which has really picked a great niche for film goers, appealing to fans of cult and arthouse as well as classics. A feature of the cinema has been a calico cat, Marzipan, originally a stray who has lived at the cinema for some twenty-one years, or so the story goes. Naturally enough Marzipan was much loved by the cinema visitors, including myself, taking every opportunity to visit her (I once sneaked into the ladies powder room just for a chance to say ‘hello’).

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Arguably, the reaction is irrational. After all,
Marzipan neither knows nor cares of the response. But funerals are for the
living, and Marzipan did know that there was an enormous quantity of people who would visit her and would quietly watch flickering lights on a screen. Her death has brought that community gather in mutual recognition that she was a valued member.

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Photo by Nicolee

So it is not flowers that I shall send to the Astor, nor even a card. Rather, I shall provide something that she would have not even been aware of. It is through the anonymous and forgotten animals, far from the pampering of the developed world that I shall express my sadness and
solidarity; the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Please donate generously, in remembrance of Marzipan Astor cat. – Lev Lafayette [Ed's note - what a lovely idea Lev, thank you]

I went to see Blues Brothers a few years ago. It was a full house. Half way though the film Marzipan walked across all the patrons and came and sat on my lap. We watched the half the film together. Marzipan as a beautiful cat with a lovely demeanor. The Astor was hers – Adam Krongold

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Photo by Josie F

My favourite and earliest memories of Marzipan are of her cheering me up on her little blue towel in the Laundromat next door.  I sometimes would have to wait at night for the 78 tram north in the freezing winter and she would cycle through all the major night-time cat activities: spacing out, sleeping, yawning, stretching and peering in my direction through the back of the chair. It warmed me up and made the wait enjoyable. I looked forward to waiting as I knew she’d be there. – Kalene Caffarella

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Photo by Richard Squires

In my life I have known of only two cinemas that had a cat. One was the Scala in Kings Cross back in the ’80s in London. The other the Astor in Melbourne. Both cinemas had excellent calendars that ended up on toilet walls as both had a fabulous eclectic range of movies on offer.

Marzipan was always a friendly character whose presence just made the place seem that much removed from the ugly impersonal multiplexes that blight our world today. Of course if you were lucky enough as I was to have a bit of lap action there was nothing finer. Even the unexpected leap onto your lap mid movie was never an annoyance, much more a bonus.

She will be missed, except when jumping on you mid horror movie! – Richard Squires

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Photo by Michelle Valenti

And God asked Marzipan are you ready to come home?

Oh, yes, quite so, replied the precious soul. And, as a cat, I am most able To decide anything for myself

Are you coming then? asked God. Soon, replied the whiskered angel but I must come slowly, for my human friends are troubled.

For you see, they need me, quite certainly. But don’t they understand? asked God That you’ll never leave them? That your souls are intertwined for all eternity? That nothing is created or destroyed? It just is … forever and ever and ever.

Eventually they will understand, Replied glorious Marzpain. For I will whisper into their hearts that I am always with them I just am … forever and ever and ever. – Jim and Jenny

I have too many memories of Marzipan to list, but one I do fondly remember is the afternoon that 2001: A Space Odyssey star Keir Dullea and Marzipan got into a wonderfully heated discussion between each other, Keir talking to her in her own tongue/language, and Marzipan continuously responding with vigor, determination and pure delight in telling Keir a number of things in her own way, and under no uncertain terms as to who was boss.
But too many times I simply remember sitting with her, just the two of us, in a chair or on the steps, having a chat or caressing her as she slept …. they are some of the nicest and most beautiful memories I will never forget.

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Photo by Rhonda Cashmore

I am sure she has gone to a lovely, comfortable place in cat heaven.  Our family always used to look for Marzipan on our many trips to the Astor and give her a friendly tickle under the chin. – Jenny Rudd

On my first visit to the Astor I did not know what to expect, especially on meeting Marzipan. I didnt even realise she belonged there. I was sitting on the couch and she slowly crept up and jumped up next to me. Did I mention that I’m afraid of cats? When she started to walk across my lap I freaked out. Luckily one of the wonderful staff members was near and he took her to
the other side of the foyer. Still, I am glad to have met her. She will be missed – Melanie

I always enjoyed seeing her smoozing the cinema crowd at interval. – Susan Bray

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Photo by Daniel Higgins

I work in Wellington Street so whenever a new calender is announced I walk down to grab one during my lunch break. It was always a joy to see her sleeping in the laundromat on her favourite chair while customers went about their business. She was such a loved part of the community and area and will be deeply missed. How many other cinemas could you be greeted on the steps by a movie-loving cat? – Daniel Higgins

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Photo by Martyn Pedler

I arrived at the Astor a few hours before Paul Thomas Anderson, and decided talking to Marzipan was the best way to mask my growing terror. After the requisite patting, she looked me up and down and seemed to think: You’ll be decent furniture, human.

Marzipan didn’t understand that I was wearing a suit (a cheap suit, sure, but a freshly dry-cleaned one) and would soon be hosting the PTA evening in front of well over a thousand fans. “I have to look classy!” I told her. “You can sit on me any other time you want!” If a cat could hmph, that’s what she did – before moving to the middle of the freshly unrolled red carpet.

 Later that night, as I checked my notes for the hundredth time and watched the enormous crowd, I looked down to see Marzipan sitting at my feet. I took her presence to mean something like this: You’re terrible furniture, human, but I’ve got your back. - Martyn Pedler

Ms Marzipan

She was so friendly when we filmed at the Astor Theatre in 2012 and we managed to take a great pic of her thanks to Peter Jensen Photography. – Britta Drevermann

Thank you for the beautiful farewell picture of Marzipan, a truly classy lady of the cinema. I sincerely hope that her spirit will live on in another cat. – Lori Whitelaw

I remember the first time I saw marzipan.. I was feeling very low and here was a confident, happy cat strutting her stuff along chapel street.. fantastic!! She made me smile.. – Natalia Serafini

Farewell Marzipan, you will be missed.
Sometimes, I turned up to the Theatre and you were readily spotable, occasionally pattable, sometimes awake – but often not. Always around.

Sometimes I turned up and you were not around and like many others, I inquired abut your health and where you were only to be told you were with X or in such and such a room. Instantly felt better knowing you were there.

I will miss you on my next visit and I will have an Ice Cream in your memory and sit on the lounge you used to sit on.

RIP Marzipan. If the Cinema Pioneers had a pet section for membership, I would sign your forms in a heartbeat. – Derek Screen

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Photo by Jack Teiwes

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Photo by Susan Carden

About five years ago I temporarily moved to Melbourne to make a start on my PhD. Having no family and few friends in the city I was naturally a bit lonely. The one upside of these digs, however, was that I lived only a short walk from the Astor, that wondrous dream-palace which I’d discovered years before and always made sure to attend at least once whenever I was visiting the city.

So during this isolated period of study, I found myself going to the Astor constantly — in part out of a desire to not be in that shared flat of an evening, but overwhelmingly due to a sheer love of the place and the great movies it gave me the opportunity to see the way they were intended. I had the luxury of finally seeing many classic films like Doctor Zhivago, Scarface, and Gone With the Wind not just for the first time, but in the best way possible, on that huge screen in that classic deco environment.

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IMAG0596Photo by Daniel Diaz
[Ed's note - this is very naughty as Marzipan was on a very strict diet, but it does explain her occasionally being sick in the foyer...] 

Having become a regular, I noticed that there was someone else who seemed to be there all the time. A cat. At first I thought it was a rather bold stray or adventurous neighbour, but quickly came to realise that it was actually a resident, and eventually asked the staff about it. It was a she, and her name was Marzipan. She was pretty old even then, but she was a sweet little puss who never seemed too fussed by anything. She made herself at home on those corrugated green couches or could be found peering with muted curiosity down the grand stairwell at the patrons flittering hither and thither. More often than not, though, she seemed to be sleeping.

Sometimes I arrived early or lingered late when it wasn’t too crowded, and just once or twice she actually came up to me, which was rather lovely, being separated as i was from my pets in Sydney. The thing is, I’ve never been a cat person, being from more of a dog-centric family, as well as being a bit allergic, as it turned out. So while I tended to be sparing in attempting to pat, much less snuggle this venerable moggy of the movie-house, I did always try to seek her out and bid her a warm hello whenever I arrived or left, if I could find her. She was, as they say, a fixture, and as I came to love the Astor as my home-away-from-home in Melbourne, so too did I come to have a special place in my heart for dear old Marzipan.

Although I’ve visited Melbourne only a few times since I moved back to Sydney, I’ve not been down for a couple of years now, and so a while back I was delighted to discover from following the Astor that Marzipan had her own Facebook page, and I have been delighted to follow her exploits from afar. It saddens me that I’ll never get to see her again, but I’m glad to have felt that I was able to keep tabs on her during her final years, even if only online. – Jack Teiwes

Going to see Richard Attenborough’s 1977 war film A Bridge Too Far. The final shot is a wide panorama of a phalanx of war refugees, slowly moving from screen right to screen left, and silhouetted against the setting of a massive orange sun. AT PRECISELY THE MOMENT the last of the refugees reaches the centre of the screen, Marzipan decides to walk -in the same direction and at the same pace- along the balustrade at the front of the dress circle. The effect is of a silhouetted, giant cat stalking the refugees. Needless to say, it brought the house down. – Michael Graves

She had jumped on our lap just after the start of Lawrence of Arabia. We had just friended her that evening on Facebook, so she must have known!  – Simon Huggard, Lisa Smith, Kahlie and Lauren in Moorabbin.

Too many to mention…

As New Year’s Eve approaches and we prepare ourselves for the most raucous night of the year – yep, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, now in 2K with 5.1 Surround Sound for an even more boisterous and blisteringly good time – we thought we’d take a look back over the year and some its highlights. In order to make sure this isn’t just one person’s subjective view of the year, we’ve pulled together a varied list of highlights as enthusiastically told by some of the Astor’s staff and regular E-news contributors. We welcome your input and would love to hear what your own personal Astor highlight was this year so please do let us know in the comments section below!

From our New York arm of the Astor (yes it’s true we do have an ex-pat devotee who tirelessly puts together our E-news and designs all our artwork all the way from NYC), Andy cites the arrival of our Barco 32B 4K digital projection plant and the re-release of Taxi Driver in 4K, “I’d say Taxi Driver – the debut of the new 4K projection system, further cementing the Astor as the home of the finest movie presentation in Australia.” And we have consensus from the Bio Box where Kaz says, “My favourite was the 4K re-release of Taxi Driver because it’s such a great film and seeing at that quality was amazing!” and resident ticket seller Tara agrees too, “Hearing Bernard Herrmann’s score – previously only ever in mono – in 5.1 surround sound was the most wonderful experience I’ve had all year.” Doesn’t hurt that the film itself is brilliant too.

But as we soon learned, even 2K looks amazing on our Barco 4K and so whilst TD didn’t take out number one spot for everyone, it did often get a honourable mention. From our new web designer (and we really do have to say an enormous thanks here too to Tyson who helped us put together a wonderful new website that far outshines the old one – in fact, I’d probably cite our new website as another of my greatest Astor highlights this year!), “I think my favourite was the Ghostbusters re-release, but the Taxi Driver in 4K was pretty awesome too!”

But amidst all the love for our new digital awesomeness it’s also true that we are still the home of film – both 35mm and 70mm. From the FOH Jake found a classic highlight in the charms and wit of Billy Wilder, “Some Like it Hot + The Apartment. Hadn’t seen them before; masterpieces!” And equally loved are the big screen staples we show regularly – both due to demand and also, in some instances, to ensure the prints won’t be thrown away. Regular E-news contributor Dave knows that the only way to see these films is as intended, “any screening of Apocalypse Now, Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz is something special. Three films that are best seen on the big screen.”

2011 also saw a few marathon screenings with the complete Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 & Pt 2 screened as a double bill and there were three popular trilogies; all three Back to the Future films which screened in an epic afternoon to evening event to help raise money for Parkinson’s Victoria (plus we actually had the DeLorean at the theatre!), Halloween was another special trilogy event with Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead screening to an audience who had just seen a Zombie playing a mandolin in the candy bar foyer(!), and of course, even though the extended versions were too long to run on this occasion (we will screen them at some time in the future), there was The Lord of the Rings. FOH Shift Supervisor Les sites the latter as his highlight, “For me the Lord of the Rings marathon in July. I really was surprised by the eclectic audience that attended that day and it would be amazing to put together something similar for the forthcoming movie of the hobbit in 2012.” Indeed it would be and I don’t doubt we will!

Something we pride ourselves on at the Astor is a unique and varied style of programming that caters to a wide ranging audience. Certainly we know not everything will be to everyone’s tastes, but another joy of the arrival of our digital projector has been the much wider range of films available to us to present to you. With so many films no longer available on actual film (there are various reasons for this and they range from the only print in the world being available at a cost we can’t – with no government funding – cover, to the prints themselves having been – in my own opinion foolishly – thrown to the tip; this is called “junked”), digital has meant we were finally able to screen a hoard of films that wouldn’t otherwise have found their way to the big screen this past year, including Dario Argento’s Suspiria, John Waters’ Cry-Baby, Tarsem Singh’s The Fall, the Cairo Club presented special screening of Key Largo and E-news contributor Ben‘s favourite Metropolis. Some of these films may not have got an individual staff mention but we know from our audiences that there was some genuine love for these screenings in 2011.

We managed to fit in a fair few horror sessions on our most recent calendar and writer/FOTA member/Astor and horror film enthusiast Ben (we have a few of them!) cites the Fulci experience as his best, “In a year the gave us a legion of masterful resurrections it was a much loved and worn print of the legendary video nasty, Zombie (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters), that will sit amongst my most cherished moments. It was my 1st Italian horror film on the big screen. Nothing could prepare me for the towering joy of zombie versus shark, or the destruction of a glistening  eyeball by a monument of a splinter. Projected from a different era, I could almost smell the dust of the dead, & watching it with Fulci virgins & devotees alike as we all gasped & laughed in eager appreciation, it was a night I shall never forget.”

But with so much and so varied a program there is also sometimes the issue of being decisive and certainly it’s true that at least two people weren’t able to decide at all. The lovely Lenny whose found her way from FOH to ticket box this year gave us five options, “Very difficult to pin 1 movie / event down….. Here are my favourite 5; 1) Silent Film Festival – Chicago, the Astor is the best place to see silent films – like a journey back in time to the start of cinema. With live music it is such a treat! 2) Hamlet, Simply awe-inspiring! A must see at the Astor with 70 mm print! 3) Cinema Fiasco’s Sheba Baby, Perfectly hilariously groovy!
4) In A Better World, and 5) 13 Assassins, bring on foreign films, both fabulously epic; one emotionally and one violently and morally.” All great picks and of course the writer of this piece has a special spot for Hamlet in 70mm even if I didn’t see it at the Astor this year. Hamlet‘s not only the first film I ever saw at the Astor though, it’s also an example of a film print saved by the Astor’s awesome George Florence. Marked to be junked some years ago, George stepped in, contacted Kenneth Branagh directly and told him what was about to happen to that glorious 70mm film print with six-track magnetic sound. Kenneth was of course appalled and directed the studio to hand over the print to the Astor to continue to screen forever more. So thank film for George or we wouldn’t have the opportunity to include such a magnificent film and film print on this fast becoming lengthy list of bests!

Also indecisive when it comes to selecting just one highlight, E-news and blog contributor, FOTA member and regular supporter of the Astor Mark gave us a great list that is impossible to select just something from. So, and as the person who I suspect has actually attended the most screenings of any of our attendees for 2011, we’re going to list them all: “The Graduate/Lenny. The former has long been a favourite and the latter was a first-timer for me that really blew me away–it was a privilege to witness it in its original format on the big screen. Rollerball/Westworld. Two of my favourite futuristic films, always wonderful to see this ideally matched pair revived at the cinema. Lawrence of Arabia (even in 35mm this was an amazing experience and I kept coming back for more), 2001 (always a stunning experience in 70mm–nowhere else in Australia shows this classic sci-fi movie in this format, it gets better each time I see it), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (one of my favourite Clint Eastwood movies and the extended footage version makes a great film even greater, in fact, all of the Sergio Leone epics, including Once Upon a Time in the West and A Fistful of Dynamite), Das Boot, magnificent in 70mm, a technical marvel, an all together different view of the German military in WW2, Ben-Hur, simply demands to be witnessed on the big screen, Amadeus, semi-fictional period piece deserves praise for sheer amount of detail and care, not to mention its compelling story and the fact that it does not take everything too seriously. Honorable Mentions: Network, one of my favourite movies and one that I feel should be seen by as many people as possible [ed's note - this screened as part of a private hire not a regular screening, for Mark's birthday earlier in the year], The Red Shoes, simply because I am starting to lose count of how many times I have seen this at the Astor and I only first saw it just under three years ago. You just know there are others but I’d be here typing forever otherwise.”

Speaking of private hires – which I mentioned briefly above – we’ve had some wonderful events this year that were “off-calendar” so to speak, including premiere screenings of Face to Face, Twice: The Cam Sinclair Story and Reservoir Cats. And from the Bio Box we also get a favourite non-film event, Alex and Allyson Grey. Also from the Bio Box George cites TD as a highlight and of course 2001: A Space Odyssey (if you didn’t already know, it’s his favourite film and the 70mm print is another one he acquired himself!)

Finally, we have two mentions for the film that screened back in 1982 when George first took over the lease at the Astor Theatre: the original 1933 King Kong. For anyone who missed the wonderful milestone event in April, The Astor celebrated its 75th anniversary with a special screening of this film. Gerard who contributes to our E-news and also wrote the excellent extended review we had available at the event says, “I think it has to be Kong/the 75th celebration for me. As an animation enthusiast, the film has been a wellspring of fascination for me since childhood, yet I’d never seen it projected. The Astor’s grand deco milieu – and the post-film company – ensured the experience was well worth the wait!” Owen in FOH agrees, “My favourite of 2011 was seeing the original King Kong for the Astor’s 75th.”

Well folks, there are so many examples that didn’t quite make the list and of course not every staff member managed to get their picks in in time for this post (a certain cat who shall remain nameless failed to email me in time…) which goes some way to explaining just how awesome this year has been for us. But of course, we want to know what your highlights are too – the whole point of this is to share our experiences and with even more awesome films and events on the way for 2012 we can’t wait to share yet another year of wonderful experiences with you!

Comments collected and arranged by Tara Judah for the Astor Theatre.

TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONE – PLEASE?

So Astor supporters, once again the topic of mobile phones in cinemas comes up and the good folk at the Alamo Drafthouse have a pretty strong zero tolerance stance on the issue. Recently, they kicked a customer out for texting in the theatre and she was so angry about it that she left a rather ranty voicemail on their answering service. Course, clever and funny as those folks at the Drafthouse are, they went ahead and made the following youtube video **PLEASE NOTE THIS VIDEO IS UNCENSORED AND FEATURES STRONG LANGUAGE**:

The video has since found its way all around the internet and even onto the Austin news. 

Watching these videos and reading through some of the user comments, and of course following our recent Astor Film Tweet event, we thought it might be a good idea to open up a discussion on our blog about the use of mobile phones in cinemas and of course the repercussions involved. There are many interesting issues that come out of the Drafthouse event, so here’s a few to start the discussion:

1. Customer awareness and familiarity with the venue and its standards of conduct – or perhaps “rules” in this instance.

From the YouTube video in question, it seems to be that the customer who was asked to leave had not attended a screening at the Drafthouse before and was not at all familiar with the expected and enforced codes of conduct for their patronage. It also seems to be the case that the customer in question had difficulty finding a seat in the auditorium – perhaps again because she was unfamiliar with the theatre, or perhaps there was not an usher on duty to torch her in (we make no assumption that this was not the case, but raise the question based purely on the content of the YouTube clip). This of course is not us endorsing the subsequent use of a mobile phone in an auditorium and we are in no way suggesting the Drafthouse are to blame, but it does raise a strong case for clear signage and easily accessible information publicly displayed for newcomers unfamiliar with the individual rules of a theatre. Whilst many of our own customers are regulars and they know the venue by heart there are always newcomers and it is not surprising or unfair to consider that they might be confused by a cinema that operates independently and therefore differently to the multiplex theatres they likely most often attend. Which brings me to point 2.

2. Multiplex “standards” and the impact of home viewing on contemporary cinema-going conduct.

As Melbourne’s only truly independent film house we are more than aware that many newcomers to the theatre will also be newcomers to the unique experience we offer and, of course, that the experience we do offer is therefore very “different” to what people might experience in a multiplex. Our staff are well versed in these differences and it is not the case that we don’t ever attend multiplexes ourselves, so we do know exactly what many of these differences are. Personally, on a recent visit to another Melbourne cinema I was struck by the difference in “cinema checks” carried out by FOH staff. We don’t wish to vilify other cinemas but certainly it is true that torching standards (the way in which the usher shows a latecomer to their seat) or even attitudes towards disruptive patrons (including the usage of mobile phones), and of course presentation standards including details such as when house lights are turned on at the film’s conclusion (often during the closing credits at a multiplex but never until the film in its entirety has finished at The Astor), are certainly specific to each cinema and its own established code of conduct or FOH procedures. As a result, there are of course a number of differences in appropriate and expected audience behaviour between multiplexes and independent cinemas, and as the venue presenting a specific experience it is ultimately our responsibility to ensure that all of our customers are aware of and understand and respect the specific codes of conduct we have put in place.

It is also true that due to the nature of home viewing – and it ought to be noted that this is a result of many factors but stems for the most part from the increasing immediacy with which films are now “available” for home viewing – approaches and attitudes towards viewing conduct have become largely fragmented. Certainly it is true that in the comfort of one’s own home you can cook, eat, talk, tweet, status update, etc to your heart’s content and the only people affected by these actions are you and the people you no doubt have chosen to share that specific viewing experience and environment with. This is of course at a great remove from what happens when you leave your home to watch a film in a cinematic environment. Like any event that occurs in a public place, you have then the responsibility of taking into account how your behaviour will impact upon others around you. And speaking of public events, this brings me to point 3.

3. Cinema-going as an event.

One of the other major changes concerns attitudes towards cinema-going – and indeed cinema – as something worthy of undivided attention. It is surely less likely that you would see audience members at the opera texting, talking, tweeting and so on. The reason it is more likely to occur in a cinema is because cinema is still considered in many ways to be a commercial activity and so too a commercial product, and is often relegated as such to the sad lonely corner of ephemera. Of course, film is also an art form and outside of the multiplex, in an environment such as the one provided at the Astor, we celebrate that art form by paying it due respect in every possible way including everything from carefully selected foyer music, atmospheric lighting, theatrical presentation standards and yes, not permitting the use of mobile phones inside the auditorium.

So then, I now find myself back to the beginning of the argument which begs the question, what of enforcing these strict codes of conduct? Well, here at the Astor we feel that much like the experience, both parties – customer and theatre – are responsible for ensuring a safe, comfortable and enjoyable environment is established and maintained for everyone. With  part of the onus on us to ensure patrons are aware of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate ways in which to behave during a theatrical screening, we realise that awareness and mutual understanding is the first step towards an enjoyable experience for everyone. We also don’t want anyone to feel “policed” at the Astor – although that’s far from an invitation to start status updating during your next visit; please remember Marzipan sees all and she’s an absolutely no nonsense kitty.

Finally, there are also some “rules” that will apply to specific screenings but not to others. For example, whilst we expect people to throw a little rice during screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, if you were to do so during The Bicycle Thieves one of our FOH staff would most certainly ask you to stop. Also, recently at the Astor Theatre we held an event called Astor Film Tweet where customers could live tweet about the movie during the screening. To ensure this wouldn’t in any way disrupt customers who wished to watch the film without mobile phones on around them we divided our audience into two separate viewing areas (very easy for us due to the already existing nature of our auditorium which has both a dress circle and a stalls area – which historically was quite literally used to separate the upper and lower classes so you can imagine even if you’ve not been to the theatre just how successful and clear the separation is!) But again, if you were tweeting during a screening of Taxi Driver you can guarantee one of our FOH staff would indeed ask you to stop.

Every environment has its own standards to maintain and asking patrons to be respectful of others seems to us a very basic request, but like the experience itself, the responsibility for establishing and maintaining those standards really is something we ought to share.

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

The Story of the Astor Cat

Even though we know y’all love the Astor for a variety of reasons including everything from our awesomely unique programming to the legendary Astor Choc-Ice, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t aware that what (or rather who) everyone loves most about us, is our resident cat: Marzipan.

Marzipan recently appeared alongside Angus Sampson for an article in The Herald Sun. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Tauber.

Now the story tends to vary a little depending on who’s telling – but that’s all part of the romance; her history changes, adapts and matures just as she does – so here’s one version of The Story of the Astor Cat.

Once upon a time, in Melbourne’s oldest arts precinct, there was a stunning art deco/jazz moderne single screen repertory cinema that cinetastically championed cult film. And in this building, on one cold and stormy night, deep in the recesses of the grand old dame, a cat roamed; approving and disapproving of cine-obsessed patrons as she saw fit. But alas, later that evening, once the audience had entered the auditorium, she found her journey up the unbelievably steep and far from safe stairway to the bio box resulted in an induced labour. And on this night, at the end of those treacherous stairs, just as the film itself prophesied, the 1980s temporary Astor Cat discovered There’s a Light…

A light, way up in the bio box where her two sweet femme felines were born. To forever honour their epic entry into the world the twin kittens were named by the kind, masterful projectionist after their onscreen counterparts: Columbia and Magenta. Now Columbia found herself a good home to settle into and left the grand old theatre, whilst Magenta stayed, and took on the theatre’s most significant role as official Astor Cat.

Some time later, and as the version I heard of the story goes, Magenta departed the increasingly multiplexed world in which we live and left That Frankenstein Place open for residency. A residency that was soon taken up by a cute but indignant little kitten who somehow found herself underneath a truck on Chapel Street right outside the front doors of the iconic pile of bricks playing host to Melbourne’s most awesome and independent film house. Some say it was fate, others coincidence, but either way, Marzipan had defiantly and stylishly waltzed in to her new, and unbelievably opulent, home.

Marzipan shows Angus her favourite sitting place. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Tauber.

Marzipan shows Angus her favourite sitting place. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Tauber.

Some nineteen years later, after startling a variety of viewers each and every time she runs across the banister during Poltergeist or sashays up and down the auditorium steps during 2001‘s Dawn of Man, after achieving a level of local fame long-standing members of staff could only dream of, not to mention playing to the sympathies of passers-by who then feed and provide an excess of blankets for her, Marzipan is still able to scale the theatre walls and somehow mysteriously hears the FOH Supervisor call her for dinner despite her being apparently deaf.

And what of it? Marzipan is the kind of kitty who adores everyone’s endless and unbridled attention. What cat wouldn’t? She has a whole team of ushers to clean out her kitty litter, not to mention more than five hundred friends on facebook. She’s the only one at the theatre who’s received postcards from patrons when they’re on vacation and she’s usually the only one the journos want to feature in their photographs of the theatre too. Receiving the biggest cheer of all at our 75th Anniversary Celebrations in April of this year, Marzipan is Melbourne’s little darling and yet she remains as down-to-earth as ever. Well, maybe every now and again she has a moment of diva about her…

Marzipan walks off set due to "creative differences" with Angus Sampson. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Tauber.

Editor’s Note: Some or all of the information in this blog post may be fictional. Marzipan has not formally authorised the publication of this article and all views expressed are the author’s own. Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

NB: Any comment posts on this blog that are intended for Marzipan as fan mail will be recounted to her by a member of our FOH staff.

St Kilda Film Festival Day 4

Day four of the festival was the busiest day yet. Our foyers were packed full of stalls and patrons chatting about courses, funding, international festivals and all things film. We also had Paul Harris and the wonderful team at 3RRR broadcasting Melbourne’s premier film focused radio show Film Buff’s Forecast live from our upstairs foyer and a plasma TV station where you could put on a set of headphones and watch the shorts in whatever order you chose.

Australia’s Top 100 Competition Shorts continued with six more sessions; Session 11 being so popular we even had to open our stalls as the dress circle was positively full of filmmakers, their friends, family and fans. Afterglow, Nadine Garner’s directorial debut was greeted with a great reception and the Dutch Shorts also proved to be quite the festival highlight.

Beyond the short films we had a visit from beyond the grave as Deadly Earnest resurrected himself to wish us all a hateful evening in earnest. Amidst a cloud of smoke he read the audience a poem before the hilarity and gore of Drive-in Delirium’s Horrorpalooza got under way. Not just a gorefest, Horrorpalooza! also brought us Trog (1970), The Green Slime (1968)  – and coming up on our next calendar as part of Cinema Fiasco’s new line-up (Friday July 01)! and, of course, an insane number of half-naked women. The prize for best (and by which we mean most convoluted) title goes to The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) and the best marketing ploy we’ve seen in a long time goes out to Corruption (1968) – watch the trailer below and you’ll see why!

The last of the Competition sessions are already underway for today and there’s still time to get your tickets for Coffee: Between Reality and Imagination (the Israeli/Palestinian shorts programme at 4.30pm this afternoon) as well as the Closing Night Awards.

And finally, for anyone wondering where Marzipan is – I’m afraid she left us for a few days as of last night. She has a very important appointment with the vet on Tuesday and wanted to get some rest away from the ruckus first.