There’s just something magical about going to see a movie. Whether it’s the nostalgic smell of freshly-buttered popcorn or that you can totally remove yourself from the outside world for at least two hours, cinema-going is a national pastime for a very good reason.
But even the keenest cinephiles can agree that not all Brisbane cinemas are created equal. Lining up to see the latest blockbuster at a soulless multiplex has a knack of sucking all the charm out of your evening, no? With that nostalgia and bulk cosy vibes in mind (read: a liquor licence—becuase everything, especially a trip to the movies is better with wine)) we’ve created the master guide to the best independent cinemas in Brisbane. Trust us, once you go independent, you’ll never go back.
The Elizabeth Picture Theatre
A relative newcomer to the Brisbane cinema scene, The Elizabeth Picture Theatre, located in the CBD in what once was the heritage-listed Tara House, provides movie-going with a touch of classic elegance. Tickets can be purchased from a street-facing ticket box, complete with an attendant in a striped uniform, and then you’ll have to climb up a classy AF spiral staircase to get to the cinema itself. What you’ll find at the top is nothing more than stunning. Think stained glass windows, a long wooden bar that was repurposed from the original Old Irish Club that utilised the space, and cinemas that were once ballrooms. Yeah, that’s right, two of the cinemas in the Elizabeth Picture Theatre, known as The Tara Room and The Harp Room, were originally ballrooms and come with all of the trappings you’d imagine, including the original ballroom ceiling in the Tara Room. Catching the latest blockbuster under the alabaster moulding and twinkling lights of a 19th century ballroom ceiling? Don’t mind if we do.
New Farm Six Cinemas
The hub of New Farm pop culture since its opening in 1921, if you live in Brisbane and haven’t caught a film at the New Farm Six Cinemas, you’re seriously missing out. The cinema itself is a shining beacon of old-meets-new, combining vintage movie posters in the foyer with start-of-the-art cinema projection, luxe seating and the cinema’s staple bean bags. And that’s all before we get to the iconic lavender-hued gloriousness that is the Purple Room, courtesy of the 1970s. The film selection at New Farm Six balances mainstream movies with quality arthouse films you won’t find anywhere else in Brisbane. Plus, the cinema is situated right in the heart of the popping New Farm foodie district, so you can combine your theatre-going experience with some killer eats. Now that sounds like a win-win to us.
If you’re looking for an independent cinema in Brisbane, it’s hard to go past Palace Centro. Located in the hustle and bustle of James St, in the Fortitude Valley, Palace Centro boasts five cinemas with handcrafted chairs brought directly from Spain. Palace is famous for showcasing the best local and international films and has been known to throw a seriously good film festival. Past highlights include the British Film Festival, the Scandinavian Film Festival and who could forget the yearly film extravaganza that is the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival. Oh and did we mention that Palace is dedicated to ensuring every viewer has the perfect line of sight to the silver screen, no matter where you are sitting, and have implemented reclining chairs for this purpose. Say goodbye to neck pain brought on by awkward viewing angles and hello to kicking back in style. And yes, you can definitely bring your drink in.
Blue Room Cinebar
If you’re looking for a theatre-going experience that also includes a full line up of mouth-watering eats, Blue Room Cinebar was made for you. Situated in the heart of Rosalie, Blue Room Cinebar dishes up gourmet, handmade pizzas, tastebud-tantalising burgers and the best cheese board you’ve ever had inside a cinema, all without you having to lift a finger. The cinema features five theatres with semi-reclining seats, cushions and footrests and offers a film line-up of mainstream movies. And don’t even get us started on the bar. Four words, guys: frose and Black Panther. Blue Room Cinebar, we’re ready.
Just like its Fortitude Valley neighbour but with more luxury, Palace Barracks is the home of Queensland’s most prestigious cinematic events. Palace Barracks is fitted out with the best of life in mind and features comfy-yet-somehow-artistic furniture, ambient mood lighting, a newly renovated foyer and one killer bar. You didn’t hear it from us but you’ll actually want to turn up early for your movie at Palace Barracks, not because you’ll have to fight for a seat but because you’ll get to eat your way through a premier selection of beer, wine, antipasti, cheese platters and even, wait for it, pasta that would top even your Mum’s spaghetti. Here’s what we’d do: find out which film festival is next rolling into town, pick a film to watch and pair it with an impromptu wine tasting session. You can thank us later.
The Yatala Drive-In is keeping alive the fond memories of drive in cinemas of ages past. Harking back to a simpler time when heading out in the car in your pyjamas was perfectly acceptable, and half of your movie-going experience would be spent straining to hear the audio from tinny speakers hanging from your car windows, the Yatala Drive-In is something you just have to experience to appreciate. Luckily, things are a little more modern these days and you can now tune into the movie through the radio as well as the conventional window speaker, but the Yatala Drive-In is still a nostalgic option for those in search of a cinema with something a little bit different. The Yatala Drive-In is famous for screening two blockbuster movies for the price of one at a traditional multiplex cinema, meaning you not only get to chill out under the stars but can also save some pennies. Just don’t forget to hit up the 1950s-style candy bar and stock up on choc tops and sweet popcorn before the movie starts. Trying to find your car by starlight is not nearly as romantic as it sounds.
Dendy Portside is the type of cinema that takes the idea of digital cinemas to a whole new level. Each of the five theatres is installed with start-of-the-art technology, including surround sound and premium stadium-style seating. It’s also fully licensed, so you can sip a cold craft beer while enjoying the selection of mainstream films on offer. But, where Dendy really shines is the location. Situated directly in the heart of the vibrant Portside Wharf dining precinct, Dendy is kind enough to hook you up with some great dining and movie combo discounts. Or, if you’re feeling like indulging in some of the craziest food trends in Brisbane, you could always wander on over to Eat Street Northshore before or after your film. Dendy, you spoil us.
The Regal Twin
The Regal Twin Cinema, located in Graceville, is what the humble suburban cinema should be. Situated in a 1920s building, The Regal Twin specialises in the finest European, British, Australian and foreign language films, offering them to cinema goers at logical prices. All of your standard cinema comforts are available, with completely digital theatres, cozy leather seats and a candy bar stocked with the best treats on offer. Plus, popping in to see a film at The Regal Twin means that you’re helping support the existence of one of the last truly independent cinemas in Brisbane’s suburbs. Oh and you can always grab an EKKA-style strawberry sundae from Lick! Ice Cream afterwards, which just so happens to be a two minute walk away. If you need us, you know where to find us.
Australian Cinematheque At QAGOMA
Okay, okay, so the Australian Cinematheque, located inside GOMA, is not exactly your traditional cinema. This bad-boy occupies a pair of intimate, custom-designed theatrettes that show thematic and retrospective films that usually fit in with the exhibitions happening within the gallery itself. You won’t be able to watch the latest Oscar runner but you will be able to view the best films that will never appear on a commercial screen. The previous line-up has included Japanese animation, film noir, director’s collections and sci-fi. One of the theatres is also home to a 1929 Wurlitzer organ, rescued from the demolition of Brisbane’s Regent Theatre, which is used to accompany the cinema’s silent film offerings. Cinema snobs of Brisbane, the Australian Cinematheque was made for you.
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