That Eddie Tamir, owner of Elsternwick’s Classic Cinema and Belgrave’s Cameo, loves the movies is beyond question, but his passion goes deeper than that. He and partner Lindy love the grand old palaces where people came to share those cinematic experiences just as much as the iconic films that played within them.
“I’m a bit of a sucker for old cinemas, so I’ve always been on the look out for them, trying to bring them back to life, as a general philosophy,” Tamir says.
It’s for this very reason that Tamir will open a brand new picture palace, Glenferrie Road’s Lido Cinemas in Hawthorn, bucking the industry trend of closures beyond the enormous out-of-town multiplex model.
“People think we’re crazy, what with multi-platform, digital, piracy, blah, blah, blah,” Tamir laughs. “Obviously there are challenges, so we need to be creative and present exciting places that offer something extra than one’s lounge room or computer screen in bed, which has its place in the world. We literally want to get people out of bed and closing their iMacs.”
Having just come home from the Cannes Film Festival, Tamir’s convinced there are enough inspirational filmmakers out there to ensure the stories are strong enough to attract audiences, both in the art-house and blockbuster fields, but he says there’s something more than that at play, a certain kind of cinematic magic. “We have faith in that very basic, almost primitive human need to share experience.”
About 15-20 years ago, he came across a pamphlet produced by The Cinema And Theatrical Society of Australia, listing every cinema ever built in greater Melbourne. Tamir took it upon himself to visit every site. Some were long gone, turned into towering apartment complexes, similar to the fate of the CBD’s Greater Union, once the hub of the Melbourne International Film Festival,.
The Lido once played host to a dance school and cabaret club, but had lain dormant for many years when the opportunity to snap it up presented itself five years ago. A hidden gem, they uncovered the original 1911 pressed metal ceiling, stained-glass portholes and a beautiful 1930s ceiling renovation. “They are amazing and we’ve exposed as much as we could.”
The bare bones were perfect, but Tamir says the Hawthorn neighbourhood also offers plenty of opportunity, particularly with Swinburne University sitting just behind the cinema.
One of the ways they’ll appeal to the younger crowd is by playing midnight horror flicks from local distributor Monster Pictures as well as hosting their Monster Fest. First up is Human Centipede 3. “I think they’ve got up to 500 bodies now,” Tamir laughs. “It’s all happening.”
Lido Cinemas will also have Australia’s first rooftop cinema attached to an actual cinema, with the benefit being they can play brand new movies outdoors in the summer months, rather than relying solely on cult classic re-runs. “The rooftop area is spectacular, with 360 views of Melbourne,” Tamir says.
The Lido’s initial line-up will include the latest animation masterpiece from Pixar, Inside Out, which goes inside the head of an 11-year-old girl, creating characters out of the conflicting emotions of growing up. Carey Mulligan stars in the Thomas Hardy literary adaptation Far From The Madding Crowd, while Going Clear is a doco that pulls back the curtain on Scientology. There’s also a new Australian movie, Last Cab to Darwin, starring Jacki Weaver and Michael Caton.
Tamir has roped in local filmmaker Clayton Jacobson, who directed the impeccable toilet humour mockumentary Kenny, to create a series of short films about local Hawthorn residents with great stories to tell, dubbed the 8K Radius Film Series. The Lido will show them as shorts before main features as well as hosting a gala evening in July presented by the subjects.
As he gets ready to open the Lido on June 25th, it’s clear Tamir is still as passionate as ever when it comes to bringing cinema to the masses. I wonder what keeps that love rolling? “When I start watching a film, I always want to see it to the end, despite having seen however many thousands over the years,” Tamir says. “Whatever that is, I guess, somewhere in amongst it is the answer to your question?"
Lido Cinemas will open 25th June
675 Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn
Image Credits: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List