Current Issue #488

The return of the cinema

Palace Nova

Before the pandemic, The Adelaide Review’s resident film critic DM Bradley spent more time in a movie theatre than most people in Adelaide. This week, he stepped back inside for the first time in two months.


Remember them? Remember how they suddenly and shockingly shut at the end of March, like just about everything else?

They were always going to be closed too, once the COVID-19 restrictions started clamping down, especially as the very nature of cinemagoing can potentially create an atmosphere that allows the virus to flourish. After all, at pubs, clubs, halls, churches and the like you might well be in a confined area, but doors and windows are often open, attendees come and go, and you could be beside people you’ve been ‘isolating’ with, while at a cinema screening you’re shut into a dark, confined space with a bunch of strangers, many of whom might be, shall we say, breathing heavily.

You must know by now that the Palace Prospect Cinemas reopened last Monday, and that they are amongst the first to do so in the country. And yes, only 80 of the complex’s 670 seats (spread through 14 cinemas) will be available, and there are sanitation safeguards and social distancing regulations aplenty, which makes it a bit of a challenge for the staff and will require a fair amount of booking ahead, queuing and waiting.

I realised this on Monday when I went looking for Palace Nova state manager Karen Karpinski for her views on the situation, and found myself accidentally misreading the carefully managed queue. Sorry guys! This was shortly after the grand noon reopening, with a ribbon cut by no less than Scott Hicks and the chance to catch movies that were showing around the time of the shutdowns (like the new Emma and the docos Honeyland and Marianne & Leonard: Words Of Love) and a host of older movies including several by blockbuster-friendly auteur Christopher Nolan. And more on him shortly.

Palace Cinemas in Prospect was among the first in the country to reopen

“We are so grateful for the fact that we can reopen our doors and share our unique movie-going experience with the people of Adelaide again,” Karpinski told me in an official statement, later adding that “Reopening Prospect Cinema will now be one of my most treasured moments. Having people literally dance through the foyer on the reopening day will never be forgotten. It has never been more clear to me how much cinema means to people, and I feel a renewed energy and I want to make sure that we keep bringing the best of film the world has to offer to the people of Adelaide.” As of this writing, Palace Eastend is also poised to reopen in limited form this long weekend.

There’s no official date for the reopening of Adelaide’s family-owned Wallis Cinemas, but Marketing Manager Paul Besanko hopes it will happen soon. He told me that it’s unfortunately “not financially viable to allow only 80 people into one of our complexes [imagine a mere 80 at the Piccadilly or the Mitcham!]… But we are working towards possibly reopening for the school holidays, and maybe after that for the weekends and then a few days a week… But we just can’t say at the moment because, like everything else, so much is uncertain, and we simply don’t know.”

It seems that everything is riding on the release of Christopher Nolan’s mysterious Tenet (which looks like an even more mind-mincing Inception), and that will hopefully take place in mid-July. However, for this huge epic to, again, be financially viable, something like 80 per cent of the world’s cinemas need to be, you know, open. And is that going to happen, what with the ongoing pandemic and as America continues to tear itself apart? Well, at least we’re used to uncertainty by this point.

If Tenet fails – and it might, or the release might be delayed and rescheduled, and so on – then the darkest cinematic timeline would involve all the studios getting a serious fright and bumping each and every movie until possibly Christmas. And that means that the modern cinematic landscape will be altered for a very, very long time – or perhaps permanently. And let’s not even think of what would be the result of a potential second wave of COVID.

Why, that could well be it for me, The Adelaide Review’s Cinema page – and worse still. But that couldn’t happen… could it?

Editor’s note: If our readers are happy to continue to subsist on a diet of good, bad and locally-filmed straight-to-Netflix and video-on-demand releases, we’re going to keep having Dave review them. A few more months without a Marvel film can’t hurt!

DM Bradley

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