Adelaide’s new home for independent film and cult classics wants to revive the social side of cinema.
Tucked away between a gym and a convenience store on Pirie Street, Sax & Violins Film Society & Bar curate themed screening programs for independent films and cult classics rarely shown at the big screen theatres.
Owners Chris and Ashleigh d’Antonio-Hocking say part of the inspiration behind Sax & Violins came from a desire to revive the social side of the cinema experience.
“We went to a screening of Suspiria over at the GU film house on Hindley Street which is one of those great classic cult films and it just so happened that everyone that we knew in Adelaide came out for it all in this one night, so it was just like this beautiful community feeling,” Chris says. “Rather than going out to experience it, we thought, ‘Let’s force everyone to come to us.’”
Brought together by their passion for underground films, Ashleigh says Sax & Violins is more to them than just a place to entertain, but rather an extension of themselves, transporting guests into the vivid and cryptic world of cult classic films upon which their relationship was formed.
“They’re just really special,” she says. “I come from a background of visual arts with a heavy focus on weird experimental film and so for me that’s where the crossover is.
“These kind of films that we’re putting on really inspire me, but also film has always been a really huge part of our lives together. We were introduced through film and art and coincidentally one of the films we screened recently was one of the first films we watched together when we started dating and here we are now, we’re married and we’ve started this thing that echoes everything we’re about.”
The Sax & Violins fit out blends dim lighting and dark coloured walls with splashes of orange and teal. A bar opposite the main entrance is accompanied by wooden barstools and sets of tables and chairs where guests are able to indulge in local wine from Delinquente and Scott & La Prova, along with beverages from Sparkke Brewing Company.
Keeping with that appropriately vintage design, the small theatre features two second-hand furniture pieces to complement the space’s atmosphere: antique leather-bound chairs and moody curtains.
“From the start there was an idea of making it mysterious, inviting and tantalising,” Chris says. “The cinema seating definitely adds to a lot of that which wasn’t part of the original idea, it was just one of those happy accidents.
“The two main vintage pieces, the chairs and the curtains, they came all the way from the UK from a funeral parlour which is nice and spooky,” Ashleigh says.
The name ‘Sax & Violins’ comes from the Talking Heads song of the same name. The band are frequently referenced in the monthly screening programs too.
At a time when streaming television shows and movies from the comforts of home is becoming more common, cinemas and film societies globally are being challenged to remain relevant and competitive. However, Chris and Ashleigh believe the community aspects behind the old-school cinema experience still has a place in modern society.
“Neither of us have a problem with streaming, we do it ourselves enough when we’re not here, but there’s something lacking to it,” says Chris. “It was one of the inevitable competitors but I think we have enough conviction that this is so far removed, it’s such a completely different service that we’re offering.
“We were so in love with the idea from the beginning of being able to screen a film, have an intermission and have people come out and sit down, have a drink and tell us what they thought.”
Additionally, Ashleigh says the social and cultural dialogues contained in films can spur conversations about significant issues in a social setting.
“Film isn’t always totally fictional,” she says. “There are important issues being spoken about and dialogues to open up that can stem from watching any kind of film, so I think it’s important to do that with people… We’re not just putting on films, we’re curating the programs to be very specific and to talk about specific things.”
Having launched in late February, Chris and Ashleigh opened Sax & Violins under an agreement with Renew Adelaide. The non-profit film society operates under a paid membership model and is part of the Australian Film Societies Federation, who offer discounts for screenings.
“One of my goals for the inaugural year was to end up with a membership base of 150 and so far we’ve got about 50 so I feel like we’re going strong,” says Ashleigh. “It was important to us to build something together that could be sustainable and I think we’re a really good team and so far we’ve handled it very well with bits of grace.”
Sax & Violins Film Society have a number of screening nights coming up this month including Blue Sunshine by Jeff Lieberman and Altered States by Ken Russell on Thursday, June 14.