It has survived black and white television, colour television, VHS, DVD, Netflix and, in the last decade, a rise in big, tentpole blockbusters as corporate Hollywood favours big opening weekends over medium-sized features and sleeper hits.
COVID-19 continues to bring unexpected challenges, even as local cinemas have been able to open since June. “A lot of that is because of the position of the United States and Mr Trump saying it’s a hoax. They’re not going to release a big film when half the theatres in the United States are closed – these films cost $200 million to make, they need to take $800 million to cover costs.”
Despite this, Parr is as confident of cinema’s future as he was when ignoring his father’s advice half a century ago. And yet, walking through the Piccadilly today evokes a bittersweet nostalgia – and the knowledge that they don’t make them like this anymore.
“That neon light there,” Parr says, pointing to a pinkish blue glow that spreads dreamily across the lounge’s ceiling. “I don’t know how much longer we can keep that because the guy who used to service all the neons here died – it’s a blue tube with red gas or a red tube with blue gas, and it’s a unique colour he did just for this.
“Do you understand why the lights dim and the curtains open?” Parr asks as we climb the steps to Cinema One. “The lights are dimming to transport you from the world you’re in, and the curtains open to a window into another world. At the end of the film, the curtains close and the lights bring you back to this world.”
This, he says, is why cinemas like the Piccadilly will live – even if some of the lights go dark.
181 O’Connell Street, North Adelaide