There was a time - and it wasn’t too long ago - when the Perth CBD and the inner suburbs were packed to the gills with movie theatres. Now there are three. Film fans have to either make do with the limited number of screens available, or trek out to one of the god-awful multiplexes that dot the suburbs.
All that’s changed now - at least while the weather holds - with the opening of Rooftop Movies, an open-air cinema right in the heart of Northbridge. Nestled in a pink flamingo-festooned artificial oasis on top of the Roe Street carpark and boasting a program of cinematic icons and cult classics - and a licensed bar - it is an urban cineaste’s dream.
“It’s an idea I’ve had kicking around in my head since about 2003, when I first discovered that site,” says Artrage director Marcus Canning, who midwifed the project into existence. “We used the carpark for a work during a festival, and just seeing the potential of that site, I’ve had the idea kicking around ever since. When we finally started a conversation with City of Perth Parking, they were really into it, and obviously a partnership developed.”
Even so, the project underwent a long gestation, with every effort being made to ensure that all the pieces were in place before going public.
“It hasn’t been a cheap exercise setting that up,” Canning explains. “And we have had a lot of different projects on the boil, so we really needed some decent sponsor backing in order to really consider it, and a couple of the key sponsors behind us, Bulmers and Stella Artois, once they were onboard that helped a lot. Obviously you can’t start rolling until you’ve got some assurance that there’s adequate backing behind it.”
It’s certainly been worth the wait, with the first week of screenings alone having encompassed such films as The Big Lebowski, The Dark Knight, Alien, and Casablanca. Canning assures us that assembling the schedule was a labour of love.
“It was a bit of a collective effort,” he tells us. “We started with a large list and whittled it down to 732 films on this Excel spreadsheet - you can imagine trying to whittle it down further from there. We tried to get a mix of the cult, the classic, the cinephile, but also the B-grade and the totally schmaltzy as well. A lot of this has been about presenting films that people haven’t had an opportunity to see on the big screen for a really long time, or ever. There’s a couple of generations who have never seen Gremlins on the big screen, for instance, so slamming that up with Beetlejuice will be an interesting night out at the films. There was a lot of pleasure putting that programme together, and we’re looking forward to season two as well - we’ve got a few surprises up our sleeve for that.”
Indeed, with only the first month’s screenings having been announced so far, interest is high with regards to what cinematic treats April will bring. Judging from Rooftop Movies’ opening salvo, it’ll be worth the wait.