So Long to the Cinema of My Dreams

What an absolute kick in the guts.  I’ve no idea what kind of moron has been put in charge of the celestial ‘gut kicking’ Department but, whoever it is, they’re doing a bang up job.  One minute, you’re going about your life; the next minute everything you hold dear has been desecrated.  It’s as though somebody’s deliberately going out of their way to destroy every precious childhood memory I have that didn’t involve spoonfuls of Milo and peanut butter eaten in the pantry.  I speak, of course, of the Frankston Cinema.

For decades, it sat on the Nepean Highway, it’s unassuming façade barely hinting at the treasures that lay within.  Now it’s been demolished.  By ‘demolished’, I don’t mean turned into a discount bedding shop or an ‘all you can eat’ restaurant, but torn down entirely so that only dirt is left.  There’s not even a plaque.  Nothing.  Just an empty lot that’s a vacant as my heart.  For shame.

Nobody had told me.  We were eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the road when I noticed it was gone.   My brother explained that the cinema had been demolished; notwithstanding the windswept, desolate piece of scorched earth before me made that something of a statement of the obvious.  I felt sad.  I felt demoralized.  I felt deeply solemn.  I felt bereft.  The one thing I didn’t feel, however, is hungry.

It’s difficult receiving such awful news whilst at a Mexican restaurant.  As other people enjoyed themselves, I was unsure how best to mourn the loss of one of the most important pieces of my childhood.  Given that I’d just eaten a burrito and was feeling the full impact of a dose of refried beans, I contemplated a performance of the ‘Last Post’ powered only by what I’ll refer to as ‘natural gas’ but decided that my fellow diners might think this was in poor taste. 

 I first went to New York in Frankston.  Paris and London, too.  I got to visit those places through the films I saw at the Frankston cinema.  It was always such a magical experience.  What made it especially unique was the lobby.  In the ceiling, there was an installation.  It looked like some kind of ancient rock but, upon reflection, may well have been tin foil.  It changed colours every few seconds.  Now I realize this effect is achieved through lighting.  At the time, however, I put it down to magic.

I can’t be the only one. Surely, the coloured crystal / tin – foil installation meant something to other people too and was worthy of preservation.  Heaven knows what the National Trust are doing if they’re allowing culturally significant coloured tin foil lobby installations to be ruined.  Is nothing sacred?

I saw my first superhero at Frankston cinema.  My first cowboy and astronaut too.  I even saw my first creature from outer space at Frankston cinema.  I also the movie ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’ there, but that’s another story.  Movies take us to other places, to other people and give us stories that entertain us and open up a world of imagination.  I loved going to the movies there.

Almost every single film I ever saw growing up, I saw in Frankston.  ‘Superman’ and ‘Back to the Future’ (as well as their sequels), ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘Batman’.  In fact, it’s easier to list the exceptions.  ‘Star Wars’ at the Burwood Drive In (also demolished – in favour of a business park) and ‘Police Academy Five’ at the Village Cinema in Bourke Street – a venue that should, in fact, be demolished solely because it elected to screen ‘Police Academy Five’.

The Frankston cinema is where our father took my brother and I to see ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.’ It was a pivotal and life changing experience.  I remember that my brother and I were deeply engaged with the film.  There’s a moment in that movie (spoiler alert if you haven’t gotten around to seeing it in the eighty five years since it was released) when Snow White’s out in the woods and the Huntsman who’s been told to track her down and kill her is creeping up from behind.  It was incredibly suspenseful.  It was also too much for my brother, who leapt to his feet and screamed ‘Run Snow White!  Quickly!’  He was thirty years old at the time.

My father still tells that story, whenever he gets the chance.  It was whilst we were at the Mexican Restaurant that I relayed the tale to my niece who was surprised to hear that her father had ever done such a thing. It was that kind of place; where inhibitions were put aside for a few hours.  If not the cinema or the multi-coloured tin foil installation in the lobby, my brother’s outburst is certainly plaque worthy.

It was such an important part of growing up. That’s true for many people, I think.  And it’s a shock to see that it’s gone, without warning or ceremony.  It’s ridiculous, but I feel as though I ought to have been notified.  Granted, it’d be odd to receive an email from someone because, according to their records, I’d been to a four o’clock showing of ‘Superman: The Movie’ in 1978, but I’d like to have known.  So let me say it now – farewell old friend.  See you at the big snack bar in the sky.