Golden Age prices at the Golden Age Cinema and Bar

The top price for an ordinary cinema ticket has hit $20 in Sydney, it was reported over the weekend, with some wondering whether it might prove a psychological barrier. Remember when they cost the equivalent of around just $2? Well, many won’t as that was back in the 1950s.

But on the right night you can still pay $2 for a 1950s film at the Golden Age Cinema and Bar in Surry Hills. If that’s not enough of an inducement, how about tickets costing a mere five cents each?

The newly restored 1940s cinema, which opened in September, is taking cheap Tuesdays to a new level with Golden Age Prices where you pay the same as audiences did when the film was released.

Tomorrow, for example, there’s a screening of 1954 monster horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon with tickets costing $2. On April 22, the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow will set you back all of $4. Recent screenings of the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers and Duck Soup from the early 1930s cost just five cents each.

“People love it, it’s a novelty,” says Kate Jinx, the cinema’s director of programming.

“We do classics on Sunday afternoon, cult films on a Saturday night, Fright Friday when it’s horror films, and we also play new releases so this is an opportunity to throw in these oddball films that people really want to see.”

Golden Age Price tickets go on sale at the bar half an hour before the movie.

“You can’t pre-book. The online booking fee would be more than the film sometimes,” says Jinx.

The elegant 56-seat Golden Age Cinema is in heritage-listed Paramount House, an iconic Art Deco building in the area of Surry Hills once known as the Hollywood Quarter.

Originally the head office for Paramount Pictures, the basement cinema was used as its VIP screening room. It has been beautifully restored with antique seats dating from the same era, imported from Zurich, while the original 35mm film projectors are still in the projection room.

The project began a few years ago when Bob Barton and his brothers Barrie and Chris of Right Angle Studio, who launched Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne in 2006, were asked to do something similar as part of the Paramount House redevelopment. When building permission for a rooftop cinema was quashed by objections from neighbours, they decided to restore the screening room instead and build a chic adjoining bar.

Barton says that the bar “was mean’t to feel like it could be from the past or present. It’s like a first-class lounge on a space ship.”

“It is quite futuristic,” agrees Jinx. “It’s a bit like a David Lynch take on the past, I suppose.”

“We didn’t want it to be kitsch,” adds Barton. “We wanted to put people in an evening where they felt they were very much part of the show rather than just an audience so it was very much about putting light on their faces and everyone feeling like a character.”

The bar offers food and quality wine and beers as well as a selection of cocktails, some of them film-themed with terrible puns for names.There was a Gin Hackman, for example, to accompany a screening of The Conversation starring Gene Hackman. Some cocktails are cheaper on a Tuesday along with other drinks specials.

“It’s very much about the whole experience otherwise we would just run a small cinema,” says Barton.

The Golden Age Cinema and Bar is quickly gathering a following.

“It’s great because we get a diverse crowd, so old faces and young glamour all mixing in,” says Barton. “I think that’s the mature kind of place Sydney needs.”

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