Murwillumbah’s historic Regent Cinema, according to owner Sandra Flannery, has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with a new digital projection system replacing its old 35mm projector ‘and sadly the projectionist’.
Mrs Flannery, who runs the cinema with daughters Deborah and Erin, told Echonetdaily the move into the digital age was necessary ‘otherwise the doors would be closed’.
This week the old projector, which had been operating since the cinema opened in the building over 60 years ago, was replaced by the computerised system which allows new movies to be downloaded from distributor companies at the click of a button.
Mrs Flannery said the new system meant the projectionist, who operated the old reels and monitored them during screening, was no longer needed as the cinema’s box office ticket sellers could now run the film from a laptop.
‘Eventually, films will be downloaded straight from satellite,’ she said.
From 2013, film distributors will no longer provide the 35mm reel films.
‘It’s very simple system to operate and allows easier access to a wider choice of films, especially art-house and special-interest movies as well as mainstream ones.
It will also allow live streaming of special events and international film festivals,’ Mrs Flannery said.
‘It makes for a better, clearer picture and improved, digital sound.
‘We also want to encourage local filmmakers to use the venue to show local movies and for fundraising events,’ she said.
Many towns have lost their iconic cinemas, replaced by large multiplex cinemas, but the Regent has survived through thick and thin and the remnants of the theatre’s glory days still remain: interior decorations, wooden floors and art deco façade. The historic building is identified as a significant building in Tweed Shire Council’s community-based heritage study.
Image: Sandra Flannery, the new operator of Murwillumbah’s fabulous art deco Regent Cinema, with Barry Parsons who is decommissioning the cinema’s 1950s, 35-millimetre projector and installing a state-of-the-art digital system. Photo Jeff ‘X-Rated’ Dawson