Backstage Access: Hobart’s State Cinema Centenary Festival

Black and white photo of a theater's façade

2.17min read

Published 18 September 2013


Despite opening as a purpose-built moving picture venue with live orchestra in October 1913, over the past century, Hobart's State Cinema has been used as a billiard saloon, a gymnasium, a boxing arena and for vaudeville shows.

Having now gone full circle, the historic venue is proud to celebrate its centenary with a festival of classic movies that are sure to cement its principle purpose for the next 100 years.

 Black and white photo of a theater's façade
Hobart's State Cinema. Photographer Loic Le Guilly.

Melanie Breen is the coordinator of the cinema's centenary celebrations.

"For our centenary festival, we've selected films for many reasons. We chose films that were popular at the cinema, films that are favourites of ours, 20th century classics and films that had local relevance – such as They Found a Cave, which follows four orphans who migrate to Tasmania. The silent films are curated in conjunction with the Austrian pianist Gerhard Gruber, who specialises in composing and playing accompaniment for silent films. Gruber will be performing a live accompaniment for Safety Last! and Sherlock Jr," said Melanie.

"We're pretty excited about screening Singin in the Rain - an all time favourite of so many people. It has recently been digitally remastered, and we will be presenting it in 2K digital format."

 Black and white photo of the Liberty theater's façade
Renamed the Liberty Theatre in 1935

The festival begins on October 3, the day after the anniversary of the building's opening, with Hitchcock's masterpiece North by Northwest starring Cary Grant and James Mason and concludes with The Tale of Ruby Rose, which was filmed on location in the highlands of Tasmania in 1988.

"The combination of new and old makes the State Cinema a pretty special place. Crowds have been entertained on this site for 100 years, and we hope to continue for another 100. The new developments here mean that the State can accommodate changes in technology and also the desires of our patrons - we can show the latest films with the best technology. We have also been working to make the State a destination for more than just movies. With our bookstore, cafe bar and rooftop it has become more like a social and cultural hub," said Melanie.

"Theatres are special landmarks because people have such fond memories of the good times they had. We often have people attending the cinema who used to come here as a child of an afternoon or school holidays, and watch news reels and action movies. We have a couple of elderly lady patrons - in their 90s - who have been attending for decades. The State is a beautiful building that has remained while a lot of North Hobart changed. And there were several times, during the depression and again later in the 20th century, that the cinema was seriously struggling to survive, and was saved by community campaigns."

 Black and white photo of a street running train
Tram passing the cinema on Elizabeth Street

To further attractive patrons, the venue screens films on the rooftop in the warmer months. While watching a popular documentary, a classic release or an arthouse gem, cinema goers also have the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful Hobart skyline.

The State Cinema Bookstore, which is located in an adjoining building called the Soundy Building that predates the Cinema by thirty years, specializes in non-fiction, travel, art, fashion and hand-selected fiction titles. As a great dinner option before a film, the on-site café is always expanding their menu. After the movie, patrons can wander down Elizabeth Street to take their pick of the many different restaurants on offer in North Hobart.

Curious travellers may also wish to admire the other historic buildings in Hobart that include Salamanca Place, which was constructed between 1830 and 1850, St George's Church, which was built between 1836 and 1838 and the Theatre Royal, which opened in 1837. Also on the itinerary could be the Old Court House, which dates to 1823, the Parliament House, which was first used in 1855 and the Commissariat Store, which was completed in 1810.

The State Cinema Centenary Cinema Festival begins on Thursday October 3.


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Expert tip

A visit to the Museum of Old and New Art is a must while in town, but instead of driving there, book a ticket on the MONA Ferry in the 'Posh Pit', where you'll be served gourmet snacks and drinks all the way to and from the museum - a much nicer way to spend half an hour than battling traffic!


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