One of regional Victoria’s oldest and most loved silver screens, Lorne Theatre will return next month with a seasoned new team at the helm and an inspired program of special summer screenings, as the curtains open on a new era for the beloved coastal landmark.
Having recently come under the stewardship of brothers Barrie, Bob, and Chris Barton –– otherwise known as the team behind Sydney’s Golden Age Cinema & Bar and Melbourne’s Rooftop Cinema — the heritage-listed theatre will reopen next month for a pop-up summer season ahead of an extensive restoration and refurbishment of the space, in conjunction with Heritage Victoria.
Set to be unveiled in late-2024, the planned refurb will see a new licenced bar installed, with interior design highlighting the theatre’s Art Deco charms and visitor experience elevated across every touchpoint – from seating, lighting, and acoustics to snack bar menus, programming, and beyond.
“Our plans for the building are not to reinvent the wheel, but to add some love and polish and restore the Lorne Theatre to its original splendour,” explains new co-owner Chris Barton. “We want to accentuate that same charm and sense of grandeur that has captivated visitors for more than 80 years and help ensure the theatre’s future as a truly special cultural experience into the future.”
Family-run since 1937 and under the dedicated leadership of long-time manager Tony Hill for more than 30 years, the 550-seat cinema has been an enduring presence for over eight decades, drawing generations of movie-goers and carving a cherished place in the hearts of both locals and the town’s many seasonal visitors.
Now, thanks to the Barton brothers, who grew up in Geelong and spent their childhood holidaying in the area, the much-loved local movie house is ready to deliver a wholly reimagined program designed to draw a new generation of cinephiles and culture lovers –– from near and far.
“As a family, some of our fondest summer memories were formed within the walls of the Lorne Theatre,” Chris explains. “It has always been a special place for us and we’re deeply aware of the space this building holds in the hearts of generations of local and visiting movie lovers.” He continues: “This shared personal history with the space is why we jumped at this opportunity. It’s a huge legacy to take on, but it’s one that we’re very excited to uphold and build upon.”
Recognised as having redefined Australia’s modern movie-going experience with their inspired, visionary take on cinema, the Barton brothers say they believe in the power of cinema to change lives and build communities. They describe their particular approach to cinema-going – which encompasses curated programming designed to create memorable shared experiences, an enhanced hospitality experience, and an ethos that places the cinema as central – as ‘social cinema’.
As the brothers shepherd the Lorne Theatre into a new chapter this summer, audiences can expect the same award-winning programming that has established their flagship, Golden Age Cinema, as an industry innovator celebrated for its ground-breaking approach to cinema and cultural programming.
Over the coming months, the theatre will host a captivating summer line-up featuring a blend of contemporary and classic films, complemented by special film series and live performances. Running through until Easter, the summer series will see new releases and timeless classics run alongside series including the Christmas Cracker film extravaganza and Surfside, a limited film series presented by surf, skate and culture magazine Monster Children.
Bob Barton, who wears the hat of Design Director for Golden Age, says the Golden Age Cinema ethos of ‘the good old days are now’ will carry over to the Lorne Theatre as the trio seek to infuse the coastal gem with a mix of cinematic magic, atmospheric nostalgia and cultural vibrancy, designed to create lasting memories for residents and visitors alike.
Longstanding Golden Age Director of Programming Kate Jinx will provide curatorial and exhibition guidance to Cinema Manager, Jessa Shields, a seasoned industry professional whose CV includes roles at Palace Cinema Como, Lido Cinemas and Golden Age Cinema & Bar.
“After ten years in its historic Surry Hills home and across numerous pop–up locations, it’s a thrill to see Golden Age continue to grow.” says Kate, “The vision has always been to provide an inclusive social experience that both recalls the classic cinema–going of yore but celebrates new voices too, and I’m excited for Jessa Shields to nurture that ethos in beautiful Lorne.”
The Golden Age Cinema team extends a warm invitation to the Lorne and Surf Coast community, and cinema lovers far and wide, to be a part of this exciting revival of a coastal favourite that promises to deliver inspiration, forge new memories and ensure the iconic theatre’s important cultural role into the next century.
The Lorne Theatre
76-80 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne.
Tickets on sale now at: lornetheatre.com.au
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis