Whether you’re a film buff or just craving to watch the latest flick everyone’s raving about, many Sydney cinemas offer an unparalleled experience through their ambience, selection, and unique character. The Plus Ones present you with the nine most unique cinemas in Sydney for your viewing pleasure.
The Hayden Orpheum – Cremorne
The first time I made it to a screening at this the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne my jaw dropped. As an outsider I couldn’t believe what had been hidden from me beyond the city. Cremorne has such a gem of Sydney cinemas in the Orpheum, that thankfully they have been lucky enough to keep alive and so, bring many benefits to the community. For example: Enriching people’s life through films and an old fashion way of entertainment, contributing in the urban landscape of the suburb with a beautiful architectural building from the 30´s, not to mention the exquisite decoration inside.
For those wanting to live the authentic pioneer cinema experience it is possible to do so at The Orpheum. They proudly feature six cinema rooms, each of them keeps the Art Deco charm of the 30s with beautiful patterns on the walls and the red curtain rolling up and down as the projector is turned on and off. The box office and the candy bar look very traditional too, but it is probably the staff and their uniforms, along with the grand piano displayed in the second floor that definitely transport you back in time.
The venue has a very special value that touched my heart when I saw it: When the screening is over they display a Thank You for your Support message at the end of the credits. This showed me they do appreciate people swapping their TV for the big screen, their couches for proper cinema seating, their houses for the traditional big dark room, and downloaded films for their purchased tickets.
My recommendation: take advantage of the rich film program and offers exclusive to this venue such as the luncheons, a film and lunch combo for really good value, the Mums, Dads and Bubs session for people with babies, and the very rare film showcases such as David Stratton’s Retro Film Festival that by popular demand has been extended. Also, please check sessions when they play the Wurlitzer organ in the main cinema before the film screening. It is a very unique experience!
380 Military Road, Cremorne, NSW
Ph: 02 9908 4344
Tickets: $20.00S/$16.50 / Seniors $13.00
Govindas is a one-of-a-kind venue. Anyone who is looking for a very unique and intimate experience will find it here. This gem of Sydney cinemas in Darlinghurst fuses together the yummy delicacies of vegetarian food in its buffet style dining room, while screening the latest films that you probably won’t find in the mainstream cinemas. They also offer yoga sessions which might come in handy if the film you’re seeing is a thriller or horror flick!
If what you are looking for is a fun and authentic night out at a very unique cinema where you don’t sit but lay down on very comfy and cool cushions to watch a cool film, or if you’re after a spiritual experience with vegetarian food, yoga lessons, chant sessions and guided meditation in order to become the best version of yourself whilst learning how to practice compassion, Govindas is the place to go. Best of all is the awesome value and the super friendly staff.
My recommendation: get the film and dinner combo; and for women only, book yourself one of the guided meditation sessions for relaxation and blissfulness followed by a heartfelt light dinner — then stay for a film, of course.
112 Darlinghurst Road
Ph: 02 9380 5155
Tickets: Movie only $13.90 / Dinner & movie package: $29.80
Palace Cinemas – Paddington and Leichhardt
There’s something about Palace Sydney Cinemas that has always captivated me. I think it is a mix of many different things: The good taste in the design of their spaces, the fact that they sell Connoisseur choc tops at the candy bar, the independent or non-commercial films they show mixed with a reasonable spread of commercial and blockbuster screenings, the number and variety of film festivals from all around the globe, the great film curation of those festivals, and the awesome way they set up for external events, among many other things.
I also get a good sense of familiarity at Palace Sydney Cinemas, as it is a family-run business and their passion for film has been passed through generations. From this you cannot only see reflections in the quality of the film program, but also its strong presence in different suburbs. Suburbs that otherwise would not have had the chance to have their own cinema. They have made sure the cinema going culture is kept alive outside the CBD, and some of the beautiful cinema venues from the past have actually been brought back to life thanks to Palace. The beautiful Chauvel Cinema in Paddington and the Astor Theatre in Melbourne are two examples of this. Whenever I think of Palace Cinemas I think of film festivals, the delicious choc tops, and the amazing atmosphere they create from the moment you walk through the door.
My recommendation: Make it to the opening night of the Italian Film Festival, or even better, the Spanish Film Festival. The opening night films are so much fun and very popular. Plus the food, drinks and entertainment post screening is of a really high quality, and the goodie bags really do have goodies inside.
17 Oxford Street, Paddington NSW
Palace Norton St.
99 Norton Street, Leichhardt NSW
249 Oxford St, Paddington NSW
Tickets: Monday: $11 / Every other day $18.50
Roseville Cinema – Roseville
Thanks to the Roseville Cinema, people in the northern suburbs have one of the great Sydney cinemas they can count on. This is a venue full of history to tell. It all began in the 1900s when initially it was a town hall of the north, where people gathered and enriched their lives with cultural events. Later on, it became the recruitment place for soldiers during World War I. As time went by, and with some new decorations and renewals, it became the beautiful Art Deco Cinema that the North Shore knows today and that has been alive since the 30ss thanks to the Van Pinxteren family.
This venue has gone through many transformations, from changing its purpose and utility, to changing owners and style. But probably the latest transformations — including the original cinema being split in two (whilst each remains amazingly spacious and majestic) and the acquisition of the latest’s technological devices for premium screening quality — make Roseville Sydney Cinemas a great facility for screening movies and enriching the lives of locals. Check out the very unique and exclusive films carefully curated that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
My recommendation: grab a delicious made on premises choc top from the cute snack bar and make it to a session at the main cinema. It’s even better if the film is exclusive to Roseville Cinema. I saw Walking the Camino, a doco on the pilgrimage track in Spain. Watching such a beautiful film in the biggest room of this venue was priceless.
112 Pacific Highway, Roseville, NSW
Ph: 02 9416 8555
Tickets: $18.50/$15 / Tuesday: $12
The Ritz Cinema
The Ritz Cinema – Randwick
What? Art Deco Sydney Cinemas from the 30’s that are also a multiplex — that’s a thing? Time and history have helped The Ritz Cinema to evolve into the magnificent venue we know today with six cinemas. With a stunning façade (that looks even better at night), this beauty of the eastern suburbs brings a very long and varied film program and events calendar to Sydney.
Their releases include the most recent and popular films, and a great number of recordings of live stage plays, as well as Q&A’s with special guests. Its style and architecture, and its staff are just so charming and professional that it makes your visit a pleasant experience. In addition to the great atmosphere, the guys at the Ritz organize a very unique and usually sold-out trivia night every first Wednesday of the month for film junkie teams, where commercial or art house films challenge your love and passion for the movies.
My recommendation: book a Ritz exclusive Q&A. You will not only get to attend a film with a special guest and have a wholesome experience, but also you will get to watch and enjoy the whole night in the main cinema… the BIG one!
45 St Paul’s Street, Randwick, NSW
Ph: 02 9399 5722
Tickets: $15/ Tuesday $9
Dendy Sydney Cinemas – Newtown and Circular Quay
At premium locations, Dendy Cinemas has the perfect plan when you happen to be in Circular Quay, right in front of the Opera House, or in Newtown, the bohemian inner suburb of Sydney. Dendy has been known for various years as being the venue partner of popular film festivals, such as the Latin American Film Festival, the Sydney International Film Festival, and TropFest.
Browse through the now showing or coming soon films at these cinemas and it will take you a while to make up your mind about what to see. You’ll probably want to see them all. The film program is just so varied and long (including opera and ballet broadcasting) that Dendy will always have something for everyone. Thanks to them, most independent films get a run on their screen and therefore the locals get to watch them.
My recommendation: take full advantage of the many offers or exclusive programs at Dendy, such as The Hollywood Classics or Cults Classics, and the various Q&A sessions held at the venues, where you get to see the film, with an extra value of having a special guest, perhaps even the director of the film. Watching a film with a Q&A is not the same as just watching the film.
Shop 9, 2 East Circular Quay, NSW
261-263 King Street, Newtown, NSW
Ph: 02 9247 3838
Tickets: $17 / Tuesday: $10.50
Golden Age Cinema and Bar – Surry Hills
Some time ago the Paramount Pictures Building in Surry Hills found a hero, a reason for keeping its doors open to the public. The Golden Age Cinema people have seriously taken the renovation of this prize of Sydney cinemas to the next level. They have taken this heritage site and converted it into a magnificent work of art for cinema lovers to enjoy. The cinema still keeps its Late Deco style from the 40s, but features the latest projection devices from the present, that make possible the screening of a very long array of hard-to-catch films from previous decades.
Cult and classic movies and animation films from all times, as well as more important indie films that only the guys from the Golden Age Cinema dare to screen. Films such as the controversial and multi-festivals winner, The Tribe from the Ukraine.
In addition to the beauty of screening room and stylish restoration of the cinema, the venue has a very unique bar. I mean, this is what I call a cinema, a cinema with a BAR like this one! This area of the Golden Age has such a stylish look, especially for lovers of minimalism but it doesn’t keep you from feeling like you are in the golden years of Sydney cinemas.
My recommendation: in this case I’d make an exception and promote its awesome bar, even when you are not feeling like watching a film. Just by looking at the building and its interior, and enjoying its bar you get an idea of what this venue is meant to be, and how fantastic it is now, for films with very small chances of public screenings to be able to be shown at such a venue. Also, if you are not watching a film but ordering food at the bar you are actually still flavouring the cinematic experience thanks to the film and directors inspired dishes.
80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, NSW
Ph: 02 9211 1556
Tickets: $20 / $15
IMAX Theatre – Darling Harbour
Going to IMAX is going for the cinematic version of a thrill ride. The beast of Sydney cinemas is the biggest in the world. As it is located in a spot like Darling Harbour, even the locals can’t help but to feel like a tourist in their own city.
The buttery smell of popcorn from the commercial cinemas that we’re accustomed to mixed with the exclusive to IMAX documentary screenings make this cinema venue a must not just for seekers of entertainment but for curious minds and docos lovers too. The unique documentaries, even when they are screened in 3-D, are such an asset for the world of film in Sydney, since IMAX is the only place where you can get to watch top documentary productions in a massive screen with very good audio quality. Further than just showing Hollywood blockbusters, I find IMAX is a great place for kids to learn in a very exciting way. Here, the cinema is the classroom, the films are the books and the 3-D glasses their pencils.
My recommendation: skip the buttery popcorn, and grab instead the caramelized warm nuts in the old-school paper wrap cone. I have not gotten to have such a delicacy at another cinema before! Then, enjoy any of the latest documentaries screening here. It will not only be exclusive to IMAX but a top quality film. Plus they are shorter than other films therefore cheaper.
31 Wheat Road, Darling Harbour, Sydney, NSW
Ph: 02 9281 3300
Price for a 45 mins film: $23/$19.50
Riverside’s Raffertys Theatre – Paramatta
This gem of Sydney cinemas in the west of the city, Riverside’s Raffertys Theatre is located in a very authentic area in the heart of the Parramatta’s Entertainment District, where all the restaurants and cafés are located. As its name states, stunning river paths and parks surround Riverside. The venue — one of the iconic Sydney cinemas in the area — has three theatres.
It is Raffertys theatre where you want to head for catching a very rich program of classic and commercial film screenings as well as exclusive film festivals such as the Indie Gems Film Festival. As well as this, Raffertys is the venue for screenings of the popular National Theatre Live plays from London. I should also mention that by choosing this as your screenings venue you need to know about the carefully curated film program Castaldi in Focus, which includes a film and a Q&A, where you are offered very rare and hard to catch films, as well as popular or classics.
My recommendation: head to the entertainment district for an early dinner or afternoon tea at one of the restaurants around, and then catch a captured live on stage play from the National Theatre in London.
Corner Church and Market Streets, Parramatta, NSW
Ph: 02 8839 3399
Tickets: vary depending on the type of screening
We hope you enjoy many memorable films, at one or all of these unique, authentic Sydney cinemas!
Gina Rubiano is an Arts and Cultural Manager, specialised in film. Her passion is the acquisition, exhibition and distribution of cinema, and her professional background has mainly consisted in roles in which she has been able to promote and grow new audiences for great films in Australia. Fine her on Linkedin.