Film buff Gus Berger is breathing new life into St Kilda stalwart the George cinema by screening old classics alongside new releases
From a post-punk venue to a high-end hotel, the George Building in St Kilda’s Fitzroy Street has had many incarnations. Now the defunct cinema, which shut down two and a half years ago, has been reopened by local cinema aficionado Gus Berger as the George Revival Cinema.
Armed with a six-month lease on the twin cinemas, Berger is giving film fans an eclectic mix of movies. One cinema has retains its original 35mm projector to screen classics, while the other room has a digitised projector, on loan from Yarraville’s Sun Theatre, screening new releases.
Themed nights feature spotlights on actors from Ben Mendelsohn to Ryan Gosling, but also directors, with Sofia Coppola getting a nod in the next couple of weeks with the screening of her latest film The Bling Ring alongside her cult favourites The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation.
Music has historically played a huge role in the building – after all, it was where Nick Cave's Boys Next Door were said to have cut their teeth in the ’70s – and the George acknowledges this with a spotlight such as the one on the Rolling Stones in coming weeks. “It becomes like a mini-festival,” says Berger. By becoming a ‘Friend of the George’, you will have access to cheap tickets and giveaways and also get a chance to create your own mini festival by suggesting to Berger what you want to see.
Berger has masterminded various pop-up cinema events around Melbourne. For now, he’s found the perfect place to sit tight until the lease runs out in February 2014. “It's always had a strong connection for me,” he says of the George Cinema. “It just got neglected and unloved towards the end.”
Berger has brought the love back to the space. Images of Melbourne’s cinematic past adorn the walls so punters can sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy visual reminders of cinemas of yesteryear. Even though the future of the cinema hangs in the balance, film fans have been flocking back to the venue, including one movie buff whom it seems never left.
“Well... I was told by one of the projectionists that someone has seen a ghost in the operating booth of the main cinema,” Berger starts, before admitting that he too has had the same supernatural encounter. “It’s a friendly ghost who just wants to see the cinema continue.”