Stunning heritage building, art-house line-up, French film festival and flutes of champagne – Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace puts the old-school romance back into going to the flicks. Alexandra Mills takes us through what a night at the Orpheum entails.
Even the name suggests greatness. The word Orpheum is derived from Orpheus, the mythical Greek poet and musician whose skills charmed Hades into bringing his wife back from the underworld. So it’s safe to say, this isn’t your ordinary cinema.
Just minutes from the CBD, on bustling Military road in Cremorne, it stands out like a magnificent neon beacon from a time gone by, beckoning cinéphiles with its old-world charm. Originally opened in 1935, the Orpheum was impeccably restored in 1987, and fitted out with a Mighty Wurlitzer Organ transplanted from the Wilson Theatre in Fresno, California.
Boasting six cinemas with the latest digital projection and sound, the art-deco cinema screens all the latest releases, but is set apart by its program of art-house titles, enduring classics and special events. From exclusive previews and premieres to Shakespeare classics, award winning documentaries to films blacklisted from mainstream cinemas, and international film festivals to the latest show on Broadway or even the Royal Ballet – the Orpheum has something for everyone.
Terrific program aside, let’s not forget it’s charm – the nostalgic warmth created by the stunning architecture and art-deco design. Before you even step inside it feels reminiscent of the Rialto or 42nd St Cinema in New York during The Golden Age with its poster boards and black and white titles.
Upon entry you are greeted by the ticket sales desk, with its gold metalwork gates and attendants dressed in white shirt, maroon waistcoat and black bow-tie. Then, like a moth to the flame, you’ll be drawn to the neon sign of the candy bar where you can choose your poison to enjoy in the Legends Bar, or in the movie itself.
If you’re lucky, you may have unknowingly selected a screening that includes a pre-show performance by Neil Jensen on the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. The experience is similar to arriving for a flight and realising you’re on an A380 – the majesty of the thunderous organ adds a weight and drama to the screening that has to be experienced to be understood.
From the moment you walk in the door, the romance and glamour of this stunning heritage cinema is a delight that makes the actual film seem like an added bonus. This isn’t your standard trip to the movies.