Cinema’s likely closure another cultural loss

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It is inevitable that, as you go through life, things that once meant the world to you will suddenly fade into the past, no longer playing the critical role they once did in your day-to-day goings-on.

It happens at every level – that friend from your bridal party you now haven’t seen in years, the favourite restaurant that was once the home of every celebration, an album that helped you through a break-up, that shop that defined your teenage years. The list goes on.

Some change is forced, other times it’s just the natural evolution of our lives.

There is a last time for everything, but often we don’t know the occasion has arrived.

Penrith is littered with memories and reflections like that, for me at least.

I have no idea when the last time I visited The Card Shaq in Memory Mall or High Court Cards on High Street was, but I reckon I was at both shops every second day as a teenager.

The last album I bought for $29.95 at HMV in the Plaza? No idea, but there’s a good chance it was something from Tina Arena or perhaps ‘100% Hits’.

The last time I borrowed a DVD from Civic Video at Southlands, or handed over a 2-for-1 supermarket voucher at the Black Stump? Who knows.

Truth is I probably stopped doing all of the above well before the shutters came down, unwittingly contributing to the ultimate demise of once treasured shops and experiences.

The memory bank went further afield this week with news that George Street in the city is set to say goodbye to its major cinema complex – Event Cinemas, a likely victim of a recently approved towering development proposal.

I immediately felt sad, even devastated, before admitting to myself that I hadn’t seen a movie there in years.

But boy that place means a lot.

That area of George Street has always been something of an entertainment hub, hosting a variety of cinemas and theatres over many, many decades.

From the Trocadero dance hall to the Rapallo and Paramount, your age most likely determines your memories of the area and the types of entertainment on offer.

By the time I started going regularly in the 1990s, three separate cinema complexes stood side by side: Hoyts, Village and Greater Union.
It was far from the traditions of yesteryear, but for a teenager from the suburbs, it was a magical place.

I’d go there pretty much every weekend, joining a tradition carried on by my Dad and his brother for more than 30 years – a Saturday morning train trip to the city, a quick tour of the second hand record stores, lunch and then a movie.

Most of the time, it was an action blockbuster. From Stallone to Schwarzenegger, there was always an instant classic – at least in our eyes – waiting to be seen.

We’d check the newspaper the night before for the session times, determine if lunch was before or after the movie and plan the route for the day.

I outgrew it eventually, as most teenagers would, but it remains one of the great memories of my late Dad.

These days, albeit just 25 years later, that trip to the city would be very different. Second hand record stores are few and far between, and that cinema strip eventually changed to house just one major multiplex – Event.

Now that, too, seems destined for the memory bank.

Traditions change, and so does what we deem important.

There will likely be no major protests to keep the cinema; progress would likely win in the end, regardless.

But it’s sad to reflect on just how much of Australia’s cultural past has disappeared in the last couple of decades, often replaced with drab buildings and skyscrapers.

Sometimes, it’s hard not to lament losing parts of your life you wish you could share with your kids, or the generations to come.

Progress or not, we often allow our history and tradition to become the past a lot quicker, or with a lot less thought, than we should.

The streaming generation will kill off much of Australia’s remaining entertainment and cultural traditions, and while I’m all for a Netflix binge, you have to wonder if we’re all the poorer for it.

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