I roll my eyes at earnest community members waxing lyrical about their favourite local spots closing down or being turned into new apartments just as much as the next person, trust me, but today, my time has come to be one of those community members.
I’ll cut straight to the chase — I’m absolutely devastated that Cronulla cinema has decided to close its doors at the end of this summer. I’m an avid movie-goer — for fun, mind you, I don’t analyse, I don’t critique, I just love watching movies for the sheer enjoyment of it — and my cinema of choice is Cronulla.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Right now, to see the exact same movie at the exact same time, there’s a $10 difference between the prices at Miranda and Cronulla. I can see 2 movies at Cronulla for the price of 1 at Miranda. Try and argue with that, I dare you.
Cronulla still doesn’t have an assigned seating system and, although this can stress me out if I’m running late and I know the theatre could be busy, I quite like that you can choose to sit anywhere you like without someone gesturing at you wildly and spilling their popcorn all over you if you’ve accidentally sat in their seat.
I also love that all the theatres are created equal. There are two smaller cinemas down on the bottom level which are the best (the BEST) for seeing those lesser-known movies in, in a teeny space surrounded by people you know like movies just as much as you do. Other than that, all the theatres are the same. You don’t have to sort your schedule around trying to avoid VMax or Gold Class sessions (because who can afford it?) and every single seat is the kind of seat you don’t want to look too closely at when the lights go up. It might be a bit disgusting but it’s part of the old cinema charm.
Before we get too far away from those lesser-known movies, I want to sing my praises for Cronulla’s willingness to show those films too. Miranda shows the blockbusters, the real money-makers and that’s great if you want to watch Mamma Mia 2, 3 times in one week (guilty!). But if you want to watch the smaller films that don’t get as much attention, you’ve got to get yourself to the beach to watch them at Cronulla. I can almost always rely on them to be showing the films I actually want to see, not just the ones the ads tell me I want to see.
And, I suppose, if I really want to show my community heart, I’m very sentimental about Cronulla’s cinema.
The first movie I ever remember seeing in the cinema was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with my Dad at Cronulla. I don’t remember much about the day if I’m honest but I do remember loving it and possibly walking down to Gunnamatta after the movie.
In fact, I saw that right through until the very end when I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at Cronulla too. By then, Harry Potter was as much a part of my identity as anything else and I sat there after the credits rolled absolutely bawling my eyes out, in disbelief that it was all over (yep, I’m that person and don’t try to shame me for it).
Cronulla Cinema forged those memories for me, but I’m not the only one. In uni, I had to do an assignment on the importance of cinemas (or something equally as ~arts degree) and I ended up basing it on those memories of mine. I had to interview someone of an older generation to get their thoughts. And I’m glad that I chose my Dad to interview because he’s not here anymore to tell you how much he loved to fall asleep in Cronulla Cinema. That was where he saw his first-ever film, just like I did. It was Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. I’m actually including a copy of the blog post I wrote for class underneath this despite it being written by an embarrassing 19-year-old me because I like that I was still speaking about my Dad in present-tense and there are some great details in there that I couldn’t try to sum up in a paragraph.
Now, I only live up the road and I walk up there for late-night movies or midday showings. It’s still a part of our life and it will be until summer ends, as cheesy and as romantic as that may sound. I wish I could save it but I also see the empty seats and the cheap tickets on every single visit and I know that it’s not sustainable, as well as whatever else might be going on behind the scenes.
I’m only 25— I’m a little blip in Cronulla Cinema’s history but it has been a constant thread through my own. Miranda has a highly-curated cinema experience, that much is undeniable, but nothing they’ve ever done will live up to the authentic experience that Cronulla has been giving us forever.
My Dad is not a cinema-goer. He’s known to fall asleep in even the most exciting films, believe me, I’ve had to nudge him more times than I care to remember, just to save us from the embarrassment of a bit of sneaky snoring. When I asked him if he remembered any of his cinema experiences when he was young, I was not expecting him to remember anything at all. Quite the contrary.
It was summer in 1962, and my Dad’s family had all left their Miranda home and traipsed out to Cronulla for the day. They had gotten tickets to Lawrence of Arabia through my Grampsy’s work at the Oil Refinery, somehow, and had decided to make a day of it. They were to see the matinee showing of the film, so beforehand, they visited their own grandparents who owned a museum in the coastal suburb. Somewhere between the museum and the cinema, my Dad got bitten by a bull ant on his right foot and this is the thing he remembers the most. Considering he was very young at the time (not sure on the protocol of revealing his age, so I won’t) he had little control over the movie, and in fact, very little control over the entire day – which just goes to show that you really can’t plan to make memories.
Dad can’t remember if the day was actually swelteringly hot or whether it was the bite from the bull ant that was making him delirious, but he does remember being picked up and carried to the cinema – they were not forgoing the film just because Dad got a tiny little injury! He also remembers the seats in the cinema; they were dodgy. Most cinemas at the time apparently had vinyl seats, but in true Shire style, Cronulla did not. They were well worn, gross seats that looked like they’d had far too many choc-tops spilled on them over time.
So my Dad and my extended family really did not look like those people that are placed precariously for advertisements. They had a young kid in pain, were hot from the summer and were uncomfortable in the disgusting seats – but they were not going to let anything stop them from seeing Lawrence of Arabia. Nothing.