After almost 50 years – a lifetime for most Novocastrians – movies return to the Civic Theatre .

“Films” they were called back then by polite society, or “pictures” by everyone else. “Motion pictures” by the cognoscente.”Cinema” by the industry. “Box Office” by publicists.

Nowadays it’s the ubiquitous and ultimately accurate fun word “movies” – a reminder that the technology grew from still photographs via soundless animation. Ironically, “movies” is the only term that isn’t perhaps an anachronism based on celluloid.

And whichever, the magic returns to the city when Civic Theatre’s 7.5-metre-wide screen lights up.

Two years ago the closure of Tower Cinemas on King Street dismayed local residents, then faced with a strong disincentive of travel to more thinly populated outer burbs to enjoy a live movie experience.

The loss of Tower Cinemas was the final act in the CBD’s attrition. Over the previous half century they had lost The Strand, The Tatler, The Lyric (Playhouse, Lyrique), The Royal, The Civic, and even the original playhouse given over to movies, The Victoria.

Now… nothing.

The return of films will, all hope, re-activate the CBD, which has also experienced major disruption of all social events due to COVID-19.

Civic’s new 7.5 metre x 4.4 metre screen – with the Civic Theatre’s state of the art sound system and individually air-conditioned seats – will provide a cinematic experience we’ve come to expect. It has to, at the very least, better our personal air-conditioned reclinered flat-screened home theatres!

The Civic Theatre opened in 1929, and although designed as a live theatre, it was leased as a cinema for the next 45 years. The building was opened by the Premier of New South Wales, Thomas Bavin as a picture theatre. Designed by renowned theatre architect, Henry Eli White, the exterior of the building is in the Georgian Revival style, with the interior decoration in the Spanish Baroque style with a marble staircase, terrazzo balcony and chandeliers (thanks, WikiPedia).

Civic Theatre Manager Leonie Wallace said locals are thrilled to experience something contemporary but screened in a venue with such historical links.

We trialled bringing film back to the Civic Theatre in January with a season screening of a selection of the most acclaimed productions from London’s National Theatre at the Civic Playhouse. It was so popular that film screenings in the Civic Theatre was the next obvious step,” Ms Wallace said.

Our new program features a variety of films that appeal to people of all ages and tastes, such as recent release features, documentaries, theatre productions and children’s films during the school holidays.

We’re also working on securing shows to return to the Civic Theatre stage with the venue’s audience capacity lifted to 500 people from next month, the maximum number allowed under the current Public Health Order.

We have made changes to how the Civic Theatre operates to enable people to experience cinema and live performance safely with physical distancing requirements and hygiene measures met under our COVID Safe plan.”

The Civic Cinema initiative is part of the Civic’s Beyond the Stage program of cultural offerings outside of the traditional uses of the Civic Theatre and City Hall. So far, this has included the Civic Bar Beats – Friday evenings of live local music in our Theatre Bar, and lunchtime concerts at City Hall.

Tickets for Civic Cinema are now on sale through the Civic Theatre website.