I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
Published January 2nd 2017
Under the Tuscan Cinema
Just a hop, skip and a ferry from Palm Beach, is the sleepy little beach-side hollow of Ettalong. With a great cafe scene and resort accommodation, Ettalong has long been on the tourist map but it is the Mediterranean-themed Cinema Paradiso complex that offers one of the most unique experiences in this holiday berg.
Move over the big commercial cinema chains and enter the charm and eccentricity of an independent cinema with both style and substance, without the exorbitant ticket and snack prices.
The Cinema Paradiso complex is housed in an impressively sprawling Roman Villa which also hosts the local market, offering wall-to-wall options for entertainment, dining and shopping.
If it is a trip to the movies you're after, you'll be welcomed by the cosy and inviting cinema foyer with freshly-stocked candy bar, adjoined to an art deco style lounge area, like the cinemas of old. Despite the ornate facade of the complex, I was still taken aback by the grandeur of its interior and for the history buff in me, partial to the baroque, I revelled in the opportunity to relax in the lounge whilst marvelling at the extensive collection of classical artwork.
While it was tempting to forget the movie and enjoy my refreshments in the 'drawing room', I ventured upstairs as my session approached and discovered a continuation of the elaborate decor and spaciousness, on the second floor of the villa. With six cinema screens spread at intervals throughout, and each with its own immaculately kept amenities and lounge, there is not an overcrowded waiting area in sight.
Lounge in style while waiting for your movie session
The tip is to make sure you actually leave enough time before the movie starts to find your cinema, so huge is the complex. The villa corridors are labyrinthine and you might have to leave a trail of crumbs to find your way back. You might also find yourself distracted along the way by the sense that you are in some kind of museum, with views from the balcony areas of the markets and restaurants below.
I'll admit I wondered how a cinema of such expense could survive on movie tickets alone, so I was intrigued to see that the venue could also be hired out for conferences and events. The theatres would be great for seminars and the spacious lounges comfortable for networking occasions.
Whatever the business model of this complex, Cinema Paradiso has thankfully endured, as a drawcard for locals and holidaymakers. I love independent cinemas and hope the day will never come when the big chains are the only option.
The experience of going to the cinema is still one that holds wonder for me but it is rare I find a cinema like Ettalong's Paradiso. Awe-inspiring, beautiful and innovative, with local charm, latest release movies and above all, memorable.
It's a nice place if you aren't in a wheelchair... wheelchair access is limited and those patrons end up sitting right below the screen needing to tilt their heads up vertically. And that is when the elevator is actually working to provide access inside. I thought wheelchair access needed to be working more often than not to be legal.