The Lost City of Melbourne
The attempted ‘modernisation’ of Melbourne in the 1950s destroyed much of the city, including its elegant cinemas and picture palaces. Now, a new Melbourne-made documentary brings them back to life.
Melbourne has been an epicentre of arts and culture since the 1850s: it was here that the world’s first film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was made, and the early 20th century saw the rise of back-alley movie theatres and outdoor cinemas across the CBD, Brunswick, St Kilda and Preston. But in the 1950s, when Melbourne played host to the Olympics and Queen Elizabeth II, cultural cringe fostered the idea that our Victorian architecture made us look the opposite of a modern metropolis. And so began a demolition blitz that paved over a century’s worth of built heritage – in the process, razing many of the city’s various movie theatres.
Featuring rare archival video and photography as well as the invaluable input of key historians, this loving and revelatory work of local history allows us to reimagine the former glory of Australia’s film and art capital. In examining Melbourne’s rich architectural and social past, director Gus Berger (Junked, MIFF 2014) also prompts consideration as to how continuing development and gentrification may impact the city’s artistic lineage and treasured landmarks. The Lost City of Melbourne is a celebration not just of Melbourne’s beloved, bygone picture palaces, but also of its enduring relationship to the cinema itself.