Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Kino Cinema is independent again

As originally commented by Jim on my post about Transylvania, I can confirm that the Kino cinema in Collins Place, Melbourne, is no longer affiliated with Dendy Cinemas. Dendy has recently sold both its distribution and screening interests to Icon Films and I imagine Kino was not included in this deal as it is half-owned by Frank Cox. My understanding is that Frank was not involved in the day-to-day running of the Kino, which was managed by Dendy.

Apparently Frank now has a complete interest in the Kino and may be on the lookout for a new managing partner. Gee, I'd love to if I had the money. I've made no secret that the Kino is my favourite cinema in Melbourne for the following reasons:
  • I love the auditorium-style layout of the two main cinemas
  • The staff are the friendliest and most sociable I've experienced
  • It is the least congested 'art house' cinema during peak times like Saturday evenings (I have an aversion to the big crowds at the Nova and Como)
  • They've kept prices considerably lower than the competition
  • Their member services are more generous than the competition, especially the 5-for-4 offer (attend 4 films within 3 months and the 5th one is free)
  • Free on-site parking for two hours, and only $2/hr after that, which for the CBD is excellent
  • Ambience
I used to add 'best programming' to the above list but, like all art house cinemas in Melbourne, programming has headed south in recent years. Transylvania is perhaps one of the best films screening at the Kino for years and I highly recommend everyone go see while you can. It's the kind of film one usually has to wait for MIFF to see, so if you would like some diversity in cinema, it behooves you to support the rare occasions we get to see a film like this.

By the way, my partner wanted to see it last night, but it only had two screenings: 10.15am and 2.30pm. I don't know how a film can succeed with screening times like that, especially on a Saturday. I believe that control of the Kino's screening times will be independent as of this week, so hopefully this situation will improve before the film's season ends. In fact, I'm hoping that the Kino's becoming fully independent once again means an improvement in programming. By improvement, I mean I'd like to see more independent art house films, edgier programming with a bit of risk. There is no-one taking risk any more and I believe there's a real hunger for it. Strangely though, audiences seem to stay in the bunker and not support true diversity when they get the chance (like Paranoid Park and Transylvania). I don't know what's going on. Maybe I'm in denial, but I can't accept Lynden Barber's predictions of the death of cinema (at least, as we know it).

There once was a time when I could go to the Kino and blind see a film, knowing nothing about it. Maybe one in five was a fairly middle-of-the-road French comedy that one could give or take, while the others would be at least time well spent. It was at the Kino that I saw both Lost Highway and Three Colours: Blue, my nos. 1 & 2 favourite films of all time. Films that I went to 'blind' and was pleasantly surprised include Like Blood and Wine (Bob Rafelson, 1996 - this film wasn't even advertised), The Crossing Guard (Sean Penn, 1995) and Savior (Predrag Antonijevic, 1998).

I keep a record of the films I see and when I started recording this info, I began by pulling out my movie stubs. Unfortunately through the 90's, the Kino's tickets were generic and didn't detail the film screened. So there's many films I saw during this period that I haven't recorded. I think Kino tickets printed the relevant film only from 2001. Looking at the last few years, the number of films I've seen there (as a total of all films seen in a year) are as follows:

2007: 23/272
2006: 29/201
2005: 27/87
2004: 18/102
2003: 21/98
2002: 7/62
2001: 5/37

The number of films I've seen at the Kino in the last five years has been relatively stable, even as the number of films I've seen overall has increased significantly. This can be at least partially attributed to the limited number of films the Kino can exhibit on only four screens. Pretty much if the Kino is screening something, I'd rather see it there than anywhere else. As an AFCA member, I can get free entry there, but I actually pay my own way without showing my AFCA card unless I'm going to review a film. That's how much I support the place. I want it to succeed.

2008, however, hasn't been a good year for me at the Kino. I've seen only 4 so far this year, and two of those were in the last two weeks. The programming has been quite dull. Here's hoping it will pick up, even though I've heard rumours that it's going to experiment with some mainstream stuff like Sex and the City . My opinion is, if they want to screen mainstream films, go with quality fare like Eastern Promises or No Country For Old Men. I don't necessarily think these films are 'mainstream', but they had widespread appeal and recognition.

I'm interested to hear of other's perceptions or experiences at the Kino. Anyone want to join a consortium to propose an interest in the Kino? Maybe I'm just dreaming, but I'd love to revive true art house cinema in Melbourne. Think Lumiere Cinema, but with amenity and service.


Kamikaze Camel said...

Sounds like exciting times at the Kino. I would hope they wouldn't go for mainstream cineplex stuff. That's what Nova is for. But, hey, if it means they get to program more arty stuff like Transylvania then perhaps it would be worthwhile.

Kino would be my ideal choice to see a movie at if I'm in Melbourne, but as I said in the other entry, the programming there seems to usually be the "arthouse" stuff starring celebrities or directed by famous directors. And then they'll turn around and not show stuff that would seem like a natural fit.

Paul Martin said...

Glenn, it remains to be seen what direction the Kino goes down. I hope they don't go mainstream too much a la Nova. The Nova is a different story though, as they have 14 screens compared to 4 at the Kino. While the Nova's programming is fairly mainstream, the sheer number of screens and income from all those popular films means they can afford to screen some of the smaller films. You probably saw The Jammed there, for example.

Have you seen Transylvania? If so, I'd be interested in your impressions of it.

Glenn said...

I'm definitely going to check it out on DVD, but I'm not sure if I'll get the chance to see it at the cinema.

Paul Martin said...

The Kino certainly doesn't make it easy to see the film. Check out the session times. They've got Transylvania on only during the day, and only one session on most days.

And - wait for it - they have Sex and the City opening on June 5, 5 sessions a day! I feel sick.