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At the Movies

After a break, NewActon's courtyard cinema returns with a sizzling summer of cinematic screenings planned, HANNAH JONKERS writes.

Imagine stretching out on a comfy deckchair – glass of wine in hand – and watching a film in the warm summer air under the stars.

This is what the public enjoyed from 2008 to 2010 in the courtyard cinema at NewActon before fire engulfed the heritage listed NewActon Pavilion in 2011, destroying numerous restaurants and affecting the space. A wet summer also prevented the screenings from happening that year.

Molonglo Group director Johnathan Efkarpidis said the time was right to reinvigorate the courtyard and get the movies up and running  again.

“We lost the remote controls and lost the people that were serving it,” he said.

“One of the Italian restaurants tried to ignite it [last year] but because it was such a wet season it really didn’t work out. I think this year is going to be very different because the weather has obviously improved and I think we’re going back into a dry spell.

“We’re trying to rebuild the space now.”


NewActon’s stunning 100 year old Oak Tree gently stretches its branches over the courtyard, providing relief from the glare of the sun as it sets.

The large four by three metre screen sits in a designated frame in front of the tree with a large area in front. Fake grass used to line this space but it was destroyed by the 2011 fire.

It’s an intimate area with a chilled atmosphere and Efkarpidis quickly realised its potential after seeing a rooftop cinema above Cookie Bar and Restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD.

Patrons relaxed in deck chairs in front of a screen with food and drinks available and he knew that the concept could be trialled in Canberra.

“I know there’s [another] courtyard cinema, they do it at the National Film and Sound Archive,” he said.

“But no-one’s ever done it with nice comfy chairs and a nice atmosphere and food and everything else.

“What I saw at Cookie was the best way to do it – you want to be comfortable.”

There were other aspects that needed to be considered as well – such as the weather.

“We weren’t sure if it was or wasn’t going to rain, we needed another venue for during the winter period as well because it doesn’t work during the winter,” Efkarpidis said.

It was tested during the colder months and he quickly realised it would be impossible to run then.

Efkarpidis sat with three people one year watching a movie and they all huddled under blankets.

“We sat there the whole film but it was really cold,” he said.

But during summer it was a different story. About 150 people were catered for on each session and either lazed in the French-style deck chairs that were brought in or enjoyed dinner at the tables and chairs provided.

The neighbouring restaurants helped with the service.

Efkarpidis said with its re-establishment this year he expected the space could fit more than 60 patrons.

He said the plan was to definitely introduce the dining aspect to the experience again.

There were different theme nights originally – such as Australian movies and art house films – which Efkarpidis said had worked well and could feature during summer.

Screenings this year have already kicked off with a Lebanese Film Festival taking place on November 24.

For further movie events and tickets visit www.newacton.com.au