Feature Blogs

Bye Bye, Dendy George Street

Created on Tuesday, 07 October 2008 21:00
Written by Matthew Toomey


It was reported in the blog of Des Partridge last week that the Dendy George Street cinemas will close at the end of this year. The lease finishes up on 31 December 2008 and it will not be renewed.


I can’t say that this news in unexpected. Business has been slow at the Dendy George Street for some time. I’ve seen plenty of movies there over the past few years with only a very small audience. It’s been difficult to draw a crowd to the independent films that they usually show. The fact that the new Dendy Portside cinemas have opened will have also contributed to the lack of ticket sales. The Dendy Portside has a fresh look and is a much better place to watch movies.


Still, it’s sad to see one of Brisbane’s classic cinemas shut its doors. I’ve seen so many fantastic movies at the Dendy George Street and I have a lot of great memories.


I thought I’d share some of those memories in this week’s Film Pie as my own way of recognising this great cinema. It won’t be the same without it.


Requiem For A Dream


I saw this film at the Dendy George Street in early 2001. It was my favourite film of the year. Here were the first few lines from my review… “They say a picture paints a thousand words. I've always believed film is an art form and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to see Requiem For A Dream. Some movies are about more than big stars, popcorn and happy endings. Some movies leave you thinking for a long time. I left Requiem For A Dream an emotionally changed individual. I walked out the Dendy Cinema doors with a wave of others and headed down Adelaide Street. The whole time, the film's intense music score was repeating over and over through my mind. All sense of reality had been taken from me during the film's final half-hour and it would take more than a short walk to get it back.”


I can still remember that night and as per the best and worst list on my website, the film is my 9th favourite on the full list of films from 1996 through to 2008. There’s nothing I can say today that I didn’t say back then. It’s an amazing film.


Mulholland Drive


Almost 12 months after Requiem For A Dream, I saw at film at the Dendy called Mulholland Drive. It came with much acclaim and I remember the cinema being jam packed when I saw it. I was squashed into a seat on the far left of the number 1 cinema. It was there I sat for this film’s two and a half hour duration. It’s funny how I can remember such detail from 6 years ago.


It ended up being my favourite film of 2002 but it’s hard to describe why. It just messes with your mind. You’re never quite sure what it’s about and what is going on. It was one of the most challenging movie-going experiences that I’ve endured and this is what I loved about it. It was “outside the box”.




My 4th favourite movie of 2006 was a French film called Hidden. Here’s what I said in my review at the time – “I saw Hidden with two friends and we were still discussing it the next day. The more we thought about it, the more we appreciated the craftiness of writer-director Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher). In the film, someone is playing a game with Georges. In the cinema, Haneke is playing a game with us. He’s only showing us what he wants us to see.”


The venue was the Dendy George Street and I can still remember the audience reaction at the end. The credits started rolling and everyone started whispering and looking around. Some people thought they understood whilst others had no idea. It’s not often you see that and the film gave me a huge appreciation for director Michael Haneke.


Burke & Wills


In 2007, I saw a low-budget Australian film at the Dendy George Street called Burke & Wills. To call it low budget would be an understatement. It was made for around $30,000 and was shot in black and white. Most scenes were only shot once because the filmmakers couldn’t afford extra film. It was an enjoyable movie.


The screening I attended included a question and answer session at the end with the two guys who wrote, directed and starred in the movie – Oliver Torr and Matt Zeremes. This Q&A session was filmed for inclusion in the DVD. I thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up and whilst I usually keep my mouth shut, I felt I had to ask a question. I bought the DVD a few months later and sure enough, you can hear me asking a question of Oliver and Matt right there at the Dendy George Street. That’s a cool memory for me.


9 Songs & Shortbus


I’ve reviewed nearly 2,500 films in the past 13 years but no two films have had more explicit sex scenes that 9 Songs and Shortbus. I saw both at the Dendy George Street.

I remember looking around and checking out the audience demographics. There were young couples, old couples and singles. It may not have been for everyone but they could certainly pull a wide range of audience members.


Their reactions were what I remember most. During the sex, some would be openly laughing. They found it funny to see such “full on” entertainment provided on screen. Others were very quiet – hiding up in the back corners of the cinema as if embarrassed by the fact they were there. It was certainly different from your average movie.




In 2002, I went to an advance screening at the Dendy George Street for a film called Storytelling. It was from director Todd Solondz and I had really enjoyed his last film, Happiness.

What I didn’t realise beforehand was that this advance screening came with pre-movie entertainment. A dance troupe of some sort (I can’t remember where they were from) put on a 15 minute show up on stage before the film commenced. It was strange to say the least and I don’t really know what purpose it served but it certainly was an interesting way to pass the time.


2000 AFI Screenings


When you join the Australian Film Institute, you get to vote for best picture at their year end awards. Because some Australian films are very small and don’t get released up here in Brisbane, there special one-off screenings (held in September each year) where AFI members can go along and see them. In 2000, these screenings were at the Dendy George Street.


It is a condition that you have to see all films before voting. This ensures that all movies have an equal chance of winning. Each member had a card and when you went to these special screenings, you had to have it stamped by the AFI representative who was waiting at the theatre entrance. You then sent this in with your voting form to prove that you saw the movies.


In September 2000, my beloved Essendon Bombers were playing the AFL grand final against the Melbourne Demons. At the same time however, was an AFI screening at the Dendy for a film which hadn’t been shown anywhere else. What was I to do?


Well, during the second quarter of the match, I drove hastily to the cinema, got my card stamped and walked in. There I sat for about 2 minutes. I then got up, snuck past the AFI guy and headed home. It was the shortest amount of time I’ve ever spent in a cinema. I can’t even remember the name of the movie.


I was able to get home in time for the second half and to see the Bombers win the match!


Air-Conditioning Dilemmas


A few years ago, the air-conditioning system at the Dendy George Street kicked the bucket. It was out of action for quite a while.


To cool things down, enormous fans were placed at the front of the cinema which blew air in the director of the audience. These things were very large. They kind of reminded me of the fans to see on film sets when the director wants to create wind.


They didn’t do much good (it was still hot) and they made an annoying “whooshing” sound but it was yet another unusual movie-going experience provided by the Dendy.


There were plenty of other great films I saw at the Dendy George Street. They include The Motorcycle Diaries, 21 Grams, Elephant, Spellbound and The Pledge.


I’ll hopefully get to see a few more films there in the next 3 months and I suggest you do likewise if you’re looking for one final memory from this long-running cinema complex.