Feature Blogs

Brisbane's Best Cinema? It's Still The Palace Centro!


It feels like I’ve been blogging about nothing but film awards so far this year and so while we await the Academy Awards (Feb 27), I thought it an opportune time to change the subject matter.


One of the more popular parts of my www.thefilmpie.com website is the Brisbane Cinema Guide.  Given that I see a lot of movies, I have the chance to get to many of Brisbane’s cinemas on a regular basis.  I first published the Guide back in 2005 and it was fortunate that I did.  A producer stumbled across it from 612ABC and I’ve had a gig reviewing movies live on radio ever since.


I’ve tried to keep the Guide up to date but my last major review was in April 2008.  Over the Christmas holidays, I spent a couple of days visiting Brisbane’s cinemas to get some new photos and the latest price information.


You can check it out by clicking on the following link – Brisbane Cinema Guide.


The front page is a handy link if you’re ever looking for a single page that links to all of the cinema’s websites.  If you click on my review, you can see my own critique of each cinema.  I’ll let you read what’s of interest to you but thought I’d go through my favourites in terms of the three major review criteria I have used…


Best Price – Cineplex Chain (Balmoral, Hawthorne and Southbank)


You just can’t beat these cinemas in terms of price.  There’s nothing even in the same ballpark.  If I think back to my university days and Marketing 101, this is a cinema chain that has differentiated themselves via the easiest way possible – by charging the lowest price.


This of course can sometimes be a negative.  I’ve had many friends turn up to a screening and learn that it’s sold out.  I realise you can book online but not everyone likes to do that.  Also (and without sounding snooty), the Southbank cinemas can attract a large number of annoying kids/students.  They tend to take advantage of the low prices and then feel it necessary to annoy others during the movie (by talking to others and using mobile phones).


Let’s be honest though.  If you’re going with a group of friends to the movies and you want to save a few dollars, you simply must go to a Cineplex theatre.  The most you’ll pay for a ticket is $8.50 (to a 2D movie) and the candy bar prices are outrageously low.  A small coke and popcorn will set you back a total of $4.10.  Compare that with what you’ll pay at an Event or Hoyts cinema.


Best Cinema Quality & Service – Blue Room Cinebar (Rosalie)


I’ve always been a fan of the Blue Room Cinebar.  They’ve taken the Event Cinema’s concept of “gold class” and made it much more affordable to the average person.


When they opened in 2005, they had two screens which could only hold about 30 people.  Whilst it was nice to be able to enjoy a meal and an alcoholic beverage during the film, it was a little squashy.  That changed a few years ago when they opened a new third screen with luxurious seats and a lot more room (it seats 60 people). 


The chairs don’t recline (like in Event Gold Class) but apart from that, there’s really no difference in terms of quality.  The great news is that the Blue Room’s maximum ticket price is $21.50 (on Friday and Saturday nights).  At Event Gold Class, you’ll pay almost double - $39.00.  When you look at those numbers, it’s not hard to see why I like recommending this cinema to others.  You get a licensed, luxury theatre at an affordable price with very good service.  What more could you want?


Best Movie Quality & Range – Palace Centro (New Farm)


When it comes down to it, there’s been one cinema in Brisbane which has always been my favourite – the Palace Centro at New Farm.  I spoke with the owner of the Palace chain, Antonio Zeccola, at the Italian Film Festival last year and we chatted about the Centro cinema.  It may have been open for more than 10 years but it looks as new as ever.  The design of the 4 cinemas is fantastic and I love the lobby and waiting area.  The staff are also very friendly and have a nice knowledge of the films being screened.


First and foremost, the Palace Centro shows great movies.  The Barracks tends to show more commercial fare which leaves the Centro with some of the smaller, independent releases.  Films currently showing at the Centro include Black Swan, Blue Valentine, Catfish, The Fighter, The King’s Speech and True Grit.  That is a great list.


I’ve always thought it’d be cool to own a cinema one day and if I’m lucky enough to get that chance, I’d mould it in an image of the Palace Centro.



You can use the link above to go through all the other cinemas but a few quick notable comments…


The Event / Birch Carroll & Coyle chain continue to be the most expensive.  A full priced ticket will set you back $16.50 and a popcorn & coke combo will lighten your wallet by a further $10.


The Hoyts chain have remerged in Brisbane by taking over the AMC group of cinemas.  With that, we’ve seen an increase in prices as well.  The ticket prices are slightly less than Event but are still high relative to others.  It’ll be interesting to see how these cinemas perform over the next few years now that they’ve been acquired by Hoyts.


A big thumbs up goes to the Regal Twin which has greatly improved its move quality and range.  It only has two screens but is now marketed as a “boutique arthouse cinema”.  It’s handy for those on the southside who can’t get across town to the Palace Centro or Dendy Portside.  Currently showing at the Regal Twin are Tamara Drewe, Another Year, Black Swan and The King’s Speech.


Two cinemas which closed and then came back to life over the past two years have been the Tribal Theatre (the old Dendy on George Street) and the Schonell Theatre at the University of Queensland.  Both are showing a mix of classic and second-release films.


People often ask for my opinion on the Dendy Portside.  My answer is that I like it but it’s not as good as the Palace Centro or Barracks.  I dislike the 3D glasses they use at Portside and I often feel that the sound quality isn’t as good as it should be (particularly in the small cinema 5 – which no one is a fan of).


That’s it from me for another week.  Hopefully I’ll see you at some point in time at the Palace Centro!