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Luxurious cinema to open on the historic Pentridge prison site this December

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Ever since the development project was announced in 2016, movie buffs have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Pentridge Cinema.

Brought to Melbourne's Coburg suburb by Palace Cinemas and developer Shayher Group, this new addition to the site of the historic Pentridge Penal Establishment is slated to open in December 2020.

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Image: Courtesy of Pentridge Cinema

New experiences at the heart of the Pentridge precinct

First established in 1851, Her Majesty's Prison Pentridge was in full operation until it closed in 1997. Featuring impressive castellated turrets, arched entryways and guard towers, many of the historic structures at Pentridge are protected under the Victorian Heritage Register. This means that the cinema auditoriums will not actually be inside any of these listed buildings.

Architects embraced this creative and practical challenge, opting for an adaptive reuse strategy that retains many of the historic qualities will adding thoughtfully designed new spaces intended for modern uses. Today, contemporary architecture stands in striking contrast to the original 19th-century design, leaving space for visitors to reflect on the heritage of the former prison site and the community at large.

Pentridge Cinema is just one part of a $2 million restoration project on the site of the former penal establishment. Developed by Shayher Group, the dynamic 6.7-hectare precinct at Pentridge includes community spaces and opportunities for shopping, dining and entertainment.

"Our vision for Pentridge is to create a vibrant, well-designed urban village that breathes new life into this historical asset, transforming it from one of Australia's most prominent jails into a new community hub complete with retail, housing, community areas and open public spaces," Shayher Group spokesperson Anthony Goh said in an October 2020 announcement.

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Image: Courtesy of Pentridge Cinema

From jail cells to cinema screens

The movie house at Pentridge will be Palace Cinemas' largest space, with 15 screens and enough luxurious reclining seats to accommodate up to 1,100 people. New releases will be presented using state-of-the-art digital projectors and Dolby Atmos surround sound. To round out the entertainment experience, guests will have the ability to bring food and drinks to their seats.

"More Australians go to the movies than any other venue or event, reminding us how vital cinema is to our way of life," said Palace Cinemas CEO Benjamin Zeccola in October.

"Cinema is a window to see the magic of the world, a safe place where communities meet for shared powerful experiences that move them to laughter, thrills and tears," Zeccola explained, emphasising the group's excitement about the December 2020 opening.

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Image: Courtesy of Pentridge Cinema

Plans for a safe summer opening this December

As Aussies have not been able to enjoy cinema screenings for much of the year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain precautions are being taken to ensure a safe and successful grand opening.

Palace Cinemas is encouraging guests to purchase tickets online or over the phone. Contactless payment options and hand-sanitising stations will also be possible at the cinema. Movie start times will be staggered to avoid crowding in the waiting areas. Viewers will be seated in parties of two in a checkerboard configuration designed to keep people socially distanced.

However, the cinema group is optimistic that Pentridge Cinema will evolve into a dynamic and vibrant social attraction in the post-COVID-19 world. Like all cinema houses, Zeccola hopes Pentridge will become "[a] place where memories are forged throughout generations."

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