For the first time in over twenty years, the doors are open on a brand new, five screen cinema complex in the heart of the Brisbane City thanks to two brothers who have grown up in the industry.
The brand-new Elizabeth Picture Theatre is located in the Heritage-listed Tara House, best known as the Old Irish Club in Elizabeth Street, and will offer an affordable and quality cinema experience to moviegoers of all ages. The Sourris brothers, Stephen and Peter, are the passionate movie lovers behind the project, the same men who refurbished the derelict New Farm Cinemas in 2013.
They are dedicated to giving cinema fans a mix of retro style and state of the art sound and vision, plus bringing the ‘experience’ back to a trip to the movies. They are the third generation to work in the family business. Their grandfather Peter built the Yatala Drive-in, which he ran with his son James, the father of Peter and Stephen. The family was behind the ‘Five Star’ chain, but with the drop-in demand for drive-ins, the brothers always had the dream of bringing back the ‘grand old days’ of cinema to Brisbane movie fans.
“It was always my dream to have a cinema in the city,” Stephen Sourris said. “As children, we used to visit the old Regent and Albert Street cinemas in the city, and when the Regent in particular was closed, it was such a shame. That cinema was an icon of Brisbane, and one of the last real ‘picture palaces’ in Australia.
“My grandfather moved here from Greece in the 1900s, and eventually set up several locations, and we literally grew up in the cinema. It was always thought that we’d follow in his and our father’s footsteps, and when we saw this building, here was our chance to bring back the ‘experience’ of going to the movies.”
Hence the name ‘Elizabeth Picture Theatre’, a new cinema which will have character, history and a touch of something special.
“This is really going to be a place to have a night out. No other cinemas are offering what we want to give our customers. Studios spit out movies at an astounding rate screening multiple times a day, whereas I want to give people a blockbuster movie, some wonderful architecture along with amazing food and drinks,” he said.
Originally built in 1879, the building was one of the very first to be erected in what is now known as the CBD. Extensions were built in 1920 by the Irish Association, and after taking over the location two years ago, plans were drawn up for the new complex.
“We’ve spent millions of dollars and the best part of two years refurbishing the building, which needed lots of attention. We contacted the Heritage Department and they were so helpful and supportive of the project,” Stephen said.
The Elizabeth Picture Theatre is a five-screen complex, with two cinemas in the old function rooms known as The Tara Room and The Harp Room. “The ballroom ceiling from the old ballroom has been kept intact and is the showcase piece for the Tara Room,” Stephen added.
“The Elizabeth Picture Theatre also features three premium cinemas we call The Royal Rooms. “These opulent rooms provide luxurious full reclining seats and offer full food and beverage service to the patron’s seat. The venue has a full bar, a fully operational kitchen plus a private boardroom and an outdoor entertainment area.”
The seating capacity across all five cinemas is 350 patrons, giving customers a quality movie experience without the crowds and the ‘ship em in ship em out’ attitude. Plus there’s more to come, with plans already underway for a sixth and seventh cinema to be added at ground level.
“It was always our dream to do this, but we never actually thought we could pull it off…it is normally unthinkable to buy property in the CBD like this, the rents are through the roof,” Stephen continued.
“We’ll be filling the foyer with classic movie posters from our family vault which we know our New Farm Cinemas customers find fascinating.
“Cinema should be an experience, something to be enjoyed with family and friends. I want people to feel the same way I did as a kid going to the ‘pictures’ in the city. It was such a treat…and it still should be!”
The Elizabeth Picture Theatre is now open, with a grand launch planned for November 8th, 2017.