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For a cinema devoted to recreating the
feeling and atmosphere associated
with screening archival footages, it
comes as quite a surprise that Arc
Cinema is fitted out with the latest
Chief cinema programmer at the National
Film and Sound Archives (NFSA) Quentin
Turnour was one of a team of people involved
with creating the state-of-the-art cinema. In his
time with the NFSA, he has been responsible
for choosing which films, both old and new, to
screen for Canberra audiences.
He is lucky enough to be spoilt for choice
with an extensive collection at his fingertips
and all the equipment and facilities he needs
to show even the oldest of films. But the NFSA
hasn't always been so lucky.
Only five years old, Arc Cinema is a relatively
new addition to the art deco building, which
was initially planned to the hold the National
Museum of Australian Zoology. However,
in 1928 the facility was established as the
Australian Institute of Anatomy.
The archives moved to the building in
1984 and immediately faced the issue of
having no screening facility. For the next two
decades staff ran screenings in the building's
lecture hall, which failed to measure up to the
standards of a cinema.
After years of discussion and planning,
a construction team was formed in 2005 to
build a state-of-the-art archival cinema and
Turnour joined the NFSA to help. He credits
the archive director at the time Paolo Cherchi-
Usai for having the vision to bring a cinema to
"He'd just started and he was aware it was
a really unusual situation where a major film
archive around the world did not have an
archival venue," Turnour said.
When theatre designer and artist Garry
Transue visited the NFSA in 2006 the idea
really took off. He presented his vision of Arc
Cinema to Cherchi-Usai and offered to create
a cutting-edge interior, including lighting and
Work began on transforming an exhibitions
pace in the north gallery, but Turnour said it
wasn't an easy process.
"It had a lot of heritage elements in it, which
means we were very constrained about what
we could do," he said.
Mother Nature also added some challenges
of her own with a hail storm causing significant
water damage in the space.
Perhaps the greatest challenge though was
the need to cater for the different sound and
film formats used across the industry since
it first began. Customised archival-quality
projection equipment and a complex audio
system had to be included in the 250-seat
Since the cinema opened, technology has
continued to change within the industry with
most films distributed on a digital format now
instead of tape. To cater for the new format,
the cinema installed the latest generation of
digital projection equipment in August.
Turnour said the move to digital is unlike
anything the industry has experienced since
the introduction of sound in the late 1920s.
"Modern cinemas are constantly technically
upgraded to meet the latest standard formats,"
he said. "But that leaves behind the legacy of
100 years of different technical formats; it also
leaves behind films made for those formats.
"At the moment we move between six
formats on a regular basis."
Turnour sees the role of Arc Cinema as
bigger than simply screening films; he believes
it is important to recreate the experience of
watching a film from another time.
"You need gear that can reflect the original
experiences that are no longer available," he
They run the films in the original formats
where possible and try to give an authentic
audio experience. He said if older films are
shown on DVD it doesn't reflect the quality of
the original in terms of light quality, depth of
field, sense of focus, and the aesthetic look.
To recreate the original cinema experience,
Arc is fitted out with cutting-edge 35/16mm
changeover projection equipment. The sound
system can also run different audio formats,
from the earliest days of sound on film to state-
of-the-art digital audio.
NFSA chief executive Michael Loebenstein
believes the fundamental difference is when
you visit Arc Cinema everything is focused on
the actual appreciation of the film.
"It is not necessarily a place of consumption;
Arc is a place of appreciation, art and
enjoyment," he said.
"Arc is not a cathedral. Arc is a very
"Everybody is invited to come and join in
the appreciation of cinema."
Passionate about cinema and creating an authentic viewing experience, the team at
Arc Cinema is constantly upgrading with the times to bring Canberrans the best from
the world of film. BY JONI SCANLON
Another cinema challenging the
commercial cinema experience
is Kendall Lane Theatre in
NewActon South. The intimate
35-seat boutique cinema offers
scheduled film screenings and is also
available for hire by local businesses
Artists and filmmakers can also
hire the cinema as a place to
showcase their work.
The cinema is also used to give
local businesses a place to meet
with film technology on hand.
Kendall Lane Theatre is fully
equipped with state-of-the-art
For information and booking,
call 02 6126 1300 or email
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