NEWSMAKER: Vintage film aficionado and Brighton Bay cinema owner RALPH TARANTO, 80, recently purchased the heritage building that houses the Astor Theatre
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT BAYSIDE: I like the beaches, but I don’t sunbathe any more.
WHAT I’D CHANGE: It would be nice if there were more independent cinemas left.
“I officially take ownership of the building on October 31 and on November 1 we will start work. I plan to first refurbish the front of the building and put the original-style sign up and have lights all around it. The roof will also be repaired.
I have lived in St Kilda all my life and I used to come to the Astor Theatre as a little kid in the 1930s.
Myself and George Florence, who manages the Astor Theatre, have been friends for around 20 years. I tried to buy the building about eight years ago, but circumstances did not work out.
St Michael’s Grammar School approached me about purchasing it and we have been negotiating the sale for the best part of three months.
I think some developers would love to pull the building down and create apartments here.
In the 1970s, they pulled down a lot of beautiful theatres in Melbourne.
Cinema is my passion and the Astor Theatre is quite unique. The building itself will now be preserved for future generations and they will see how it used to be here. The outstanding parts are the foyers – they are beautiful.
I have been involved with cinemas for many years. I worked for MGM in the 1940s and with Hoyts in the 1950s. I bought Brighton Bay cinema, which is leased to Palace, in 1992 and refurbished that.
I also bought the George Cinema on Fitzroy Street in St Kilda and re-launched it last year as the Aurora. I tried to run it but soon realised I was too old, so now it is to be sold.
With new digital technology, there has been a great change in cinema through the years. Film will probably hardly exist soon.
George has projectors to show film, but also has the new technology as well. He has a great selection of classics at the Astor Theatre, whereas other places are throwing away everything on film. If a movie has a good script and a good director, then it is usually good. I love all the classics and Gone with the Wind is probably my favourite.
I do not look at buying the Astor Theatre building as an investment – I see it as preserving something old and beautiful.