News / Entertainment

New cinema promises tasty treats for film lovers

FoMo in Brunswick East is the first multi-screen cinema in Brunswick for decades

Patrons can order food to be delivered to their seat before or during a screening. Photo: Tony Lee

Mark Phillips

A NEW cinema opening in Brunswick this week comes with an impeccable pedigree. 

Boasting six screens and almost 400 seats, FoMo Cinemas is the latest addition to the sprawling East Brunswick Village micro-suburb in Nicholson Street.  

Its arrival comes hot on the heels of the relocation of acclaimed restaurant Rumi and a new brew house which have opened there in recent weeks.  

Inspired by two cult cinemas in New York City, FoMo (which stands for food and movies rather than Fear of Missing Out) is operated by the same team that runs the wildly successful Cinema Nova in Carlton, Natalie Miller and Barry Peak.  

Miller and Peak are both key figures in the history of Melbourne’s independent cinemas: Miller once operated legendary arthouse cinema the Longford in Armadale, while Peak was the owner of the equally iconic Valhalla cinemas in Richmond and later in Westgarth. 

FoMo unites Miller and Peak once again with their Carlton landlord Mario Lo Guidice whose Banco property group is the lead developer of EBV

After some delays beyond their control, the cinemas are set to open on Thursday with Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, Michael Mann’s Ferrari, and the remake of Mean Girls among the films to screen from that day. 

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Miller refutes suggestions that opening a new cinema in an age when movies can be streamed into living rooms is a risky venture. She says there is strong evidence that patrons are flocking back to cinemas. 

“We’ve always had faith in the cinema industry, even in the worst times of the pandemic,” she said. 

“I used to say, to the team, ‘stop worrying, we’ll be back’ because I believe in cinema. It just wouldn’t go away. And that has been proved this Christmas, by the way that the business has been booming – helped by the rain, of course – but we’re almost back to semi-normal.” 

The establishment of FoMo Cinemas was encouraged by Lo Giudice, who also owns Lygon Court where Cinema Nova began in 1992 with just two screens. It now has 16 screens and a reputation as one of Australia’s best cinemas for foreign language and art house films. 

Miller and Peak have subsequently developed two cinemas in Adelaide, but this is their first joint venture in Melbourne outside of Cinema Nova. 

FoMo will show what Miller describes as “commercial films” and will not directly compete with Cinema Nova, which will continue to have more of an arthouse bent. Neither will it show multiplex blockbusters like the Marvel or Star Wars franchises. 

Miller said she and Peak wanted to do something different with FoMo by combining movie-going at a standard ticket price with a full dining experience, something that is uncommon in Melbourne but popular in the United States where Peak first came across the concept at Alamo Drafthouse and Nitehawk cinemas in New York City.

Patrons will be able to order food and drinks on a touchscreen from their seat and have it delivered to them during the film in a seamless experience. The venue will have a fully-equipped kitchen and chef providing restaurant quality meals.

“We have a concept where for 20 minutes before the film, we won’t have any ads, we’re going to have entertainment clips, things to entertain people,” Miller said. 

“So if they want to come 20 minutes before, order their dinner, and eat it quietly before the movie starts, they can do that. They can also order during the film, but we want that opportunity for people to feel they can have a bit of social time before the movie.” 

Lights! Camera! Action! New cinema open for business

ITN Architects has taken inspiration from Blade Runner for FoMo’s foyer and bar with neon artworks, stark colour contrasts and retro-futurist styling. All six cinemas are equipped with high quality projection and immersive sound design throughout. Two theatres will also be installed with 3D capabilities, including the largest 114-seat auditorium which offers 4K laser resolution on a screen measuring over 10 metres wide.  

Miller would not divulge how much FoMo has cost to set up, but she said it was a sizeable investment. 

“We thought this was an ideal location and it’s been sort of in the pipeline for several years,” she said. “The whole of East Brunswick Village is a huge development and obviously doesn’t happen overnight.

“And so, you know, the talks went on, and then there was the pandemic, and a bit of a slowdown. So, anyway, we’re up and running and it’s a lot to do with the fact that we do have faith in the future of the cinema industry, and also to present something that’s a bit different.” 

Brunswick once had a plethora of picture houses, some specialising in Greek and Italian films for the postwar migrant community, but they all began closing from the 1970s onwards. 

More recently, Palace cinemas has opened new complexes nearby at Pentridge in Coburg and in Moonee Ponds, but FoMo is the first multi-screen cinema operation in Brunswick for decades.  

In addition, a specialist cinema which can be hired for people to show films of their choice opened in Henkel Street last year, while the owners of the Thornbury Picture House have submitted plans to Merri-Bek council to convert a heritage shopfront at the southern end of Sydney Road into a small arthouse cinema. 

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