Today’s post documents one of the most inspired new projects to surface in Sydney this year, and… well, I wouldn’t be a patrotic Melbournian if I didn’t point out that it has been brought to life by a bunch of clever lads from Melbourne…! (SORRY sorry, couldn’t resist!) In all honesty, the incredible restoration of Paramount House in Surry Hills, and subsequent curation of a group of carefully selected creative tenants has been very much a collaborative effort, but a particular labour of love for Barrie Barton of Right Angle Studio.
Barrie is one of a small team who first conceptualised and launched Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne’s Curtin House over five years ago. With a vision to set up a creative hub and, initially, another rooftop cinema in Sydney, Right Angle Studio has worked with the owner of the Paramount House building for a number of years. Their unsuccessful application for a rooftop cinema on this site was an initial setback which, as it turns out, has been instrumental in the collaborative re-invention of this beautiful art deco building.
Built in 1940, Paramount House is one of Sydney’s iconic heritage-listed buildings. Originally it served as Paramount Pictures’ head office and distribution centre, complete with basement screening room. It is, in part, this rich history which inspired Barrie and the team at Right Angle Studio to envisage a cinema here. After scrapping their plans for an open air cinema on the roof, the building’s former screening room has now been carefully restored and turned into Golden Age Cinema and Bar – an intimate space which seeks to evoke the understated glamour of Cinema’s ‘golden age’. Quite a feat, and I have to say, they’ve totally pulled it off! As Barrie explains below, whilst the cinema was essentially a restoration job, the adjacent bar is designed and built entirely from scratch and yet, it truly feels as if its been here forever. What a triumph. As you enter you really do feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Paramount House was restored by the building owners, Citadin, under the watchful eye of their CEO Jin Ng. Fox Johnston were the building architects, and Barrie and his team at Right Angle were consultants during this process. Barrie and his two brothers Bob and Chris have worked closely with the building’s owner over the past three years, helping to identify good potential tenants, making introductions where necessary and generally assisting to bring the building back to life with, as Barrie says – ‘the right types of people doing the right types of things’.
We asked Barrie Barton a few questions about the regeneration of Paramount House, and getting Golden Age Cinema and Bar off the ground –
I suppose we made a good start on the cinema/bar thing when we launched Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne, but that was over five years ago now and we never owned the bar so it wasn’t really what we wanted. Now it is time to do something new. The world has changed, we have changed as people and it feels more timely to do something of greater intimacy and focus around quality design, film, food and drink.
We called the venue Golden Age as a reference to the grand cinematic past of the building, but also a nod to the excitement of being in Surry Hills right now – it is an amazing suburb full of interesting people, and we want to create a venue that brings them all together. Hence our tag line ‘the good old days are now’.
Our vision is to create an experience where design and hospitality match the finesse and beauty of film.
We’ve been working on this project for at least three years if you include our ill-fated efforts to get a rooftop cinema for this site approved. If I could summarise the process in a few words they would be: iterative, collaborative, frustrating and rewarding!
The design process was led by my brother Bob Barton, who worked closely with Don Cameron to dance the line between a vision of the past and the thrill of the future. To me, the cinema itself feels like a sensitive repair and restore job. We have antique chairs from Zurich that are of the same era as this building, and the original 35mm film projectors are still in the projection room.
The bar, however, is an act of creationism. It’s been built from scratch, but through its symmetry and sophistication it somehow feels like it has always been in the building.
How did we swing it back to its former glory, or how did we swing into the seemingly lucky position of becoming collaborative custodians of this great building? Maybe the answer is the same: By caring, trying and persevering. Nothing great happens without trial.
Golden Age Cinema and Bar
80 Commonwealth street
Surry Hills, NSW
The varied creative tenants at Paramount House now include Vice Media, Right Angle Studio, Paramount Coffee Project, Tokyo Bike, Pop Plant and of course Golden Age Cinema & Bar. A variety of retailers are scheduled to open for business over the coming year.