Falling in love with cinema can happen to anyone. Some dream of lighting up the silver screen and some just like to watch – but Mark Walker and Jess Litsas fantasised about creating a silver screen of their own. Rejecting big budget flicks and Hollywood endings, the pair set out to bring indie cinema to Geelong in a way it hadn’t seen since the ‘90s. The result is Pivotonian Cinema, a pop-up in Geelong West, ending the city’s hiatus on arthouse.
Mark: Me and Jess are a great team. We met in Ripponlea – Jess was working at a bar and I used to go in there for a glass of wine. We hit it off. Then we curated a video art show together. I’m the Technical Co-ordinator at MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival) and a Video Artist. I’m currently completing a Research Masters (MFA) at RMIT. Jess graduated from Melbourne University with a degree in Film Studies and Art History. She has curated numerous exhibitions and has worked in various Front of House roles in cinemas, festivals and arts institutions.
We decided to do our own thing in November last year. We worked at the George Revival Cinema and saw what Gus (Berger) had done to go into a space for three months (and hold a pop-up cinema). For us, we thought – I can run all the technical stuff. And we have enough of an idea of design to do the marketing. We were looking at Brunswick and a few places in the city and we thought that there’s a popup cinema every other week, so we decided to look at regional areas.
Jess: Mark remembered going to The Pix as a child and wondered what had happened to the theatre. When deciding on where to establish an independent cinema, Geelong was the obvious choice as no one has catered to the population since Village bought and closed down The Pix in the 1990s. We both also have enough family ties in the area that made it feel like we weren’t going in blind. If we needed help, we could ask, which made a huge difference.
We chose (the name) Pivotonian because it invokes the nostalgia of Geelong’s past, when it was known as Pivot City. Pivotonians, or Geelongites, turned away from Melbourne to seek their fortunes during the Gold Rush era. We feel that independent cinemas are somewhat nostalgic in their own right and we wanted to play with that.
M: We play latest release indie and alternative content – we try to program the best for our audience, researching the top films on the international festival circuit and keeping a close eye on what Michelle Carey has at MIFF.
We’ve been lucky with exclusives because we’re not in Melbourne, so we picked up A Girl Walks Home At Night before Nova. It Follows was also an exclusive (outside Melbourne).
We’ve had about six full houses where we’ve overflowed. The most fun was a guy I went to Uni with. He made a short film called Cooking On The Frankston Line. It was acted, but the punters on the train don’t know that. He gets on the train and starts making Bolognese with a little cooker barbeque. That went viral and was on the Today Show. So Nathan had his premiere down here. It was a fun time.
Our Pop-Up cinema ends its extended six-month run at The Ukrainian Hall on June 16 with a mystery film and the announcement of our new venue. We’ve recently launched our Pozible campaign and expect to embark on a full-scale build of a new cinema in the coming months. Until then, we’re screening films every day with some big titles including Clouds Of Sils Maria, Banksy Does NY, Kumiko and an extended screening of arguably 2015’s best film Leviathan.
(J&M) Box Office cafe
(M) Den Supply Co.
(J) Recently we got away to the Limestone Coast, SA and stayed above a bunch of old pubs, it was
(M) I’ve been telling everyone that comes down to check out graffiti at The Powerhouse.
(M) Geelongites are actually Pivotonians.
Best road trip memory
(J) My father took me on a week long road trip down the Great Ocean Road to the SA border when I was little. We saw a baby koala on its mother’s back one night as they were crossing the road. That was really cute, I don’t think I will ever forget that.
Dream road trip
(J) Deep South USA – BBQ, Blues and bourbon.
The Pivotonian Cinema Pop-Up
Ukrainian Hall, 57 Pakington Street, Geelong West
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Keep independent cinema alive in Geelong.