David's passion for a cinematic life

A MA and Pa Kettle Show is what David McGowan strives to give his film fanatics.

David revitalised the Plaza Theatre in Laurieton in 1999 and has since established the cinema as not only a place to check out the latest flicks but a well-attended tourist attraction.

Some 14 years ago, David purchased the freehold of what was a tired old building and set about bringing the past movie exhibition standards back to life.

He salvaged plaster moulds, pillars and other decorative features from picture palaces in Queensland, then revitalised Laurieton’s cinema into something the area could be proud of.

Today, David screens films he knows his patrons will love at times best suited to them.

Communication is the key to offering a cinema service that suits its public, David says.

He has created a deluxe cinema, which seats 50 and the main cinema seats 285.

The Plaza boasts the cheapest tickets in the Hastings, with candy bar prices to match.

“I know going to the cinema for families can be so expensive, so I keep prices as reasonable as possible,” David says.

While chain cinemas focus on cash flow, churning out big Hollywood blockbusters they know will draw the most bums on seats, David focuses on taking his loyal patrons on a cinematic journey.

The atmosphere he has created enhances the experience for film-goers.

“While I was growing up, I was taught the art of showmanship, which is what I offer in Laurieton,” David muses.

“I run this business on passion.”

Operating his theatre the way such venues used to be is “the correct way to do it”, David believes.

The Hastings has a high number of retired residents, who appreciate the opportunity to be transported back in time while watching a film in Laurieton.

David grew up in the film world, operating cinemas in regional and suburban Queensland during the 1960s and 70s. 

He also operated a successful television production and post production business for 28 years.

“The media business was killing me and I wanted to get back to what I love,” David explains.

He visited Laurieton and stumbled across the decrepit building which he soon transformed into quite the spectacle.

Film is not only a day job for David.

The 63-year-old has a huge collection of 16mm and 35mm films from the 1930s and 40s at home.

“I’m very much across cinematography and lighting,” David reveals.

The yearning for historic film making stems from David’s disappointment in the trend of actors churned out of Hollywood who are “personalities” rather than masters of their craft.

Australian actor Cate Blanchett is a refreshing exception, with her stage experience shining through on screen, David believes.

“There is a great selection of Australian, English and US actors, however,” he adds.

The Plaza Theatre at Laurieton was built in 1959.

Before then, films were exhibited across the road in the School of Arts hall.

The theatre was operated by George Hastorius and Bruce Longsworth. 

In the early 1970s, Longsworth bought his partner out. 

After Bruce died in 1972 the theatre was leased out to a variety of people.

Baz Luhrmann’s father was the projectionist in the early 70s and this is the point in the celebrated director’s life where he was bitten by the motion picture industry bug.

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