St. George OpenAir Cinema, Mrs Macquarie’s Point, Sydney (NSW)
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When the screen seemingly rises from the water and barely obstructs the generous view of Sydney Harbour, it’s a tough gig to keep your eyes on the cinematic prize. Perched on the harbourside headland of Mrs Macquarie’s Point, this cinema ensures not only a carefully curated selection of must-see films but also front-row seats to Sydney’s cityscape and harbour sailing boats. Catering is supplied by Matt Moran’s Aria, which adds a fine-dining filter to some classic film-friendly favourites. We’re talking a Wagyu beef burger with caramelised onions, beetroot relish and coral lettuce on a milk bun and sweet servings of Valrhona chocolate mousse with caramel popcorn. You are at the movies, after all.
Mov’in Bed, Moore Park, Sydney (NSW)
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If you can’t concentrate until you’re comfy, this experience could be a great compromise. A hybrid of a cinema and an at-home binge session, catching a flick at Mov’in Bed is as inviting as it sounds: 150 queen-sized blow-up beds are arranged on the grass of Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter, complete with bedside lamps and cosy blankets to fight the night-time chill. Dinner in bed is also a delightful add-on with food cooked up by Sydney favourites Fratelli Fresh, Burger Project and Bavarian Bier Café and served right to your chaise.
Sydney Hills Outdoor Cinema, Castle Hill Showground, Castle Hill (NSW)
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Forget digging out the picnic blanket and the plastic champagne glasses. If you choose your ticket class right, an evening at this open-air event can offer considerably more than just a spot on the grass. Set up in summer at the Castle Hill Showground, there are three types of movie experiences on offer – Smooth VIP, the all-new Cabana and VIP Bell Tent. The latter two choices include a private butler service so you’ll skip the lines to the bar and food spruikers sans guilt (and without missing any cliffhangers).
Skyline Blacktown (NSW)
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Fashioned into a sixties-style diner space, the restaurant at Skyline Blacktown is as much of a drawcard as the drive-in showings. Naturally, blindingly bright formica makes a prominent appearance and the menu is what you’d expect from a retro-styled candy bar: choc-tops, hot dogs and root beer are all served by staff dressed with equal reverence to the era. The real action happens out on the lawn though, where Sydney’s last remaining drive-in movie theatre makes for a unique way to pass an evening.
Barefoot Cinema, Point Nepean National Park, Portsea (VIC)
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It’s not a requirement that you slip off your kicks when taking in a flick at Portsea’s Barefoot Cinema but the relaxed atmosphere will likely lull you into doing so. There’s an Arthurs Seat cinema but Portsea feels particularly special: perched on the very tip of Melbourne’s basin-like Mornington Peninsula in a Moreton Bay Fig-lined clearing in Point Nepean National Park, it has a real festival feel. Sure, there’s a candy bar but there’s also locally based Martha’s Table, which serves tempting treats created with goods such as rare-breed pork belly and fresh eggs gathered from nearby Woolumbi and Somerville Farms. Live music also serenades movie-goers in the lead-up to lights down (that’s sunset to nature lovers).
Cameo Cinemas, Belgrave (VIC)
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There are two types of movie showings at Belgrave’s Cameo Cinemas, about an hour east of Melbourne CBD in the Dandenong Ranges: there’s the standard, indoor cinema offerings in the National Trust classified, 80-plus-year-old building or, during the summer months, there’s the almost-secret outdoor screenings, which take place in the backyard of the Art Deco building. Cameo’s outdoor sessions allow visitors to bring their own picnic should they find the Victorian craft beers and coconut oil-popped, vegan-friendly popcorn not to their liking. The season also hosts pet-friendly sessions (like Disney’s Coco, which features a canine protagonist) so your furry friends are welcome to join in the fun.
Gourmet Cinema, Caulfield East, Melbourne (VIC)
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Forget choc tops and popcorn - Melbourne's Gourmet Cinema takes snacking while movie-watching to the next level. Last year's food and film pairing (which is expertly themed) resulted in such genius as Slumdog Millionaire with samosas from Indian eatery Horn Please, Japanese treats from Tokyo Tina for the showing of Lost in Translation and Fonda tacos to accompany Frida.
Rooftop Cinema, Melbourne (VIC)
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Swanson Street’s Curtin House harbours all manner of cultural cachet with their seven levels of very Melbourne passions: there’s a beer hall, a train-carriage themed bar, a Mexican cantina-style eatery and a clothing boutique that stocks Comme des Garcons and Issey Miyake. Skip the shops and head to the top level and you’ll find the Rooftop Cinema, where colourfully striped deckchairs await and The Burger Shack is ready to plate up some hearty, veg-out food until 10 minutes before every screening. The glittering Melbourne skyline also demands some attention so you might like to have a drink at the bar before delving into the classics or new-release flicks under the stars. Image: Rooftop Cinemas
Movies at Cape Mentelle, Margaret River (WA)
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On the soft sweep of grass next to flourishing grapevines at Margaret River’s Cape Mentelle, the setting of this starlit cinema is just as inviting as a plush picnic spot. More inviting still is the wine for sale, which naturally comes from the neighbouring vines (of course, chardonnay is on the menu). There’s also live music before some films to settle you in for your evening.
Sun Pictures, Broome (WA)
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This long-standing landmark lays claim to being the “world’s oldest open air cinema in operation” and after a glimpse of the charmingly rustic exposed timber and tarnished corrugated iron of the facade, you might not be surprised. If you want to be part of its continuing history, bring a blanket and find a spot at the front or hop on a deckchair and sit under the shelter of the verandah. It’s not just for the summer either – thanks to the forgiving Broome weather, you can visit Sun Pictures at any time of year, with the exception of wet season between January and March.
Serafino Wines, McLaren Vale (SA)
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Bucking the full-length feature trend of other outdoor cinemas, the Fleurieu Film Festival collects a ream of inventive shorts and screens them among the McLaren Vale vines at Serafino Winery. Each short is easy on impatient attention spans at a maximum of eight minutes long and adheres to a theme – this year’s subject is “fire”. And you know what goes well with a fiery film? A wine that’s been included in the Hot 100 Wines of 2017 list in James Halliday’s Wine Companion. Luckily for you, the very winery that hosts this screening has two of them.
Moonlight Cinema, New Farm, Brisbane (QLD)
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On a bend of the Brisbane River is New Farm Park – a sprawling public space of 15 hectares, welcomed as a place to happily pass time by walkers, families and nature lovers alike. Along with being a haven for blooming jacarandas, in summer the park transforms into the site of the Brisbane incarnation of Moonlight Cinema. The first in, best-dressed rule applies when it comes to seating so arrive early to secure a clear view of the screen. If you’d like to make an afternoon of it, visitors can take a scenic route to the cinema by hopping on a ferry to nearby New Farm Park ferry terminal, which takes around half an hour from North Quay ferry terminal, then wander the park before taking up a permanent spot for the evening.
State Rooftop Cinema, North Hobart (TAS)
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Though the occasional session can be cancelled due to snow, if the temperature is right at this Hobart film hub, there’s a fun evening to be had. The rooftop of the 100-year-old State Cinema is the starlit home to new release screenings from their current catalogue but, due to the cinema’s championing of local filmmakers, you could also be treated to the work of a Tasmanian auteur. No matter the film, it’s a good idea to bring an extra sweater.
Sunset Cinema, Acton (ACT)
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The inviting grass on the Northern Eucalypt Lawn in the Australian National Botanical Gardens is the locale for Sunset Cinema, giving a garden-party feel to this small-scale outdoor cinema. Showing a selection of new releases, classic crowd-pleasers (including Dirty Dancing, natch) and kid-friendly offerings, there’s plenty of choice. The on-site food truck complements the cinema – with hearty Southern soul food: Tennessee wings, pulled pork burgers and barbecue nachos from local caterer Soul Cartel. If this doesn’t tempt you the cinema’s official food partner Menulog can deliver your favourite dinner right to the Menulog zone close by.
Deckchair Cinema, Darwin City (NT)
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Our northern friends might be at the mercy of a different weather calendar but a season of drenching doesn’t dampen their taste for the great outdoors. “Deckie”, as the cinema is affectionately known to locals, opens in April following the state’s wet season. Flanked by verdant tropical vegetation, the setting is decidedly Darwin and, because it’s run by the not-for-profit Darwin Film Society, there’s a clear community feel to this cinema project. In the interests of the environment bottled water is replaced by free filtered aqua available from the kiosk and food vendors use biodegradable containers. Plus, the candy bar is brimming with locally made sweets, insect repellent makes a complimentary round of the crowd and almost 25 per cent of the screenings are Australian. Aussie summer at its best.