The 167-year-old Theatre Royal has taken a giant digital leap forward with the launch of a virtual cinema.
Owners Felicity Cripps and Tim Heath have launched Royal Flix and Chill, a web-based video-on-demand service that has more than 100 titles on it.
Ms Cripps curated the collection with the help of her cinephile friends. She hopes the new platform will draw a wider audience and allow more people to connect with the cinema.
"Initially it was a lockdown idea because they had cancelled cinema, along with everything else, so many times," Ms Cripps said. "We thought if we can do an online cinema, people will always have interesting content no matter what is going on in the world.
"Our members pay to be part of a special club and we always want to offer incentives to them. So our online cinema is part of that."
Ms Cripps said she hoped the Theatre Royal's new digital product would also help keep the venue sustainable.
"The cinema is one of the toughest arms of our business," she said. "We are one of the last remaining single-screen venues in the country and that is because it is so hard to make ends meet when there is so much available to view in the digital world.
"But it's also very special and as a long-standing picture palace, we want to do all we can to keep it going.
"That's where our virtual cinema comes in. A way to connect with people who may not be able to physically attend our cinema and a way to show more arthouse and international films with less overheads.
"It's intended to compliment the in-house offering and draw a wider audience with a uniquely curated library of amazing cinema, available to everyone."
The virtual cinema took about three months for Ms Cripps and Mr Heath to setup.
"We had to choose from a few thousand films to start our library," she said. "It was an arduous task, to pick which 100 films would be the back catalog.
"Clare from the Castlemaine Documentary Festival helped curate that side of things and some local friends who have studied cinema contributed.
"The technical side of things took a bit of work but it is the same platform that the Melbourne International Film Festival and ACMI use."
As Castlemaine and the rest of Victoria recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Cripps hopes Royal Flix and Chill can become a sustainable part of the business.
"We would love it to be an ongoing thing," she said. "We will see how it's received but we are hoping we can reach an audience that is further afield to have it as a continuing thing.
"We just want it to cover costs. It's such a delightful thing to offer that if it can be sustainable and then make a bit (of profit) on top, then it's a bonus.
"It is just a great way to get people interested in the Theatre Royal."
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