A 15-screen cinema will be the latest addition to the former penal establishment.
Since being sold in 1999, Pentridge Prison in Melbourne’s inner north has been developed into housing estates, parklands and a business precinct. There are ghost tours as well as wine cellars and now, as part of the redevelopment of the former prison by The Buchan Group, Palace Cinema’s will see their newest cinema complex open this December.
Featuring luxurious fully reclining chairs in every cinema, Dolby Atmos surround sound, state-of-the-art digital projection, and a fully-licensed menu so you can finish your beer on the inside as well as several Hollywood blockbusters and eagerly anticipated releases already planned for screening (Coming 2 America, Death on the Nile and Free Guy, Top Gun: Maverick to name a few), Pentridge Cinema is shaping up to be one of Melbourne’s finest.
Before or after the movie, moviegoers will be able to step into restaurants, bars, cafés and also do a spot of boutique shopping. With underground parking and the train station just a short walk away, it’s likely that the future of Pentridge Prison will also see many people doing time inside.
However, many initially wanted the site to be razed and parklands built in its place. Speaking to ACB News Breakfast back in 2017, author of Pentrige: Voices From The Other Side, Rupert Mann, said that a lot had been lost at Pentridge and that it, unsurprisingly, was a violent place at rock bottom.
So, before you duck into Pentridge Cinema this summer, here are five fascinating facts about Pentridge Prison.
1. In the beginning…
1851: Her Majesty’s Prison Pentridge received its first prisoners from the overcrowded Melbourne Gaol. Pentridge, as Coburg was formerly known, was chosen as the site due to its isolation from Melbourne but in the early years, the first prisoners did hard labour, breaking up the bluestone in the area and constructing Sydney Road.
Pentridge was often known by the nickname “The Bluestone College”, “Coburg College” or the “College of Knowledge”.
3. (In)Famous prisoners
Prisoners to have called Pentridge home have included Ned Kelly, Mark ”Chopper” Read, Julian Knight (Hoddle Street Massacre), Gregory David Roberts (author of Shantaram, and escapee of Pentridge who fled to India), and Noel Tovey (the artistic director for the indigenous welcoming ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics).
4. Archaeological discovery
In 2014, archaeological works uncovered three rare panopticons, a building design that allows all prisoners of an institution to be observed by a single security guard, without the inmates being able to tell whether they are being watched. Designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century.
5. Last Australian execution
The last man to be executed at Pentridge Prison, Ronald Ryan, was also the last man to be executed in Australia.
(Featured image: Palace Cinemas Pentridge)