After being shut down at the start of this year, The Rex is set to return. Photo: Carly Baker-Burnham
After being shut down at the start of this year, The Rex is set to return. Photo: Carly Baker-Burnham

REVEALED: Exciting plans for The Rex’s return in Monto

AFTER years of rejection, The Rex project in Monto has finally received a grant of $58,500 to begin renovations on the 1930s cinema which has been closed for nearly 20 years.

In an effort to showcase artistic talent and culture in the North Burnett, The Rex board is hoping to restore the old building to one day become a home for art exhibitions, theatre performances and movies.

Managing Director Carly Baker-Burnham said the 'Tackling Tough Times Together' grant funded by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) in partnership with the Australian Government, will allow the project to continue where it left off, before it had to close.

"In 2019, The Rex had an art exhibition of Gil Jamieson's work which was hugely successful, people from all over Australia came ... there were almost 300 people," Ms Baker-Burnham said.

Following the event, complaints were made to the building certifier about the safety of the old picture theatre.

"This created a lot of anxiety and as a result, North Burnett Regional Council felt the best approach was to close The Rex," Ms Baker-Burnham said.

"As the board of The Rex we would never take that risk of having people in an unsafe building, we know it's very industrial looking and needs a lot of work but we need to get people in there to demystify The Rex.

"We need people in there to connect to their childhood stories of going to the movies and how their first date was there with the man they ended up marrying, stories from right back in the 40s and 50s."

Ms Baker-Burnham said they were always going to get assessments done by a structural engineer and QFES later on, but the complaints brought them forward.

"Change is very difficult when it is imposed upon groups in the community," she said.

"It was an indication that things might be changing too much too soon so I'm trying to honour that and think okay well let's just slow it down a bit."

The Rex has multiple sections including studio apartments, an arcade and a cinema. Photo: Carly Baker-Burnham
The Rex has multiple sections including studio apartments, an arcade and a cinema. Photo: Carly Baker-Burnham

Now they have received the grant, The Rex will be able to pay the structural engineer and start with three small but impactful renovations to make the building more accessible.

Ms Baker-Burnham said the first will be to replace the guttering urgently to preserve the foundations of the building and increase the drainage.

The second alteration will be a more sufficient door that will allow the public to see what is inside.

"There's a temporary door and you don't even know it's a theatre, it's got this beautiful art deco arcade so we want to open up the front door to how it used to be in the 80s and 90s," Ms Baker-Burnham said.

"We'll have some wrought iron gates at the door of the main hall so people can walk in and experience the building safely and we will have imagery of the future plans and information."

The third aspect they want to use the grant for is a locally produced sign for the outside of the building, for better visibility.

"We will get a local artist to create that," Ms Baker-Burnham said.

Ms Baker-Burnham said the rest of the money from the grant will go towards renting and preparing a space in the main street of Monto for an art gallery, until The Rex is complete.

"[We will be] installing professional gallery hanging and lighting and restoring some artwork of the Gil Jamieson collection," she said.

"We can't have a gallery in The Rex because the council has closed it and because it's not really ready so we're opening an art gallery in an empty shop - a bit like what we've done with Harvest and Co.

"Or it could be there permanently, my dream is for all of the shops in the main street to be full of businesses and creative people, so it would be amazing if it was there permanently."

Coincidentally the old furniture shop was recently purchased by Gil Jamieson's son to showcase his father's work, so The Rex Monto Ltd has partnered with the Jamieson family on the project.

"My vision is for it to be for other local artists as well and a gallery of a very high standard that attracts touring collections and exhibitions," Ms Baker-Burnham said.

"We're already working with GOMA in Brisbane to bring a kids exhibition early next year."

Ms Baker-Burnham said her and her team now have to decide whether Harvest and Co and the new gallery will stand-alone or be part of The Rex as a collective project.

"It's got to be a collective decision but our intention is to continue bringing local artists together and showcasing their work and to add to the vibrancy of the town," she said.

"It's very exciting, it's really Monto's time, it's really shining - there are some great opportunities coming.

"Rural and regional towns and communities have really shone through the times of COVID because we're very resilient and resourceful and maybe it's shone a light on our community that we can do it."


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