Preserving cinema’s golden age: David McGowan’s extraordinary collection

A look back in time: the incredible machines that helped bring the big screen to life.

DAVID McGowan, the dedicated owner-operator of the renowned Laurieton Plaza Theatre, stands as the proud custodian of one of Australia’s most unique collections.

His passion extends beyond just a love for cinema to an ardent appreciation for the optical projection machines that have brought the magic of the big screen to life.

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Mr McGowan’s extensive collection comprises a diverse array of machines, film reels and memorabilia.

This remarkable assemblage is the culmination of contributions from five to six major collectors who have now passed on, as well as from numerous individuals who have entrusted McGowan with these invaluable pieces of cinematic history.

“Everyone has a story to tell,” said David, acknowledging those who passed down their collections for him to see over.

While many items hail from collectors in Queensland, his collection also boasts pieces from as far afield as Ballarat and even the United States.

His dedication to this craft and pursuit of collectable items has seen him enter into the sphere of famed American director Quentin Tarantino, who himself is known for his extensive private collection and deep passion for cinema.

“I’m not a dealer, I am a collector and a true collector never sells,” Mr McGowan shared when retelling a story of a time when someone was trying to purchase items from his vast inventory.

In a bid to share this treasured collection with a broader audience, Mr McGowan is currently developing a website that will offer a virtual tour of the immense collection, allowing people from around the world to experience his impressive archive.

His unparalleled knowledge and meticulous care for these artifacts highlight his role as a true curator.

The condition of Mr McGowan’s equipment is exceptional, with some machines running so smoothly that it is hard to believe they date back to the 1930s.

Despite acknowledging that his collection may appeal to a niche audience, Mr McGowan hopes that people will appreciate the historical significance of this once-revolutionary technology.

Reflecting on the importance of his craft, Mr McGowan shared with News Of The Area, “If you can have a happy place as you get older, you can lengthen your lifespan.”

For David, working with his collection is indeed his happy place, offering him not just joy but a deep sense of fulfillment.

David McGowan’s dedication to preserving the history of cinema through his remarkable collection at Laurieton Plaza Theatre is a testament to his love for the art form and the technology that has made it possible.

His efforts ensure that the legacy of these cinematic marvels will continue to inspire and educate future generations.


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