These were the best destinations for a perfect date or night out with friends and family. Our parents and some of us even have treasured memories held in some of them.
Sydney holds one of the most remarkable cinema-going cultures in Australia. Most cinemas have fallen into disrepair, some have been turned into pubs, and others are now businesses.
Some of the cinemas’ layouts have been altered a couple of times. Some have been converted into shops, while others have become furniture warehouses, childcare centres, and even retirement homes.
In the early 1900s, cinemas were a great place to enjoy films. However, technological advances have reduced the popularity of a film.
There was a time when cinemas were a community place, where romance flickered with every scene shutter. It was a place where friends — old and new — met, and families laughed and cried together.
It was a window to a world beyond Australia. Cinemas grew during the Great Depression because there were fewer jobs available. People wanted to escape the reality of the time and go to the movies instead. You renovated many theatres to give them a modern appearance. Art deco became very popular during that time.
Before World War II, Australians were captivated by Hollywood films. After the war, Australia’s first movie theatres opened in 1946. These cinemas showed newsreel footage, including documentaries about the war.
In the 1950s, Australia had a thriving movie industry, as the cinema was becoming less profitable. Fewer people were going to the movies, and cinemas were decreasing. The first video tape recorder appeared in 1975.
By the late 1970s, video cassettes were replacing film reels. Videotapes could hold several hours of footage compared to just minutes for film reels. They also allowed for editing, soundtracks, subtitles, and other features not available on film.
By the 1990s, nearly all films were released in video format. And by 2000, nearly every movie was released on DVD. Below are some of the greatest cinemas that perished over the years.
Greater Union Pitt Centre
Pitt Centre wasn’t just a movie theatre but a multiplex. Multi-screen cinemas allowed patrons to see movies on multiple screens at once.
However, by the end of the millennium, the number had grown to about 2,000. That meant the need for another type of venue. The Pitt Centre, unfortunately, closed down in 1999 when it was eventually emptied from a retail space in 2009.
In the 1920s, the Boomerang Theatre opened its doors. It was owned by an energetic Scottish man named Andy Kerr. During the Great Depression, the theatre was renovated and reopened as a movie house. After World War II, it became a venue for live entertainment. It closed in 1958 and was demolished in 1960.
However, the theatre inspired a young Australian actor to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. His name was Charles “Buddy” Tingwell. He appeared in more than 100 movies around the world.
Century cinema was originally built in 1912 but closed during the Great Depression in 1930. A new cinema was built within the shell of the old theatre and was opened in 1938. After its 150th anniversary in Sydney, the new cinema was renamed the Hoyts Century Theatre.
It was a first-run cinema converted to a 70 mm projection in 1966. However, the small 10-metre curved screen did not do enough justice to big 70 mm blockbusters, and the Hoyts Cinemas pulled out of the market in 1977. The cinema was converted to an amusement arcade in 1978 but was shut down in 1983.
Globe Newsreel Theatre
This was one of the largest news theatres on George Street. Surrounded by numerous other outlets, the Globe managed to dodge many controversial stories involving commercial sex workers in the 1950s.
In 1968, it changed its operations from a news theatre to featuring some of the best blockbusters. By 1968, it started operating as the Roma but was eventually demolished during the Metro Theater construction.
In February 1934, the Hoyts Civic opened its doors. It was the biggest suburban cinema, seating around 2,000 people. It took more than a year for the elaborate art deco theatre to be completed, and it was officially opened in March 1944.
The Hoyts family ran the cinema until it closed in early 1967. The building was vandalised but still stood strong for many years before its demolition in March 1973. A bank card computer centre was built after the demolition.
The Khartoum Theatre opened its doors on 29th January 1938. Located at the corner of Khartoum Road and Waterloo Road in Macquarie Park, it was an open-air theatre whose gates opened with “The Plainsmen” and “Ease to Take.”
It was built in the middle of bushland and was designed to provide entertainment for the residents. However, the theatre was not properly maintained, and the building started deteriorating. By 1966, the theatre had closed and was demolished in 1968.
The Roxy Cinema opened in 1909 and was rebranded as the Mayfair in the 30s; it was remodelled in art deco style in October 1934. Architect William Thomas Leighton worked out of his father’s office, Charles Bohringer. He designed the cinema, its auditorium, foyer, projection room, bathrooms, and offices. The theatre was remodelled again in 1961, and the lobby was repainted.
The legendary movie “The Dustin Hoffman Movie” set the theatre on track from its unexpected 13-month run. It held the title of the longest continuous run of a film in Sydney.
Mecca, Kogarah often doesn’t have a suburban moviehouse and undergoes so many name changes and rearrangements — and organ swaps; only legends in the St. George area would remember them all.
The Victory Deluxe Theatre opened in the 20s with a seating capacity of 1,700. It boasted not just an orchestra but a pipe organ with three pipes on each side of the screen. In 1928, it was named New Victory Theatre before going through an art makeover. Mecca took over the theatre in 1971 during an electric organ installation.
Fast forward to 1975, the theatre was given a facelift from the ceiling to other organs. Other than the interior, they introduced live performances and pantomimes. After further progressions, Mecca finally shut down in 2003 and was demolished in February 2013.
The Summer Hill Theatre
The Summer HHill Theatre, designed by architect Emile Södersten, was an impressive theatre built in the Baroque style. A beautiful example of classic architecture, its exterior is decorated with elaborate carvings and sculptures; inside, there are large chandeliers and intricate woodwork.
In the 1950s, the Summer Hill Theatre was owned by the Western Suburbs Cinema Chain. It was refurbished and rebranded as the Grosvenor but quickly fell out of favour due to its lack of popularity.
In the 1960s, Summerhill Theatre started as a cinema. It was purchased for foreign films that ran through till 1969. It changed hands several times before becoming a warehouse. Finally, it was demolished and replaced with offices.
Officially opened in September 1934, the program at the Variety Theatre was divided between newsreels, documentaries and short subjects. During the 1930s, the program became more focused on feature-length movies. By the late 1940s, the program had moved away from showing short subjects altogether and began showing mainly features and musicals.
Warner Bros. and MGM classics were the leading programs that ran the theatre. The theatre also faced some problems, such as a tragic fire accident in December 1954.