This site, on Parramatta Road at Homebush, is notable for several reasons, but today we’ll be looking at this structure – the Midnight Star Reception Centre. The history is long and colourful: it was built as the Homebush Cinema in 1925, and the initials HT are still prominent above the awning.
In 1930, the Homebush Cinema Ltd. company was liquidated, and the building was bought by Western Suburbs Cinemas Ltd., a company that also managed cinemas at Burwood, Parramatta, Granville, Auburn and Strathfield. In 1939 the theatre was extensively refitted and relaunched as the Vogue Cinema. Acquisition by Hoyts in 1944 saw it renamed again as the Hoyts Vogue.
The building ceased operating as a cinema in 1959, and subsequently became an ice rink. In 1986 it was refitted again, and turned into the Niterider Theatre Restaurant.
Perhaps realising that the concept of theatre restaurant was in 1986 already past its use-by date, it was converted (badly) into the Midnight Star Reception Centre. Looking at the building now, you’d be hard pressed to decide whether it wanted to be the Niterider or the Midnight Star, such was the amount of signage left up. The refitters must have been the mob Pizza Hut used, given how sloppily it was done. The Midnight Star operated until 1996(!). This is where things really get interesting…
The building sat derelict for many years, not an unusual sight along Parramatta Road. It’s sad to say that Sydney’s most important arterial road is peppered with derelict buildings like this. Karma works in mysterious ways, however, as in 2002 the Midnight Star got another lease on life…just without a lease.
In February of that year, squatters occupied the vacant building and renamed it the Midnight Star Social Centre. For eight months, and apparently with the begrudging consent of both the owner and the police, it was used as a hub for raves, gigs, pirate cinema screenings, an internet workspace and various activist meetings. The media eventually identified the Midnight Star as a “nerve centre” for anarchists and violent and politically motivated dissent, especially in the context of a WTO meeting held in Sydney that year. The police evicted the occupants in December 2002, and the building has remained derelict ever since. It’s heritage listed on Strathfield Council’s local environment plan, but it’s yet another example of a dead cinema in Sydney no one wants to use.
DEVELOPMENTAL UPDATE: This week’s Inner West Courier reports that the Niterider Theatre has been chosen to undergo a radical restoration and redevelopment.
Given how Parramatta Road is a total carpark twice a day already during peak hour, the idea of adding 460 apartments (‘I live in Unit 458’) worth of people to the mix is stupid. I think this should be taken as a sign that the M4 will never be completed. What’s also stupid is how this would look. Two towers sticking up from behind the ancient facade of the Homebush Theatre? It’ll look like a young person wearing an ancient pair of shorts got buried upside down up to their waist.