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.
ANNUAL UPDATE: One year on, and not much has changed.
INTERNAL UPDATE: Wonder what it looks like from the inside? Wonder no more!
Re ” the idea of adding 258 apartments ” I think you have misread … there’s TWO 32-storey appartment blocks going here for starters. At least a thousand people, maybe more? Did you notice that the DA notices appeared just after Strathfield LEP was finished.
Hey John is an associate of mine and I agree turning the old Cinema where I used to Ice Skate into three multi storied skyscrapers is crazy as nearly a thousand residents and their visitors will clogg an already stressed Parramatta Road with vehicle traffic overtipping the already stressed Parramatta Road. You may as well wall up Parramatta Road with barricades if this development goes ahead.
Besides my objections to the skyscrapers, during summer when the light hits the central panel of the old theatre at the right angle late afternoon, the old raised paint underneath the new layers of white paint, casts a shadow exposing the original Art Deco sign “Homebush Theatre” in large lettering as clear as a bell.
so agree love art deco and my families history is here and the joy and fun they had plus The ice skating I did .
I have been out this way for work a few times and am always struck by this rather dilapidated and sad looking place when walking past. I would love to have witnessed one of the ‘fun packed’ nites of entertainment – I wonder what was on the menu of the theatre restaurant? Prawn cockatils were the height of class in the eighties! Its good to know that at least it won’t be demolished entirely, I just hope the council enforce some strict restoration standards for the facade. It would be nice to see the developer incorporate the character of the place rather than just comply with the minimun preservation requirements and erect more bland generic boxes around it.
Corn on the cob, roast beef, chili beans, jacket potatoes and apple pie was on the menu…it was a western theatre. My boyfriend used to own and run the nit rider
I was wondering if anyone knew who the current owner is?
Hi all, I was curious in finding out who the current owner might be, if anybody knows and can help out please let me know, got ideas for this place that will be useful to the community of Strathfield and Homebush and also to the youth. Any details of the previous owners will help.
Greetings, I believe the current owners are the Kemeny family of Bondi Junction (they own a liquor shop there?????) I was the owner in it’s Theatre Restaurant days and before me, the Puglia family of Haberfield. Cheers Jonathan.
hey marvic, was I your boyfriend? Regards Jonathan.
I always liked driving past this theatre, and admiring its cracked beauty. It could’ve been turned into a nice vintage store or art gallery, like what they’re doing to those abandoned power plants in Surry Hills. This is much more charming.
shame if it turns into yet more towers.
hello all,i live in qld, please dont let this building go.i was very much involved in the early80’s when niterider moved from chequers goulbourn st, to parra rd. homebush. lots of great times and memories, in this old building. thousands would have enjoyed the times there. if towers are needed for accomadation, cool, but dont loose this parramatta rd icon. marvic you got the menu right. but lets not forget the talent in that nightrider theatre show.
satisfied with reply
is anyone using this building at the moment ?
Wow! , thankyou so much for the great tour inside the theatre. I loved reading all about it as I see it so often for years when I moved to this area nine years ago and have always wanted to take a look inside. Funnily enough as I read I realised I had already been there when it was an ice rink! I remember going to Homebush to ice skate, quite a few times but never went back. How amazing this place is, I so love the history of such old and beautiful places like this grand girl. Thankyou.
The Johnnys filmed their Showdown clip in the nightrider in the 80’s – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM_qUYPz_OM
Does anyone know who owns it now ,, as i would love to be able to use for great nights of classic rock and roll with some top bands .Please Put me in touch with them ..
2019 and nothing much has changed except that there is now a lot of units along Parramatta road and the M4 has taken some of the traffic of the road. Watch this space remains the motto for the Niterider
it is very sad to see this old building standing there
Good day to you,
I have a fascination for picture theatre landmarks such as the Homebush site that used to function as a cinema.
I’m hoping that one day the building would be restored and the auditoriums if intact, still. Moreover, at least used as a private function hire because if we decided to have a flick night then this is the perfect site to be
I drove past there today, still looks familiar after all those years when I went there with my wife in the mid 80’s to the then raucous Niterider experience. I would love to explore the building as it is now. I do hope it gets a fitting restoration some day.
Hi Barry, I was the owner of Niterider at Homebush after relocating from Checkers in Goulburn Street. Glad you refer to the night out as ‘raucous’ and hope you and your wife have fond fun memories. My staff and cast had as much fun as the patrons. Regards to you both Jonathan.
Yes a fantastic experience it was indeed and thank you for proving the perfect venue for that purpose. It is difficult finding any exciting venues today.
I remember Checkers, back in those days I was involved in the amusement industry, we had amusement parlours in George St, (Maxy’s) in the old Plaza Cinema building, The Fun Factory in Goulburn St and about 6 others around Sydney.
Barry, where was The Fun Factory?
Michael Wayne, The Fun Factory was at 10 Cunningham St, almost on the corner of Goulburn St. It’s now a Chinese restaurant.