Greater Union/Event Cinemas, George Street – Sydney, NSW

George Street's Greater Union and Hoyts cinemas, 1992. Image courtesy Sydney Cinema Flashbacks.

George Street’s cinema strip has undergone many drastic facelifts and overhauls, particularly since 1971, when the Trocadero dance hall was demolished to make room for the Hoyts cinemaplex. In 1983, two more cinemas, the Rapallo and the Paramount, were razed by their owner Greater Union to make way for a more modern moviegoing experience: the Greater Union cineplex above.

By the early 1990s that west side of George Street contained only the big three cinemas: Village, Greater Union and Hoyts. Around 1999, the Village was demolished and all three joined forces in the greatest union of all to form one giant megaplex. The Greater Union above was absorbed by the Hoyts complex and until 2005 operated as a joint venture. Now, Event Cinemas (formerly Greater Union) runs the entire cinema.

When the Greater Union building became a part of the Hoyts complex, the facade was brought into line with the Hoyts look. Today, almost nothing remains of the Greater Union building…

…but if we look in the alley around the back of the buildings, not only is the dated triangular awning still present on the Greater Union building, but even the Hoyts building retains its older style. When the complex became Event Cinemas, an expensive overhaul for the entire George Street face of the building was undertaken. I guess they decided the back alley wasn’t enough of an event.

How does the front of the Greater Union look today?

Big, faceless and grey: just like the rest of George Street.

9 responses

  1. It always gives me a kick when my ticket is for cinemas 15-17 and I know I’ll be descending into the old Village cinemas. I bet most people don’t know that they’re crossing into another building when they go to the cinemas farthest from the entrance.

  2. So depressing. I remember the first time I went to Sydney in the early 1980s as a teenager, how exciting it was going to the Paramount and the Rapallo (and the Pitt Centre and the Lyceum).

  3. Coombes is about to build a 68 storey Building on the current EVENT CInemas site on George St Sydney. Due to Start later this year or early 2015(Source The Australian May 15th 2014).
    Last of the George St Cinemas is finally going.
    Some fond memories of the whole strip when it was the REGENT, HOYTS HEC 7, PARAMOUNT, RAPOLLO AND VILLAGE 5 and the various Video Arcades that surrounded it.

    1. FRED YOU ARE SO RIGHT. I have a memory that will not leave me of entering hoyts there and the left hand wall was alive ! a clever installation of sequins pinned out over a wall of colour. The air or aircon made in move constantly. I have since then had lingering desire to recreate that wall. I think it could have been as late as the first ALIEN movie.

  4. Hoyts’ complex was originally called the Hoyts Entertainment Centre. It had a dazzling interior decor, with a huge foyer space for movie promos. I clearly remember the space-themed decoration for Moonraker in 1979, and in 1980 the souped up Holden Ute used in the Australian film The Chain Reaction (starring Steve Bisley) was on display.

    Architect and cinema historian Ross Thorne has a fabulous essay on the Hoyts Entertainment Centre on his webpage. It includes lots of fabulous 1970s photos of the foyers, arcade section, the movie shop under the stairs, and much more. Scroll down to second-bottom and click to download the PDF.

    The ‘renovated’ Event complex there today is awful, having lost 80% of its ground floor foyer space. It’s a pale and bland shadow of the ’70s wonder it once was.

    1. To add to Phil’s comment, I remember when Hoyts Entertainment Centre also had an impressive collection of arcade machines inside. It was a good alternative to the arcade next door, the name of which escapes me (though I suspect it was before the Timezone days).

      1. Pretty sure it was called Westworld. Star Trek tactical simulator (captains chair) under the escalator, Discs of Tron further back on the right and Lode Runner cocktail table upstairs beside the concrete column. I can remember dozens of others and and exactly where they where in Hoyt’s and along George St…. 🙂

      2. There’s a picture of Westworld, at this link, circa 1986

  5. I am from newcastle and have only seen 2 movies at this complex….Empire stikes Back and Pulp fiction. Both Iconic movies in a area that I loved to visit….Thanks for the memories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: