Padstow Star Cinema/Civic Video – Padstow, NSW

These days, we know it as Civic Video (or just Civic, if you go by the shopfront sign. I bet they’re dying to be able to remove the word ‘video’ from the rest of their signs, despite how cost ineffective that would be), but prior to 1984 this was the Padstow Star Cinema:

Padstow Star Cinema, 1964. Image courtesy Joe Simiana.

Built in 1952 as the sister cinema to the not-too-distant Panania Star, the Padstow Star was one of many suburban cinemas of old. It’s a concept you can barely imagine now, unless you live in Beverly Hills. In 1985 the cinema closed, with Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure being its last screening. See, Ewoks do ruin everything.

Ever since, it’s been a house of movies in a very different way:

The interior has been refurbished, but it’s still quite easy to see what it originally was. The screen is a dead giveaway:

The projection booth remains as well, and is now the manager’s office judging by the angry, managerial eyes staring out at me when I tried to take a picture of it. Given the impending death of video shops, it’ll be interesting to see if this building gets yet another lease on life in Civic’s wake, or whether the residents of Padstow will have to start drinking for entertainment on a Friday night, like the rest of us.

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30 responses

  1. in Melbourne there was an old cinema in Windsor (Prahran) that was converted into a video shop in the mid-nineties, like the above, cinema seats were replaced by video shelves. The interiors of both the foyer and auditorium were intact, even the original screen which was used to show movies when the video shop was open, which was pretty cool. I remember seeing “The Lion King” on it, was just like being at the movies in the fifties! There was even a HOYTS sign on the footpath at the entrance. Then the video shop closed in the late nineties, converted into a nightclub called “Empire” which lasted only a very short while before being gutted by fire. It eventually was demolished and apartments now occupy this site.

  2. I grew up in Padstow, so the Star was my local. I loved it, and am glad it’s still there in essence.

    In the 1970s our school used to hire the cinema for our annual speech day. There would be a dais set up beneath the screen, with the kids sitting in the lower stalls and the parents/guests at the rear stalls. I can still remember coming down the front to receive an award and having the whole theatre clapping. Later we stood on benches, right in front of the screen (the curtains were closed but we peeped behind) to play the recorder.

    The theatre used to have a ‘Now Showing’ poster board on a fence next to my school, in front of Mr Labua’s tuck shop on Chamberlain Rd. Each week we would look at the board to see what was showing at the Star.

    Originally the entrance, ticket box and kiosk would have been much as is today, but at some stage the theatre must have bought the propertly next door (now Angelo’s pizza restaurant). This became the new entrance, with ticket box and entry foyer and the toilets to the rear. Today’s entry foyer remained the kiosk, and manangers’ office. You entered the theatre from the rear of the new foyer, entering at the half-way point on the right side.

    I remember the owner was a rickety old guy with glasses, a little scary to look at but very generous. If you stayed behind after a movie and helped him pick up all the rubbish from the aisles, he would give you a free ticket for next week.

    When the theatre closed, all the seats were ripped out and put in a pile at the back. The old wooden floor was then demolished and a new flat concrete slab installed instead. The original floor was lower at the screen end (you can see from today’s inside shot that only half the screen area is visible), and higher at the rear. You can still see the rear floor line on the walls. The side walls and roof, and their lights and decoration, are original.

    I hope the Star (video shop or otherwise) remains for years to come.

    1. Anthony the Koala | Reply

      Dear Phil and Michael,
      As at the 8th March, 2017, the premises is for lease and according to the real estate agents is zoned for consulting rooms (medical), bulky goods or showroom. Rent is $65k per annum.

      If you want to look at the auditorium without the shelves, you can click on eight photos of the interior. Note the presence of the projection booth at the rear, there was room for four projectors. Normally a pre-digital and pre-multiplex cinema with carbon arc/xenon lamp projector had three portholes for three projectors, two for the movie and one for the slide. Roselands Theatre Beautiful had provision for four projectors – it had four portholes.

      The floor looks like one great big concrete slab. I doubt you could ever restore it as a cinema and reinstate the lower floor. That’s unless an entrepreneur wants to have an Orpheum of the south. By the way the Orpheum was owned by the Virgonas. Another site (sorry cannot find again) has a photo showing the proscenium (the screen end) with green curtains, and another site has a photo showing the proscenium with red curtains. You can see that when the building operated as a cinema, the floor was below the stage.

      Very interesting that the original pyramid/triangular lights remain which was in vogue in art-deco design cinemas. Yes it was built in the 1950s and art-deco was 1930s, but the light fittings are in the style of the 1930s.

      To view the empty auditorium, click on the link, https://www.commercialrealestate.com.au/property/22-howard-road-padstow-nsw-2211-11156993 or (copy from https to 11156993 and paste in browser). There are eight photos. Click on the ‘camera’ icon.

      Personally I have never have been to the Star but have known people who have worked and lived in the Padstow area.

      Regards
      Anthony of Belfield

  3. Phil,

    You have a rather good memory of the cinema. Being an employee of the place between 1977 & 1984 I was devastated when the curtains closed for the final time. We, my fellow workmates and I, had so many good fun times before, during and after session times. I wonder how many people remember when cinemas showed 2 movies each night? Suburban cinemas were a great way to 2 movies for the so-called price of one. I will have to have a look at home as I have a photo of the screen with the curtains open, plus photos of the projection equipment that we used. As for the ‘rickety old guy’ that was the manager (1977 to 1979) he was arrested & charged with nearly 100 child sex offenses. But that is another story and not for telling here.

    1. Mark Flanagan!!
      Holy crap! Mate I was there that last night. You ride a motor bike if memory serves me correctly.

      1. Nigel

        Not me – I have never owned a motorbike but I do know who you are talking about. I can’t remember his name but he was a cousin of one other person that worked there.

  4. Hi Mark, I don’t remember going there in the evenings; my mates and I always went on Saturday afternoons. That was when we stayed back to help clean up and get free tickets. After a few weeks, when the word had got around and there were more that four or five of us doing that, the owner put an end to it. But I can still remember seeing films like Two Minute Warning, Bullet Train and Blade Runner at the Star. I can also still remember putting my rubber-soled shoes on the heating bar and have them half melt.

    I had heard that story about a theatre manager going to gaol for those offences, but I thought it was the owner of the Hurstville / Kogarah Mecca. I thought that was why Kogarah remained there locked up until recently – he still owned it.

    When the Star closed, I once managed to work my way inside through the barricaded doors and was greatly saddened to see all the seats ripped out and left in a huge pile on the wooden floor. I took three of them, took them home and cleaned them up and sat them in my garage for years afterwards. They were two-tone brown cloth on wooden frames, with cast metal endes painted gold and wooden arm rests. Had to throw them out eventually.

  5. Phil,

    To complete a bit more of the ownership picture, the cinema reopened was in 1977 by the ‘gentleman’ concerned after it had been closed for a short period due to the previous owners putting it up for sale. I do remember his name but I feel it would be inappropriate to mention it here due to his arrest. Anyway, after he arrest in 1979 it was sold to the RSL club next door, who then leased it to a wonderful couple (Phil & Dianne McGee) that ran the Randwick Ritz, the Kogarah Mecca and a couple of others. they then handed over running of the cinema after a year or 2 to her brother Mark Darwin, who was in charge of the place until it finally closed in 1984.

    I also remember the seating, and there were 2 sets. The ones you described were in the stalls (lower level), and in the dress circle the seats had been re-covered in purple vinyl. Given the types of some of the youth that attended the cinema I’m surprised that the seats did not get slashed…..

    I think I still have a couple of photos at home of the projection equipment that we had in there as well as a B&W photo of the screen with the curtains fully opened. Might see if I can find them. And here is a piece of trivia – the Padstow Star had the largest screen of all suburban cinemas before they started building the multiplexes.

    1. Hi, I also grew up in Padstow and have fond memories of Padstow Star. You mention that you have a B/W photo of the screen with the curtains fully open, would love to see that photo if possible. Can you please email it to me? Many family members would also get a kick out of seeing it. Also does anyone have an exterior photo of the cinema prior to it being Civic Video? The only one I can find is the grainy 1964 shot on this site.
      Thank you so much for bringing back some fond memories. (Jaffas down the aisle!)
      Cheers,
      Karen

      1. Karen

        I will see if I can find the photo but it may take a while. It was too big to put into a photo album so it may be in loose with all the other photos……

      2. Thanks Mark, that’s OK if it takes a while. I’s been a few decades since I’ve seen it, I can wait a little longer.

      3. Karen

        I’ve searched long and hard. Can’t find the photo anywhere. I’ll keep looking when I can but I don’t like my chances.

    2. Don’t worry about it. You’ve brought back some fun memories. Thanks for trying.

  6. I am 54 now I was a projectionist in the early 70s to late 79 what memories, old David coffel adds via a slide carbon ach, and a pair of kalee ach film projectors . What memories. I showed Star Wars 54 times over a 2 week period. Glad to have been there

    1. John

      If memory serves me correctly you also advertised your services there too.

  7. Just a correction here. The last screening at padstow star was of Mad Max 3 beyond thunderdome. I know this for two reasons 1) I was there and 2) I was on staff at this time.
    What a great place it was.
    For the last few years of its life my family worked there, mum sold tickets, I was an usher and my bro was the projectionist.
    We were devastated when it closed.

    1. Unbelieveable……wow, some names in this thread i havent heard for a looooong time….Mark Flanagan, how are you man? And Mark Darwin being in charge???? What about good old Wayne Johnson? And a few other names you guys may recall, Sascha Peel, a fellow projectionist……….there was a lady that sold tickets named Irene? And, for the ultimate memorabilia, i actually have, the ice cream price listing signage, from the day it closed, hanging in my garage…..what great memories……such a shame it is no longer as it was

      1. Craig….

        If I am thinking of the right person – older brother of Brett? And I do remember Wayne. Always wondered what happened to him, if he fully recovered from the car accident. I have to say that I can’t remember Irene.

        Great fun times…..

  8. Allan John Wilson | Reply

    Padstow Star Theatre open Wed 4th,July,1956.”The 7 year Itch”+”Dr.At Sea.That was showing ’till Fri.Screenig Sat.Mon,Tue,”20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.”Screening policy Wed,Thu,Fri. Sat,Mon,Tue.Change of prog.Wed.& Sat.Nightly:7:30pm. Sat.Mat:1:30pm.& school holidays.I was told,10 months to build.Cost:50,000pounds[$100,000]Average wage then[taken for 1955]39pounds77/-[$79.55]. It held 768seats.Tom Virgona was the one who had-it built.Along with Herne bay/Riverwood “MELODY” being the 1st.Open 15th,Jan,1947.Closed 30th.Jan,1965.484 seater.Cost.7,000pounds[$14,000]Avg.wage[taken for 1946]6pounds[$12]2nd.”STAR”Panania open Fri,30th,April,1954.Closed 20th,Nov,1965.1076seater.Cost.50,000pounds[$100,000]Avg.wage[takenfor 1953]12pounds[$24].All 3 theatres had the same screening policy.Full-time staff.Manager,cashier,projectionist +assistant,2xmale ushers,2xfemale usherettes,3xshop,2xcleaners&2part-time cleaners.Tom wasn’t there as manager.He was booking the programmes.Tom told me,[1964]Padstow was the last theatre in syd.[maybe NSW] to be built!’Cause,Television was starting[16/9/56] And the industry knew what it was doing in USA.As far as i know,6 nights,&sat.mats.lasted,until end 1961 for Riverwood & Panania.Padstow went till,maybe early- middle 1962.Then padstow theatre was reduced to Fri,Sat,night.with Sat.mat.only.Thats when Tom,came manager for Padstow star.[That part i’m.onlyguessing] I was living-in Herne Bay[3mnths]waiting for ‘housing commison’house padstow hights!So,we went to Melody until Padstow was built!I was attending every sat.mat.from 1962-63.I use to get there 11:am.1st.inline.At exactually 11:45am.Tom,would pull-up,in he’s big black’40’sDe-soto.Right-out the front.Same spot every sat.Then he come-out 12:30pm.to check-on the attendance.So,every sat.mat.i’ll be there 1st.inline.Come 1964,i started going sat nights.Programme was the same as mat.Unless,he had to screen ‘special’sat.mat.Then i would attend mat.& night!I would get there around 6:15pm.sat.nights.Tom let me-in.The odd times we would have a chat.I remember one time,i said to him,”who owns panania Star,’cause they charge more to get-in!”[I was attending East Hills Boys’High 1962-1965 & use to go past the theatre on to school] He said”I do.”I can’t remember what i or he said after that! To be continuee………………………………….

  9. It definitely did screen 2 movies on a Saturday night. My brother and I were teenagers in late 1973 (13 and 15) when we decided to be cheapskates one weekend and sneak “back” in with the paying customers just as intermission ended, thus watching the second movie for free.

    Huge mistake, because Papillon was screening and with a running time of 2 1/2 hours, was split into two parts with an intermission. We only saw the second half…. which was pointless as we’d missed the setup of the story.

    Never did that again!

    1. “Pappillon”was shown,Thu-Sun,15-18th,Nov,1974.

  10. Allan John Wilson | Reply

    Sat.3rd,July,1965[day before,theatre’s 9th.birthday]arrived at the usually time 6:15pm.saw Tom,sleeves rolled-up,after he came-out from helping mrs.Castle clean-up from Sat.mat attendance”Flipper and the Pirates +”The Phantom Planet.”[I was awaitng to see that tonight]To help Mrs.Castle to clean-up!It must have been packed-out!He asked me,”Would you be interested in helping Mrs.Castle,by coming down before mat.session ends,and help clean-up!’cause i know you’re here every sat.for the evening show.”Yes!That night,when the rest of the staff arrive,for evening show……Tom,letting them know,i was one of the staff now.I wasn’t get paid.I was gettin-in for free & Tom shout me,pkt.”Twisties”& “drink”from the theatre shop.Her had the keys.He was the BOSS. I did that for 10yrs.Best part i liked,burning the rubbish in incinerator at back.Watching technicolor flames 1mtre.above chimney when it was dark and train going past.I was curious to see what it was like to be up-on stage.Ask Tom could clean-out the stage.So he show me, where the lights were,and one was right in the middle behind the screen on brick back-wall.Twice i did this 2/10/65,22/12/65.I was cleaning everything.Toilet windows,pulling-out weeds out the back,cleaning-out incinerator,stage light-bulbs.I wanted to explore every inch of the place.Come sat 20/11/65 Panania Star was closing,not because of poor attendance,Tom wanted seats for a new theatre he was building in Sydney.”Ascot”in Pitt St. 970seats re-upholstred by dunlopillo.[Thats another story].So,5 staff from Panania were to move-in here at Padstow for fri/sat.mat.&night.19,20;Nov,65.Mrs.King[manageress]Bill Collins[projectionist]Jan[shop]Arthur Copper[mat & night usher]Lex Wells[mat.only usher] To go from padstow Bruce Patterson[projectionist]can’t remember the others.And the that week-end “The Bridge On The River Kwai.”In a way,i wished he had built the Ascot [he only had 20yr.lease on the land]Panania might have lasted as long-as,Padstow maybe even longer.The one place i enter yet!Bio-box!On 11/12/65 arrived early sat.arvo,screening that w/end.”The Pot Carriers”+”Ensign Pulver”enter the bio-box.And i end-up watching the sat.night progs.from there-on.Besides Bill Collins operating.He carried-out maint.work on seats,pasting-up posters[day-bills,1-sheeters]at railway stns.closed Riverwood Panania front building.I help him at Panania taking down awing flro-lights,Riverwood doing something,can’t remember on wed.15/12/65. To be contine in next chapter……………………

  11. Allan John Wilson | Reply

    I started-out,assistant projectionist sat.night session 5/2/66 screening then “A Very Special Favor.”+”Tarzan’s 3 Challenges.”All i was doing,rewinding each spool after each ‘change’-over.Of course i wasn’t getting paid for this!It was for the love-of the job.The same as for sat.arvo cleaning.Made-up poster board and fixed-it to fence at Padstow Heights pub.school next to Mr.Labua’s shop,mon.23/5/66.The 1st.two daybills,pasted-on”Cat Ballou”&”Battle In Outer Space.”Then they[Tom Virgona owner & Mrs.King managress] offered me another job,securing theatre seats to timber floor.That meant,giving me the keys to Padstow ‘Star’ & Riverwood’Melody’on sat.31/12/66.Showing”The Liquidator”+”The Wonders Of Aladdin”.Tom Virgona[owner]wasn’t coming-out as much Aladdin.”Tom Virgona [owner]wasn’t coming out as much.Busy with his new theatre ‘Ascot’ in city.I was ‘popping’-in,every so often.And he would say”are you looking after Padstow Star”?Bill Collins our proj.was finishing-up Sat.10/6/67.Screening then”Dr.You’ve Got To Be Kidding”+”The Sheepman” There that night,Bruce Paterson who had been pojectionist before Panania closed 20/11/65.was there to take-over.There was me & Paul Dravet being taught how to do ‘change’-overs on projectors,dimming the lights,opening masks,curtins. Another staff [usher]from Panania Star finish-up last sat.mat.4/11/67 Disney’s”The Ugly Dachshand”+”Winnie The Pooh”.Come the sad news tues.5/12/67 Tom Virgona pass-away.That fri/sat prog.”Georgey Girl”+”Escape from Fear. So,we were all was wondering if theatre was to continue-on.Then we heard Mrs.Virgona approach the club next-door.They weren’t interested.So theatre carried-on with the prog that had been books weeks ahead which took us-up till fri/sat Jan,19,20,1968.”Banning” +”The Jokers”.I’ll never forget that sat.night Bruce was downstairs probably in the office talking to Mrs.King.Paul & i upstairs in Bio-box operating,and one-of us ‘left’a reel’out’on ‘change-over “Banning”I remember the scene actor Robert Wagner was ‘teeing’-off on golf-course on the end-of spool 4’change-over’ next scene at a party having a drink.Well,we came-out 20mins early.Bruce & Mrs.King got a shock when patrons walking-out! To be continue next chapter……………………….

  12. Sadly, Civic Video Padstow will be closing in a few weeks time. Unfortunately, the industry is dying and there is no money to be made. It’s a shame. Farewell, old friend.

    1. First Comic Kingdom and now this!

  13. Yes Charlie, I went in there last week, and there are CLOSING DOWN SALE signs and posters on the footpath, walls and doors. Much of the stock is already gone and it has a half-empty feel already. The girl behind the counter thought the closing could be as early as this weekend (!) In all likelihood the building will demolished and a block of units built on the site. Very sad to see some of these old theatres being demolished, years after their closure as cinemas. Over the last couple of years we’ve lost the Victory theatre at Gladesville; the Vogue / Village Twin at Double Bay, and I think, the Hoyts Crescent at Fairfield.

  14. Hi guys John here I used to be the projectionist in Padstow star also village roadshows and Hoyt’s. when it closed I was the last projectionist there I believe , I did find many old posters from years gone by, also many genuine b/w photos . Covered in dust . When you walked into the small office there was a small step down oporste through a door. It crossed from office into the canteen. I found these stashed covered in dust and rubbish . It’s very sad to see her go. Used to sell the Tickets in a small booth next to office door. This area was the now pizza shop . Regarding the then manager he was not the owner the rsl next door owned the cinema. He was leasing it. I was around when he was arrested . He served 5 years I believe he had also used other cinemas in the past to lure children . I was involved in his arrest in one occasion . He died 5 years ago now buried at rookwood cemetery in a cardboard box paupers grave . I have a great love of picture theatres Romberg going to watch Ben hour ar the roxy at parramatta . Also worked on the pipe organ at the state theatre Sydney . No many know that cats are born in the basement never see daylight they live and die there. Also the power generator in the state is actually an submarine Diesel engine date Int back early 20s . The old fellow was a Feller called Peter row he used to look after the pipes of the organ . I remember walking down the orchestra pit . Back in time old chairs laying around and the stage was propped up permanently . The organ used to spin around playing and rising to a mass audiences . Those where the days

    1. John – there were a couple of other projectionists there at the time of its final closure. I was one of them, and I have a very vague recollection that when it did close it’s doors for the final time in 1984 we screened “The Never Ending Story”, or at leats it was one of the very last movies to be screened. Rather ironic now that I look back at it……

  15. Hi mark Allan tranter was also projectionist there . He had a black beard He was a very gay person nice bloke but unusual . He owns the regent Melbourne theatre pipe organ. He purchased it in the early 70s. He also used to play a organ at the star there during the Star Wars screenings . I don’t Know if he’s still alive but that regent organ is still to this day in bits and pieces in his mothers garage in melbourn.

    1. John – I never met Allan but I do have a very vague recollection of seeing him one screening playing the organ during intermission.

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