The Plaza Theatre/Maxy’s Roller City/Planet Hollywood/McDonald’s – Sydney, NSW

Image courtesy Simon Fieldhouse.

Sydney’s Plaza Theatre was once one of many elegant cinemas and theatres lining George Street’s entertainment strip. Like many cinemas, its business was damaged by the advent of television, and today it has the distinction of being arguably the world’s fanciest McDonald’s.

McDonald’s George Street interior, 2012.

Built for Hoyts in 1930, the Plaza sat alongside venues such as the Century Theatre (which became an indoor BMX track in what could only have been the 80s) and the Crystal Palace Arcade.

Erecting the neon sign, The Plaza Theatre, 1935. Image courtesy State Library of NSW.

Hoyts Plaza Theatre, 1966. Image courtesy City of Sydney Archives.

Despite many of its contemporaries being bulldozed around it, the Plaza stood firm until 1977, when it was closed as a cinema and reopened as Maxy’s, a disco skating rink. The changing face of entertainment.

The Plaza as Maxy’s, 1983. Image courtesy Helen Grant/Sydney Cinema Flashbacks.

Surprisingly, the idea of a disco roller rink wasn’t fashionable for long, and the Plaza played host to Mickey D’s and video arcades for most of the 1980s.

Planet Hollywood Sydney, 1996. Image courtesy Steve Newbury.

The Plaza’s northern end was once again immersed in the world of cinema in 1995 when the Stallone-Schwarzenegger-Willis-Moore joint Planet Hollywood came to Sydney, establishing itself in the former arcade. According to this photo taken in 1996, PH shared its space with Brashs, another 90s success story. By 1999, both ventures would be out of business.

Today, some lazy entrepreneur has taken the already-tacky Planet Hollywood aesthetic and adapted it into the Star Bar, another of modern George Street’s entertainment offerings. Not sure how many stars you’d see here these days. The Plaza in its present state is yet another example of Sydney trying to disguise the brazen pimping of itself to the lowest bidder by hiding behind facades of the past. If it looks vintage, it seems that much more respectable. What isn’t considered is that drunken eyes can’t appreciate all the lovingly preserved heritage fronts, and as George Street continues to slide into the gutter, the death grip it has on these buildings only serves to drag their illustrious reputations and history down with it.

STAR STUDDED UPDATE: Reader Cameron says: “Star Bar was originally created by Planet Hollywood to replace Brashs when it failed which had the same owner, Star Bar was created so Planet Hollywood could profit from gambling without tarnishing its family image. The two coexisted for a while. A bizarre fact, this restaurant was a real cash cow and extremely profitable when it closed, a case of embezzlement I believe. The real crime there was the removal of the original cinemas Spanish themed ceiling for the extra headroom and replaced with a high blue ceiling. The Star Bar is now run by the same group that has the even tackier Shark Bar! now with no sharks……”

Sounds like the sharks haven’t left at all, actually. It’s almost inconceivable that shady types would be running places like this (especially the Shark Bar), but there you go. Thanks, Cameron!

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11 responses

  1. The Building remains Grand whatever silliness is added to then fades from it

  2. An interesting article. Personally, I’d love to see the place return to being a place of entertainment again. Perhaps as a place for modest sized productions like comedy, music (acoustic sets), or ‘Old Fitzroy’ style theatre. The facade is still there as is a good portion of the original foyer and remnants of the ceiling, arguably the most ornate elements of the building were the facade & foyer.
    A class operator could afford to combine a bar with a restored performance space that would bring back some of the building’s heritage elements. The designer/architect, Eric Heath designed a fairly restrained auditorium and the inerior elements that are missing could be recast from survivng plasterwork, original moulds for the Plaza’s plasterwork that still exist in the Powerhouse Museum, or copies of elements found at the Melbourne Plaza. The extant Melbourne Plaza was virtually reconstructed, so it would be possible to restore the Sydney Plaza. A restoration of the Plaza would not be as cost-prohibitive as, say, the State Theatre or Capitol Theatre as the Plaza’s interior plaster decoration was more or less limited to the ceiling and decorative false windows. I can dream.

  3. […] The Plaza’s northern end was once again immersed in the world of cinema in 1995 when the Stallone-Schwarzenegger-Willis-Moore joint Planet Hollywood came to Sydney, establishing itself in the former arcade. According to this photo taken in 1996, PH shared its space with Brashs, another 90s success story. By 1999, both ventures would be out of business….More at The Plaza Theatre/Maxy's Roller City/Planet Hollywood/McDonald's &#… […]

  4. i used to skate at maxy’s manhattan disco in the late 1970s. saturday afternoons there was teen heaven! it was beautiful! there was a balcony running around it, you could look down on the dancers/skaters and dream about the girl you wanted to skate with. i also worked at the crystal palace arcade next door. that was a spectacular arcade.

  5. “the Plaza stood firm until 1977, when it was closed as a cinema and reopened as Maxy’s, a disco skating rink.”

    Actually it opened as a ‘normal’ disco first and had U18s on Saturday and Sunday before opening later for the adults.
    Worked there as a DJ for some time (as well as the Pitt St Gardens).
    It was only later it converted to a roller disco – and didn’t last long after that.

    Was huge back in it’s day and hosted lots of after-parties.

  6. I went there for the disco also (before the skating) as it was so different to the other disco spots. Love my memories from that era, anyone remember The Metropole up near Bridge St?

  7. Vince

    Yeh, I do remember The Metropole. I too, along with Terry, Franz, Julian, Vince the Pitt, ‘Mad” Mick, Alvaro & a host of others attended MAXYS MANHATTAN DISCO from around 1977-1979ish when it closed. It was like our second home to us. We started attending in our pre 18’s (a place where we did our apprenticeship-so to speak), & finished up being fully fledged adult tradesmen (so to speak), becoming skilled in dancing and courtship. Alvaro & his mate Frank ‘the driver’ met their future spouses there.

    It was a time when KRAFTWORK & the robot dance were rife. With the free meal that was offered with every entry ticket & $3 entry fee, who could complain. And if you were hungry, find more discarded entry tickets & get more meals.

    Terry would quite often (nearly all the time) be the 1st one to get up & dance to start the night off – “The Ice Breaker”. And he was a good dancer too.

    Franz & I made a good team, I’d have the courage to go up & ask the girls, and if they declined Franz was the smooth talker who convinced them to come up on the floor.

    Timber (as his name was) was the negro DJ & the most memerable one. I think my friends & I see this place as the best disco we ever attended in our lives. It was also the 1st. You could say it was the sister disco to STUDIO 54 in Manhattan . Terry often said that when he would make his 1st million he would set up the disco again.

    Many loves were had, lost & discovered, in that short time it was opened, under a fantastic experience that was MAXYS

    Our wonderful memories of this place will stay with us forever.

  8. My school friends and I used to go to Maxy’s and dance in 1978, before it became the roller disco. Was it under-18? So much for feeling brave. I remember one time they dyed the carpet during the week, and it made our feet turn brown. I look back on it very fondly – there were some true gentlemen among the guys who danced there regularly. I probably didn’t value a “nice guy” then as much as I have come to these days.

  9. A friend of mine mentioned that there used to be a tunnel linking is building to what is now the The George Street Cinemas across the road.. for a few years it was used as as Internet Cafe, open from the george st cinemas st (it might still be, but I haven’t looked to go down their for yonks), along with the current Billards/Pool table complex thats down there now

    There’s a set of stairs still right next to the current box office and that small timezone arcade.

  10. Made many trips to Maxy’s when it was a disco…Met my first fiance there….Many a great night dancing..then went to The 86 club in St Leonards.

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