The Marina Picture Palace/Videomania/For Lease – Rosebery, NSW

Let’s go back to the world of movies with this piece of work. It’s been sitting on Gardeners Road, Rosebery for a long time, and it shows. The signs promise ‘Videomania’, but for the last ten years it’s been derelict. Before we perform the post-mortem, let’s take a moment to reflect upon the life and times of the former Marina Theatre…

The Marina Theatre, 1941. Note the two sweet shops sitting to the left of the cinema. Also notice the bicyclists not wearing helmets, a quick way to end up with a puddin’ head. Image courtesy City of Botany Bay Local History Image Archive.

The Marina Picture Palace opened in June, 1927 with a hot double feature of Sparrows, starring Mary Pickford, and The Beloved Rogue, with John Barrymore.

Here’s an off-topic aside: The Beloved Rogue became a lost film for 40 years after its release until a well-preserved copy was found in the private collection of Mary Pickford. Now we can all enjoy Barrymore’s admitted overacting as Francois Villon. At least, we could if our video shops were as open as they used to be.

For those with a romantic image of how the cinemagoing experience used to be, and how grand it would have been back then to while away an afternoon at the picture palace, please allow me to now rain on your parade (or spoil your ending). In a scene more suited to modern-day Greater Union Hurstville, ‘excitement prevailed’ at the Marina in 1928:

Townsville Daily Bulletin, 3 Apr 1928.

The reference to ‘complete order’ is very Third Reich, isn’t it? Also, it really was ‘fortunate’, wasn’t it, that the molotov fell into the ‘side aisles’ (cheap seats). Yes, what a bit of excitement.

The Marina Theatre, 1952. Note that only one sweet shop remains. Image courtesy Sydney Reference Collection.

From the early 1960s, the cinema opened and closed a number of times under various independent ownerships. It’s safe to say that if even Hoyts wasn’t taking the bait and buying it up, it must have had something wrong with it. The Marina’s stop-start existence carried on throughout the next twenty years until it was renamed the Rosebery Cinema in the early 80s. That’ll get the crowds back in. Or maybe it was to fool the molotov throwers into thinking it was a different cinema? Either way, GOOD PLAN. So good in fact that the Marina closed for good as a theatre in 1984.

Here’s where we come in. Since that time it’s been Videomania, and now a derelict hulk. It’s a close call, but one of these incarnations is slightly more interesting. Fittingly, Videomania closed in 2002, when video-mania had all but died out, and videomaniacs had flocked to DVD. Rather than switching to a better quality format that takes up less shelf space, Videomania chose to fall on its sword.

You mean ‘weeklies’.

Even though the site is empty, the front window still contains some strange sights.

This trading hours sign indicates that the video shop NEVER CLOSED. Finding this is like finding a gravestone that reads B. 1929 D. —

A series of Greek film posters sit in the window too. Doesn’t that one on the right look enticing. Can’t wait to see that one.

There’s a poster for the Nintendo 64 game Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, which was released in 1997. The Nintendo 64 was discontinued in 2001, and Acclaim, the company responsible for Turok, went out of business in 2004. Fitting choice.

My favourite, and most bizarrely of all, is this full sized Leonardo standup. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles during my adventures with this blog, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Leo stands as the building’s watchful protector – ready to cut down intruders with his blunt katana and a killer smile.

The sign at the front advertises The Full Monty, another 1997 release. Or at least, it did once upon a time. It’s often irritating to only get to see some of these places from the outside. You stand there wondering what it must be like inside given how well-preserved the exterior is, and whether the other Ninja Turtles are lurking within. Well, wonder no more, as thanks to the folks at Kelly & Sons Real Estate, we can get quite a good look at what’s happening inside the old Marina:

Image courtesy Kelly & Sons Real Estate.

Image courtesy Kelly & Sons Real Estate.

Image courtesy Kelly & Sons Real Estate.

Image courtesy Kelly & Sons Real Estate.

Image courtesy Kelly & Sons Real Estate.

Image courtesy Kelly & Sons Real Estate.

Remember, if you like what you see, you too can lease this bad boy for only $130k pa. What a steal! Kelly & Sons – holla at me so I can let you know where to send my commission.

What an ugly building. There, I said it.

Despite Videomania acting as a testament to the failure of the video shop concept in Rosebery, Top Video at some point decided to make a go of it next door. Smart thinking.

Setting up in what was clearly a bank (and before that, the Marina’s sweet shops), Top Video expected to bank fat coin on the back of Videomania’s failure.

The new release poster left inside suggests that things went wrong around 2008-09. A legacy that started with Sparrows ends with You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.

As I turned to leave, I took one last look back at Videomania, and it looked like the building was crying. Look at those top windows. It was as if the theatre was imploring me, as the only one around who cared, to put it out of its misery. I would, Marina, honestly, it’s just…that Leonardo is one intimidating dude.

VIRTUAL UPDATE: An explosive new picture of the Marina/Roxy/Videomania from 1996 has come to light! Check it:

From this, we can see the bank next door was in fact an ANZ, that the Videomania side entrance was once viable, and that VIRTUAL REALITY IS HERE. How else could I have known it was from 1996?

FUTURISTIC UPDATE:  I revisited the Marina a year later and made an explosive discovery.

ROCKIN’ UPDATE: The development-minded Vlattas family, owners of the Cleveland Street Theatre and the Newtown Hub, are currently renovating the Marina with the aim of turning it into a live music venue. My suggestion: keep Leonardo as your bouncer. Thanks, reader Rozie!

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10 responses

  1. The Marina became a Greek movie Cinema for a while , roughly around the late 70s.
    That Greek movie you find so enticing on the poster is called ” Prince of the Marketplace ” – yes, the Marina was anything but that !
    Terrific amusing text. Cheers.

  2. The Marina was an excellent suburban theatre and operated very successfully from 1927 until 1966. It then became a Greek language cinema until 1976. From then until 1984 it ran under various lessees each who realised it needed major renovations and upgrade. Pre 1966 it was regarded as a quality cinema and ran the newest releases. The Marina specialised in musicals and epics. Yes The marina IS crying, as the rust on the outside walls indicate.
    A shocking waste of a useful cinema building that always was a well run independent cinema.

  3. This is so typical of what we do to these places in Sydney. A disgrace. So little imagination. I’m going to pretend to have money & have a look. It must be the last ex cinema still standing in Sydney that hasn’t become offices or soulless little units or a kebab shop.

    1. No there are still more ex cinema’s in Sydney

  4. Is it still open for inspection?

  5. Fond memories as a seven year old of neighbourhood kids walking down past the factories in Dunning Ave. on a Saturday afternoon heading for the Marina back in 1956. 1 shilling front stalls, 1/6 back stalls and 2 shillings upstairs. And for interval, Jaffas, Minties (made just up in Rothschild Ave. at “Sweetacres”.), Columbines, and Coconut Quivers. Would love to see the old place operating again but where do outsiders park? It couldn’t be sustained by the locals anymore.

    1. Oh My the memories! I remember going to the cinema too, we lived in Ripon Way Rosebery and remember the Sweetacres factory and the choc minty aromas whilst at school at st Josephs convent school.

  6. My grandfather was the builder of the Marina Theatre and it was named after his wife, my grandmother. Elaine Carter (new Rumble)

  7. Video arcade machine playd Streetfighter 2 trying to cash in on the craze. It worked, for years it was a perfect after school getaway, place to wind down, socialize and demonstrate expertize of Guile’s shadow throw – a phenomenon that started second wave of craze. It was always a precursor to the main event – going inside the Videomania and choosing a video. Gothic ambience was something that somehow transcended the place, that whimsical feeling you got when you first read Alice in Wonderland. Thanks for the memories.

  8. I lived in Primrose Avenue Rosebery.,and worked as the lolly boy at the marina from the early fifties for some years..I worked from Nash’s milkbar a few doors up the road..they were the days…

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