Penshurst Theatre/IGA – Penshurst, NSW

Sometimes, places of historical interest may be buried in the most unlikely, mundane places – and it doesn’t get much more mundane than IGA.

Penhurst IGA, and the Punchy’s Gym that sits above it, may not look like much, but in 1925 this was the site of the newly opened Nash’s Penshurst Theatre. C’mon, look again and tell me you can’t see the resemblance. Let me just say it’s been extremely hard to find anything at all on this theatre, other than that it was owned by a Mr. W Nash, opened in 1925 and stayed open until at least 1954. At some point it was closed and transformed into the building that exists today. While it’s not immediately identifiable as the theatre, if you look closely you can see that the same basic frontage is there (albeit crimped), and the IGA is certainly big enough. Anyway, as we know, stranger things have happened. As always, if you know more, please let Past/Lives know.

One interesting anecdote: in 1932, the Penshurst Theatre was taken to court by Raycophone, a Sydney-based company (with a factory in Annandale) which manufactured speakers and amplifiers for motion picture theatres.

Image courtesy audioheritage.org

Allegedly, Penshurst Theatre thrashed the Raycophone ‘talking picture sound reproducing equipment’ they hired, and returned them in unsatisfactory condition. Scandalous! Even worse was that in their defence, PT claimed that they’d received the equipment in that poor condition. I know that today we have DTS and THX surround sound and all that, but seriously, how hard must Nash have been cranking the likes of Shanghai Express, Scarface or Red Dust to blow the speakers off their Raycophone? Dudes were wild back then.

Massive thank you to reader Carmen for the picture of Penshurst Theatre, and to reader Shaun for the hot tip in the first place!

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10 responses

  1. I remember in the mid 80s when it was a Jewel supermarket and I used to buy Neighbours cards from there!!

  2. Jewel Penshurst was my Mum’s preferred supermarket for many years. I was amazed one day when she sent me to do the grocery shopping with a list. Once in the store I was blown away by the fact that she had listed every item in the correct store order. I started at the first isle and moved around the store effortlessly collecting her items in the listed order!

    I was always aware that the building had been a cinema and I am pretty sure that the tell-tale cinema signs were gradually expunged with each subsequent renovation. For a long time there was a butcher’s shop at the front of the store.

    My brother’s best friend had his first job at the hardware store next door. He worked there for many years before being unceremoniously dismissed.

  3. The Picture Theatre was still going up until the mid 1960s. As a young boy I was taken to see both Lawerence of Arabia and The Cardinal.
    From about 1966 the building was converted into a supermarket called Tom the Cheap Grocer. After a year or two the building virtually burnt to the ground as a result of a large fire. The super was rebuilt and reopened as Tom the Cheap Grocer. Unfortuanetly 90% of the former building was destroyed. Parts of the original walls are present on the western side.

  4. mY FIRST JOB WAS AT SAFEWAYS SUPER MARKET IN PENSHURST IS IT STILL THERE.

  5. It was about 1966-67 and we were sent to check out the prices at Tom The Cheap
    I think the supermarket was Safeways or it could have been jewels to long ago now
    there was a barber one side of the shop and a milk bar the other for memory.

  6. I really don’t think that the Penshurst Theatre was so extensively burnt down as perhaps indicated. The Fire was in the roof area and initially smouldered for a few days before discovery. The main walls didn’t collapse. When it became Tom The Cheap Grocer and later Jewel (now IGA) the walls were all basically still there and the main Theatre entrance still recognisable. The top floor was demolished and lowered but the structure below stood. Even up until recent years the Entry was decipherable with the butcher on the right and the Supermarket entry sloping from the street as did the Theatre foyer and stalls entrance in its original days. Hard to describe its presence but I live in the area and watched the building morph from the original to what is seen in the photos above.

  7. The Penshurst cinema burnt out around 1969. Already a “Tom theCheap” supermarket.
    If you look to the left of the frontage, the main entrance to the theatre, and upstairs lounge is still visible. These were added to the theatre sometime in the 1930s. I saw “Peter Pan” here, when I was seven years old. Nightmares for days.
    James Bruce.

  8. I was taken out of the theatre by the manager after I burst a Smiths Crisps bag while watching a movie one night with my sister. (We lived at Mortdale). I think it was Flower Drum Song, but maybe Breakfast At Tiffany’s. He made me stand outside in the cold for 10 minutes. Years later, I ended up in film exhibition myself – Sydney Uni Film Group, Walker St Cinema, The Sydney Film Festival. Also used to shop at Tom The Cheap after it opened.

    1. That manager was probably thinking what we all are now: typical Mortdale behaviour.

      1. Was it also a Franklin’s supermarket at one stage or was that just the one on top of Hurstville Station?

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