The picture says it all: it’s pretty much a textbook example of a Used To Be A Pizza Hut. But it’s actually not that much of a stretch. Pizza Hut dine-ins were fully licensed back in the day (!), so all that Liquorland have done is do away with the doughy, yeasty stuff to make room for more booze.
In Port Macquarie, that’s actually kind of an affront. Back in 2003, the town set a national record for the most amount of pizzas eaten in a day. According to the Port Macquarie News (and really, who’d be better qualified to know), 4890 pizzas were consumed on Saturday, December 13, 2003. Whether the record still stands is unclear, but since those figures came from Domino’s, you can bet a similar record for most amount of toilets clogged in a day was set on December 14.
It’s not all bad news for Port Macquarians jonesing for a fix of crusts thick, thin or stuffed, however: they’re still makin’ it great at this downgraded Hut down the road. For those who knew the dine-in Pizza Hut experience biblically, the above picture is a sad sight, and for everyone else, it’s a shocking reminder that there’s a Video Ezy still in operation.
Why Pizza Hut, I didn’t recognise you without your signature red (or green) roof and 70s decor. What were you going for here?
Woonona is notable for being the site of the first attempted landing on Australian soil by Captain James Cook in 1770. Rough seas prevented that landing, and he was forced to sail on to Botany Bay.
Pizza Hut don’t appear to have faced such conditions. Woonona’s original Pizza Hut was apparently only ever a take-away affair, with locals missing out on the eat-in experience. This meant that locals also missed out on sneezed-on salad bars, cold pizzas sitting out all day and a wide variety of leftovers fused to poorly washed plates. You’ve really gotta feel for the Woononians.
What’s interesting about this Pizza Hut is how even back in the day, when the Hut was building its trademarked eat-in restaurants all over Australia, they didn’t deem this area – between Wollongong and the Sutherland Shire – a viable enough zone to bother, instead taking over whatever this building was (possibly a panelbeater by the look of it?) and decking it out Hut-style. Why does Hut-style involve such indelible signage? A mystery for the ages…
Now, I’d like to stop proceedings right here to draw a valid comparison. I just can’t keep it bottled up inside any longer. I’ve always felt that the original, superior Pizza Hut logo:
reminded me of another glorious former logo:
…while the Hut’s new branding:
is to me highly reminiscent of that other organisation’s new standard:
Am I wrong? Is it mere coincidence, or is there some larger conspiracy at work? You bloody well decide, I’m not here to do your thinking for you!
The Hut had moved on by 2008 at the latest, and after a long time on the market, the building is now in the capable hands of the guys who were inside renovating and giving me funny looks the day I took the above photo. What, you’ve never seen a dude taking a photo of an old Pizza Hut before?
When someone or something beloved is replaced, it’s not unusual for the usurper to find itself under fire, the subject of blistering scorn (and never moreso than right here on this blog). In the case of Moo-ers, a steakhouse up near The Entrance, it seemed like they picked the wrong shoes to fill.
In 2008, Moo-ers maa-nagement became concerned about the quality of meat they were receiving; hogget and mutton were being misrepresented as lamb, yearling as veal. The definition of beef cuts was being stretched by local suppliers; a shipment claiming to include sirloin, porterhouse and striploin cuts would be found to contain nothing but the one generic cut of beef. I wonder if this was happening with their seafood as well: shrimp instead of prawns, carp instead of everything else.
Moo-ers raised the issue with the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee (SRARAATC *ahem* excuse me), hoping for tighter naming guidelines for meat. With most of their menu being meat, any substitution or downgrade in quality was hurting the Moo-ers brand.
Was anything ever done? Was the integrity of the Moo-ers menu salvaged? To answer those questions, cast your eyes upwards to the picture. Notice anything…for lease? My expert guess is that Moo-ers’ shipments of generic meat was in keeping with what the previous tenants had received. I mean seriously, if you can tell me what kind of “meat” the Pizza Hut “ground beef” is meant to be, then congratulations – there may be a spot for you on the SRARAATC.
If there’s one goal that’s proven consistently hard to achieve, it’s covering up an eat-in Pizza Hut. There seem to be two typical approaches: the first is to make a genuine effort to alter the building and hope no one recognises. It doesn’t always work. The second is to just embrace the hallmarks of the former tenant wholeheartedly, and who better to breathe new life into someone’s sloppy seconds than the Salvos?
Inside, if you can look past the piles of instructional golf videos and copious amounts of Fifty Shades of Grey, it isn’t hard to spot the former Hut infrastructure that hasn’t already been sold off. Heck, someone probably walked away with the original oven for a bargain price, and I’m kicking myself right now that it wasn’t me.
Even the toilets have been put to a more hygienic use (but not by much) as change rooms. And no, I would not count among the highlights of my blogging career standing in the middle of a Salvation Army and taking a photo of its change rooms. It’s all for you, Damien.
When my generation returns to the earth and Pizza Hut’s eat-in legacy is forgotten, will people wonder why these buildings look so odd? Probably not.
Let’s cut to the chase: the Beverly Hills Cinemas are looking a little…porky these days. It’s hard not to notice the expanding waistline anymore, even for the sake of politeness. What I’m saying is, if the Beverly Hills Cinemas were a person, they’d need to take the Michelle Bridges challenge a few times to squeeze back into those trackpants.
But it wasn’t always this way. Back before the cinema was built, the suburb was known as Dumbleton, after a nearby farm. The opening of the Dumbleton train station in 1931 had opened up the suburb to the rest of Sydney in a way the previous public transport option – a coach service from Hurstville station – had not. Dumbleton’s first shop had only opened in 1908 (on the site of the present day Beverly Hills Hotel), so there wasn’t exactly a major reason to go there. Dumbleton residents hoped to change this in 1910, when a post office was opened within the existing store. It was like the proto-Westfield.
The Second World War brought military personnel to Dumbleton, further increasing its population and forcing it to come up with more shops to keep people entertained, but it’s kinda hard to make anything entertaining when your suburb’s name is Dumbleton.
In late 1938, plans began for a picture theatre along King Georges Road with a projected completion date of 1940. I suppose the Dumbletonians were hoping to emulate the success of the Savoy theatre in nearby Hurstville, but they still had the nagging problem of that name. An American cultural influence had been building in the outskirts of Sydney with the advent of cinema, so with an impending theatre and the belief that the USA would soon be joining the war effort, a move was made in 1940 to change the suburb’s name to the much more glamourous sounding Beverly Hills – Hollywood on the East Hills line. The Californian equivalent was home to famous movie stars, and with the completion of the St. James Theatre later that year, so would Dumbleton. The strip of palm trees down the centre of King Georges Road was added to complement the Hollywood theme in a move no one in the 1940s could have predicted would become so tacky by the present day.
The St. James Theatre entertained the residents of the growing suburb (even those older residents who had loudly complained about the name change) for decades until the 1970s, when the voracious Hoyts incorporated it into its suburban chain. By 1978, it had fallen into disrepair like many of its suburban cousins that had survived the mass demolition of such cinemas during the progressive 60s, and was showing only adult films. St. James indeed. I wasn’t able to locate a picture of the St. James back in the day, so if you’re able to help, let me know.
It was that year when developer Jim Tsagias bought the St. James, with plans to transform it into a function centre. Something changed his mind (perhaps the palm trees) and he decided to restore it as a cinema. In 1982 it was reopened as the one-screen Beverly Hills Cinema, and in 1988 it was converted to a twin.
And couldn’t you tell. For years, the bigger Cinema No. 1 would play host to the big budget blockbusters, while smaller, more intimate pictures or films late in their run were relegated to the tiny Cinema No. 2, which had been shoehorned in above the first. It was an awkward setup, but one that built a reputation as the cheapest cinema in Sydney (based on ticket prices, of course), and became one of the most popular family venues in the south west, especially when coupled with the nearby Beverly Hills Pizza Hut. Movies then all-you-can-eat pizza: it doesn’t get much more 90s than that.
The cinema was looking a bit dated by the early 2000s, but not as bad as the bank next door (I believe it was a Westpac?). Sandwiched between the cinema and the Pizza Hut was one of so many suburban bank branches closed during that time, and it sat dormant for many years just like the Hut. Perhaps realising it wasn’t a good look, and that there was an opportunity to expand, the Tsagias family bought the bank in 2004 and moved in, creating a video arcade in the new space which greatly relieved pressure from the cramped waiting area. But this wasn’t enough. In 2008, a complete redevelopment saw the Beverly Hills upgraded to a six-screen cinema. The derelict Pizza Hut was cut in half to make room for more screens and a mini-power station, and the entire facade facing King Georges Road was given the facelift (in true Beverly Hills fashion) that it sports today.
Not quite the case around the back, though.
From the alley behind the cinema, it’s easy to see the layout of the original St James and the bank next door. The structure on the extreme left is new, and sits on the Pizza Hut’s territory. The Pizza Hut recently vanished from existence, perhaps to make way for more parking for the cinema, or a new restaurant (just what BH needs). Whenever you see extensive renovations going on, it’s usually a safe bet that it’s being done to prepare the property for sale. Sure enough, the Tsagias family placed the Beverly Hills Cinema on the market late last year. It seems as if Event Cinemas has taken control, at least of the screening coordination, but it remains to be seen if the Beverly Hills will remain a cinema under a new owner.
If it doesn’t, they may have to change the suburb’s name again.