Category Archives: video shops

Paramount Theatre/Civic Video – South Hurstville, NSW

In the second such instance, Civic Video has taken up residence in a former cinema. This time, the Paramount Theatre of South Hurstville continues to provide movies to the public through the video chain. Let’s take a closer look.

With a booty like this, of course it was once a cinema.

The Paramount was built in 1934, joining a sister cinema at Mortdale (since demolished) and only four other picture theatres in the Kogarah/Hurstville region: the Odeon at Carlton, the Oatley Radio, the Hurstville Savoy and the Kogarah Victory being the others. It’s a pretty damn big building, with a seating capacity of 1,100 when it was built. In 1950, that old vaudeville villain Hoyts (boo, hiss) bought the theatre and renamed it the Hoyts. Sounds much better too, doesn’t it? Hoyts closed the theatre in 1959 (I’m growing more and more convinced there was some kind of Hoyts conspiracy to buy up the suburban cinemas in order to get people to head into the city). Hoyts made sure that a covenant in the sales contract ensured the building could never again be used as a cinema.

The Paramount/Civic in its less space-generous, more art deco days. Gotta be the late 80s/early 90s. Image courtesy Kogarah Council.

Since 1959 it’s been used as a recreation centre, a supermarket and a giant Civic. In the last ten years as video shops have declined, Civic has cut down on its floorspace, sharing with a Subway, a newsagent, a Curves gym and some kind of computer shop out the back. Cramming more into less space isn’t just a residential thing anymore.

CRUSTY UPDATE: Here’s a look at the Paramount in its heyday courtesy of reader Carmen. Thanks!

Oatley Village Video/Car park – Oatley, NSW

Here’s another victim of the video shop exodus. This one didn’t even have a franchise attached while it was alive, making it even harder for it to stay afloat once the VHS ocean started to get rough. I bought an ex-rental copy of Surf Ninjas on VHS from here years ago, so I know I did my part. I can sleep at night. Can you?

It’s since been turned into a car park of all things. You couldn’t even use the building for anything else? The cafe next door is that popular that it needs the three or four extra car spaces afforded it by this tiny space? Oatley is full of wide, long, empty streets to park in, especially since Coles won’t be setting up there. Oh, wait.

Inside it looks like a supervillain meeting room, where the Oatley Star Chamber plots world domination…or at least the downfall of Coles, their mortal enemy. It’s so barebones that you can see the rollerdoor that would have been used for new shipments of pure VHS goodness back in that time.

Here’s the after hours return chute the tardy denizens of Oatley would have used to return videos after the shop had closed for the day. Or, in some cases, never used at all:

That was three years ago. If you do that for long enough, of course you’re going to go out of business. This must have occurred to the kindly owner at some point, because a year before closing down he changed his tactics:

Take note, Darrell Lea.

BP/Belfield Plaza/Nature’s Best – Belfield, NSW

According to the Canterbury Council website, the small suburb of Belfield (previously visited here, here and here) “experienced a small increase in population between 1996-2001 due to new dwellings being added”. I’m guessing that population increases are like blog hits to local council, because they’ve given the go-ahead to plenty more dwellings and sacrificed one of Belfield’s most iconic structures in the process.

Belfield Plaza, 1991. Courtesy City of Canterbury Local History Photograph Collection.

It may not look like much, but this is Belfield Plaza. It replaced a BP petrol station (extant only through the site’s driveways) but kept the initials. The servo itself replaced a series of houses, and the cycle gives a great insight into the changing needs of society over the last century or so. I’m not entirely sure when the plaza was built, but if I had to guess I’d say mid 80s.

Belfield Plaza, 1994. Note the video shop on the left. Courtesy City of Canterbury Local History Photograph Collection.

Shopping arcades are a mixed bag for kids. If there’s not a newsagent (for cards and comics), a milk bar (for junk food, video games and ice cream) or even a mixed business (for the best of both worlds), there’ll be tears before bedtime. My grandparents lived in Belfield, so I spent a lot of time here as a kid, and I can honestly say that Belfield Plaza’s offerings didn’t interest me one bit…until the video shop moved in. Time for an anecdote…

This video shop (the suburb’s third!) was an independent one, and for a kid it seemed huge. It was how (along with granny’s membership card) I was able to discover favourites like Aliens, Batman and, memorably, The Terminator (I’m a dude – deal with it). I’d seen T2 on TV and was keen to see the original, so I barreled into the video shop and asked the guy, “Do you have Terminator?”

He stared back, blankly. “Schwarzenegger?” he replied.

It was my turn to stare blankly. What other Terminator was there? “Terminator…” I repeated, suddenly unsure if I’d gotten the title correct.

“Schwarzenegger…?” he asked, experiencing the same dilemma. “Hadoken!” yelled the nearby Super Street Fighter II machine, breaking the awkward silence of the standoff. It seemed to break his trance, too. “Action’s up the back.” I ran towards the back of the shop as he called out “Excellent film, too,” as if going for the hard sell was necessary. Thanks, video shop guy. If you ever read this, know you did some good in this world.

Belfield Plaza paint shop, March 2012.

The video shop moved out around 1996 and was replaced with a paint store. Who makes these decisions? As with the rest of Belfield, the plaza continued to decline throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, where it felt like a relic. Belfield Plaza’s one success story was Mancini’s, a wood fire pizza restaurant which moved from the plaza to the adjacent corner of Downes Street, itself a former video shop. Mancini’s now has the ultimate vantage point from which to watch as the plaza which nurtured it through the tough early days is pulled down and replaced by a generic retail/residential combo.

Belfield Plaza, early 2012. Image courtesy Strathfield Partners Real Estate.

Belfield Plaza, July 2012.

Yes, I realise that once upon a time someone might have felt the same way about the BP as I do about B. P., and that these were considered generic once upon a time. But Belfield Plaza, and in particular that video shop, I’ll never forget. The hours drained playing Street Fighter, the many movies discovered and rehired over and over, the woodfired pizzas on a Saturday evening after a day in the pool…it all happened here, and now it can never happen again.

NATURAL UPDATE:

Looks like Clancy’s finally has some competition…

IMG_1794

From Belfield’s worst to Nature’s Best. I wonder if Belfieldians are starting to wish it had just stayed a BP?

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!

Epping Theatre/Fashions Galore/Video Ezy/Network Video & Gloria Jean’s & Jackie’s Hair and Beauty – Epping, NSW

Another testament to the power and influence of video shops in the old days – it took three shops to replace one giant Video Ezy. You can see on the left the space where new release posters would have hung, luring potential new members inside and forcing them to think of a password of the easily forgettable variety in order to get a video card just to be able to hire Maverick for the night. Sadly for the former king of weekly entertainment, Ezy Street is a long way away these days.

Meanwhile, if you paired up locations of the ubiquitous Gloria Jean’s with Thai restaurants, you might find the number is a perfect match. Even Mickey D’s doesn’t cover this kind of territory.

THEATRICAL UPDATE: After digging a bit deeper (read: having a look around the back), it’s become apparent that this location has a bit more to it than it would seem. From the 1930s to at least the 1950s, this was the site of Epping Theatre, which is laughably obvious when you check out the rear:

If it looks like a theatre etc… The discovery of the ‘Fashions Galore’ sign means that this is now probably the longest titled entry on this blog – quite an achievement given the competition. Epping Theatre is a bit of a mystery; apart from some old ‘staff wanted’ ads and its listing in several State Library photo archives (currently unseen), there’s not much out there. Or is there? Readers, if you can help, you know what to do.

HELPFUL UPDATE: Reader Carmen was kind enough to send in a picture of Epping Theatre in its prime. Judging by the films on show – Johnny Belinda, The Gallant Blade and Red Canyon – this was taken in 1949. Check it out:

Epping Theatre, 1949. Thanks to reader Carmen for the image!

PS. Just in case you didn’t believe this was at any stage a Video Ezy, check out this solid gold proof that awaits those brave enough to wander up the back alley:

It says a lot about the current state of Video Ezy that this guy’s chosen to park there despite the sign. Ballsy.