It may surprise you, especially if you’re an Oatley resident, to learn that the tiny suburb once enjoyed its own theatre! Designed by Sydney theatre architect extraordinaire Aaron Bolot in 1940, the Oatley Radio opened in 1942 to the delight of cinephiles everywhere (in Oatley).
Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, the Oatley Radio played host to popular films of the day, including Easter Parade (1948) and An American in Paris (1951). In fairness, it probably played host to some unpopular ones too.
It’s unclear exactly when the Oatley Radio closed (if you know, let me know), but I’m estimating it was sometime in the 1960s, an era when suburban cinemas were discouraged in favour of the big boys in the city. It’s claimed that the Radio became part of the Mecca family of cinemas (alongside Kogarah and Hurstville), but I haven’t been able to find much on this.
What is clear is that at some point, the Radio was bought by the Oatley RSL and turned into their Youth Club, which is how we find it today. It’s now named the Jack Fisher Hall, after the founding president of the Youth Club.
Behind the Radio, it’s all too clear that it was once a 460-seat cinema, despite the tiny, unassuming frontage.
The Radio survives as one of six picture theatres in the Kogarah/Hurstville area still around today (along with the South Hurstville Paramount, the Carlton Odeon, Nash’s Penshurst Theatre, Beverly Hills Cinema and the Kogarah Mecca), but it’s largely avoided the sad fates of renovation or dereliction that have befallen those others. In a strange way, a suburban cinema like this one was the video shop of its day…I doubt anyone’s ever streamed The Wonders of Aladdin (1961).
Doing its best to hide its 70s facade behind 21st century bleating that ‘it’s all about YOU’ is Carlton’s Lifestyle Fitness Centre. Sometime around the turn of the last decade, public consciousness as a whole decided that going to a ‘gym’ was suddenly either retro or gay, but attending a ‘lifestyle fitness centre’ was the new yoga.
The Pacific Gym (formerly the Odeon and later, DeLuxe, Theatre from 1925-1964), not wanting to be branded retro or gay, caved to the peer pressure and started catering to lunch-break athletes and muscle-monkeys from all over the St. George district. That said, I could be completely wrong, and they just have that Pacific Gym roof mural on a standard escape-proof gym membership plan.
UPDATE: The Pacific through the ages. Here it is in 1939…
…and finally, 1970.
Really makes you realise just how ugly that gym is.