Tag Archives: cinema

Past/Lives Flashback #3: Midnight Star Reception Centre – Homebush, NSW

Original article: Homebush Cinema/Niterider Theatre Restaurant/Midnight Star Reception Centre/Derelict – Homebush, NSW

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It was only a matter of time before we found ourselves back in front of this beast. As we already know, the Homebush Theatre has experienced a long afterlife as an ice rink, a theatre restaurant, a reception centre and a squat before it was finally allowed to rot alongside the other corpses on Parramatta Road. For more on its years as a squatters paradise, check out this fascinating account and accompanying video.

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Shortly after I wrote my original article last year, it came to light that the Midnight Star was to be redeveloped into two towers of high-density living space in the hope of rejuvenating its necropolyptic surroundings. This plan was rightfully met with community outrage, and has since been dropped by the developers without explanation, granting the Niterider another stay of execution.

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While attempting to spruce up the area is a good idea, this was not the right way to go about it. Sure, put in your two towers full of people, but consider the lack of amenities or decent infrastructure in the area before you start getting the dollar signs in your eyes, greedy developers! You know, if the M4 was finished, you could transform the stretch of Parramatta Road between Homebush and the city, and smart developers could really clean up… Oh wait, this is Sydney we’re talking about. Carry on.

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And so the Midnight Star returns to its seemingly-eternal slumber, waiting for a new set of idealistic developers to take another crack. The Strathfield Council has welcomed attempts to get something happening here, but only if the community at large receives some benefit. Personally, I think the community would benefit from a return of the theatre restaurant format. Come on, who doesn’t like to be entertained while eating, especially by dodgy panto? Get Dirty Dick on the phone! Homebush would learn to laugh again, instead of sinking further into bleak, oppressive hopelessness. It’s not a good look.

UPDATE: Someone has awakened the beast. Come for a tour of the Homebush Theatre before it’s gone forever (or even after it’s gone, these blogs last a long time).

Past/Lives Flashback #4: Videomania – Rosebery, NSW

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

The Marina, 1941. Image courtesy City of Botany Bay Local History Image Archive.

The Marina, 1941. Image courtesy City of Botany Bay Local History Image Archive.

Sometimes revisiting a place can reveal secrets you missed the first time. Case in point, the rotting behemoth on the side of Gardeners Road formerly known as Videomania. In its glory days this was the grand Marina picture palace, which operated until 1984 – a time when video killed the theatre star.

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I tried to get the same angle as above, I really did.

Another place for which time seems to stand still, Videomania remains relatively unchanged since last year. Sure, there are some new posters up along its face and there’s a new cupcake shop in the old bank next door, but the building itself is no different.

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We can only speculate as to how long those promo guys were waiting, longing to plaster the front of the place with their posters. I suppose the temptation became too much at some point, much to Jack Dee’s benefit.

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Even Leonardo is still there, ever vigilant. And he’d want to be, given the former theatre’s seedy surroundings…

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Out the back, I encounter some inspiring graffiti and little else. The place may still be for lease, but they certainly haven’t expended any effort making it presentable.

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I’m guessing that vacuum doesn’t work.

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Just when I was thinking to myself that there was nothing left to discover here, I found it. It’s something that was probably there last time, but I just happened to miss in the excitement of seeing a Ninja Turtle in the last place you’d expect to see one. See? The gluey remnants still attached to the side appear to vaguely form the word ‘Roxy’, another name this theatre went by at some point in its illustrious life. But that was just the primer. Have a look at this:

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Can you see it? Look really closely, and maybe try squinting. Still no good? Okay, let’s get a bit closer…

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How about now? The ‘R’ or maybe the ‘N’ should hit you first, and then from there it’s easy. Yes, amazingly, the awning’s decorative ‘MARINA’ lettering has somehow survived, allowing us an even deeper glimpse into the past than it was thought possible. Now all we need to do is arrange a screening of ‘Puddin’ Head’ inside. Maybe we should get in touch with the owners?

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We’re in the home stretch now, only three to go. Here’s a clue for the next entry: it’s another theatre.

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!

Rozelle Theatre/Arch Stone & Residential – Rozelle, NSW

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Whoa, deja vu! This incarnation of the Rozelle Theatre, constructed in 1927, was actually the second theatre to be built at this location. You can take one look at it and know it was a job by architect Charles Bohringer, who also brought us the Homebush Theatre. That Bohringer…it’s like he was tortured by this single vision in his head and could never quite exorcise it, no matter how many theatres he designed.

 

While we’re on the topic of torture, Zero Dark Thirty’s got nothing on Miss Louise Mack, who sadistically inflicted a series of lectures on children at the theatre during the late 1920s:

 

SMH, 26 November 1929

SMH, 26 November 1929

 

You won’t be surprised to learn that it was Hoyts who played the part of the executioner in the tragic tale of this theatre, which ceased projection in 1960 – and speaking of executions:

 

Adelaide Advertiser, 12 June 1950

Wouldn’t have wanted to be that last fellow…   Adelaide Advertiser, 12 June 1950

 

After an embarrassing stint as a function centre, the cinema today stands as an Arch Stone tile outlet topped with an apartment block. It’d be a damn spooky place to live, too…it’s said that on a dark and stormy night, you can still hear the yawns of Miss Mack’s students…

 

Oatley Radio Theatre/Oatley RSL Youth Club – Oatley, NSW

Oatley Radio screening The Wonders of Aladdin, 1961. Image courtesy reader Carmen and Mr W. Collins

Oatley Radio screening The Wonders of Aladdin, 1961. Image courtesy reader Carmen and Mr W. Collins

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.

The final curtain, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W. Collins

The final curtain, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W. Collins

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.

Oatley Theatre foyer, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W Collins

Oatley Theatre foyer, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W Collins

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).

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!