Sydney’s Plaza Theatre was once one of many elegant cinemas and theatres lining George Street’s entertainment strip. Like many cinemas, its business was damaged by the advent of television, and today it has the distinction of being arguably the world’s fanciest McDonald’s.
Built for Hoyts in 1930, the Plaza sat alongside venues such as the Century Theatre (which became an indoor BMX track in what could only have been the 80s) and the Crystal Palace Arcade.
Despite many of its contemporaries being bulldozed around it, the Plaza stood firm until 1977, when it was closed as a cinema and reopened as Maxy’s, a disco skating rink. The changing face of entertainment.
Surprisingly, the idea of a disco roller rink wasn’t fashionable for long, and the Plaza played host to Mickey D’s and video arcades for most of the 1980s.
The Plaza’s northern end was once again immersed in the world of cinema in 1995 when the Stallone-Schwarzenegger-Willis-Moore joint Planet Hollywood came to Sydney, establishing itself in the former arcade. According to this photo taken in 1996, PH shared its space with Brashs, another 90s success story. By 1999, both ventures would be out of business.
Today, some lazy entrepreneur has taken the already-tacky Planet Hollywood aesthetic and adapted it into the Star Bar, another of modern George Street’s entertainment offerings. Not sure how many stars you’d see here these days. The Plaza in its present state is yet another example of Sydney trying to disguise the brazen pimping of itself to the lowest bidder by hiding behind facades of the past. If it looks vintage, it seems that much more respectable. What isn’t considered is that drunken eyes can’t appreciate all the lovingly preserved heritage fronts, and as George Street continues to slide into the gutter, the death grip it has on these buildings only serves to drag their illustrious reputations and history down with it.
STAR STUDDED UPDATE: Reader Cameron says: “Star Bar was originally created by Planet Hollywood to replace Brashs when it failed which had the same owner, Star Bar was created so Planet Hollywood could profit from gambling without tarnishing its family image. The two coexisted for a while. A bizarre fact, this restaurant was a real cash cow and extremely profitable when it closed, a case of embezzlement I believe. The real crime there was the removal of the original cinemas Spanish themed ceiling for the extra headroom and replaced with a high blue ceiling. The Star Bar is now run by the same group that has the even tackier Shark Bar! now with no sharks……”
Sounds like the sharks haven’t left at all, actually. It’s almost inconceivable that shady types would be running places like this (especially the Shark Bar), but there you go. Thanks, Cameron!
On a stormy night in 1996, the Church of Scientology made its mark on the George Street entertainment strip in the form of Sydney’s most bizarre advertising initiative. The site, on the east side of George Street, was formerly the Roma Complex; a row of shops including the Roma cinema torn down in the early 1990s to make way for the current setup. Now comprised of a variety of smaller shops, the address is most notable for including the Metro Theatre, a popular music venue, and as the former home of Galaxy World, a video arcade.
Someone in the Church of Scientology saw an opportunity to educate the people of George Street in the ways of Xenu et. al., and in mid-1996 a giant illuminated volcano facade was erected above Galaxy World, with a giant video screen at the peak. The screen played commercials for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics over and over and over as smoke burst from the volcano, while testing centre was established nearby so that anyone interested in the ad could have their situation evaluated by the experts. What had been originally intended was that the screen would be directly used by the Church of Scientology to advertise the religion/cult, but after that proposal was denied by the Sydney City Council, a compromise was reached in the form of the Dianetics ads. Celebrity Scientologists Kate Ceberano and Nancy Cartwright appeared at the unveiling, which was forced inside due to the thunderstorm.
After just a few months, the brightly coloured volcano had faded, and so had the public’s compulsion to humour the Church of Scientology. Then-Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor offered to pull the volcano down as early as November 1996. At some time in 2000, long after the advertisements had stopped erupting, the facade caught fire, and remained in its burnt state for nearly a year afterward. When the volcano screen was first erected, it was agreed that it would only be up for six years, but here we are in 2012 and although the volcano is gone, the screen and an ugly facade remain. It’s a surprise it’s still there, given Sydney City Council’s tendency to overhaul all things George Street every couple of years.
Speaking of erections and eruptions, a few enterprising young scallywags took the obvious opportunity to broadcast porn through the screen for a prank at some point in the late 1990s, and given that’s the least creepy thing the setup was ever used for, that’s a good place to end this article.
PS. Oh, the 24hr Bar Ace advertised alongside the volcano isn’t there anymore either. It’s two Japanese restaurants now.
The Bank of Australasia first moved into this address in 1879, establishing their ‘Southern Sydney’ branch in a rented building. The current building was erected in 1886, but remained under the ownership of the Estate of a James Powell until 1902, when the BOA suddenly remembered it was a bank and could take any property it wanted. It bought out the site, which remained a bank until 1998. The Bank of Australasia became a part of the ANZ in 1951, and rebranded this site as an ANZ bank in 1970.
Although the interiors have been refurbished, the exterior of the building is in remarkably good condition considering what the site is now – the 3 Wise Monkeys pub. Established in 2000, the 3 Wise Monkeys has a reputation as a live music venue and as a place where wisdom is not on tap. Of all the places in Sydney to not want to be seeing, hearing or speaking evil, George Street is probably at the top of the list.
Remember Krispy Kreme? That donut (or doughnut) fad that took off in 2003 and crashed hard in…late 2003? For a good part of that year, everyone was talking about Krispy Kremes. Workplaces stocked them as treats, families bought them by the boxful. I knew a guy who would spend an hour in the car driving out to the Krispy Kreme at Liverpool to buy six boxes at a time because he loved them that much, and there was a time when that was the most convenient location. Krispy Kreme responded to the demand by increasing the number of stores, failing to realise that fads are fads because they don’t last. Exhibit A: Krispy Kreme.
Now a shadow of its former self, KK’s Australian subsidiary went into voluntary administration in late 2010, citing poor sales as the reason. Imagine how poor the sales must have been for it to only give up the game in 2010, a full seven years after the honeymoon was over. Even more mindblowing is the fact that the brand has been around since 1937. In any case, this site is an example of a location that no longer wanted doughnuts (or donuts) and voted with its feet…literally: Ugg boots are the wares being peddled here now.
Before KK kame along to korrupt konsumers with krappy konfectionery, Cue clothing ran the shop. Cue has been around since 1968, and since forging a relationship with Myer in 1970 hadn’t had as much need for self-contained shops. This one opened in 1976, but closed during the 1990s due to declining sales. That’s a better run that Krispy Kreme had. Cue’s executive director Justin Levis said in 2008 that the shop closed because the surrounding shops had become tacky bargain stores. Now that the ugg boot shop has moved in, this location has finally found its place in that dynasty.
Considered the outskirts of town in 1792, the site at the corner of George and Druitt Streets in Sydney was chosen by Governor Arthur Phillip to be the colony of New South Wales’ primary burial ground. By 1820, however, the cemetery had become full, and was closed as a result. It fell into a period of dereliction and neglect, gaining a reputation as a place to avoid, especially on hot days and at night.
Sydney had grown exponentially by the 1840s, and it had been suggested that the burial ground be used as the site of a town hall for Sydney. Despite vehement opposition in some sectors…
…plans went ahead. The Sydney City Council applied for and received a grant of a portion of the burial ground in 1865. Reinterment of the bodies took place in 1869, with most moved to Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney’s west. Most…
More graves were found in 1974, 1991, 2003, and as recently as 2008:
At the very least, the extreme amount of bodies left at the site ensured high turnout numbers for Town Hall events.
There is little on the site today to recognise the site’s former life as a cemetery. I guess they thought that since there were so many bodies left behind, they didn’t need one. Still, in this small, dank alcove which reeks of piss, there’s a tiny reminder:
This plaque is dedicated to the memory of those who arrived in this country with Captain Arthur Phillip on the First Fleet in 1788 and were buried nearby.
-Fellowship of First Fleeters, 1988
“Were“? Still, Town Hall can take comfort in the fact it’s not the only former burial ground site used by a major Sydney landmark today. Yes, like Weekend at Bernie’s II, they did it again…