Tag Archives: movies

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!

Penshurst Theatre/IGA – Penshurst, NSW

Sometimes, places of historical interest may be buried in the most unlikely, mundane places – and it doesn’t get much more mundane than IGA.

Penhurst IGA, and the Punchy’s Gym that sits above it, may not look like much, but in 1925 this was the site of the newly opened Nash’s Penshurst Theatre. C’mon, look again and tell me you can’t see the resemblance. Let me just say it’s been extremely hard to find anything at all on this theatre, other than that it was owned by a Mr. W Nash, opened in 1925 and stayed open until at least 1954. At some point it was closed and transformed into the building that exists today. While it’s not immediately identifiable as the theatre, if you look closely you can see that the same basic frontage is there (albeit crimped), and the IGA is certainly big enough. Anyway, as we know, stranger things have happened. As always, if you know more, please let Past/Lives know.

One interesting anecdote: in 1932, the Penshurst Theatre was taken to court by Raycophone, a Sydney-based company (with a factory in Annandale) which manufactured speakers and amplifiers for motion picture theatres.

Image courtesy audioheritage.org

Allegedly, Penshurst Theatre thrashed the Raycophone ‘talking picture sound reproducing equipment’ they hired, and returned them in unsatisfactory condition. Scandalous! Even worse was that in their defence, PT claimed that they’d received the equipment in that poor condition. I know that today we have DTS and THX surround sound and all that, but seriously, how hard must Nash have been cranking the likes of Shanghai Express, Scarface or Red Dust to blow the speakers off their Raycophone? Dudes were wild back then.

Massive thank you to reader Carmen for the picture of Penshurst Theatre, and to reader Shaun for the hot tip in the first place!

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!

Padstow Star Cinema/Civic Video – Padstow, NSW

These days, we know it as Civic Video (or just Civic, if you go by the shopfront sign. I bet they’re dying to be able to remove the word ‘video’ from the rest of their signs, despite how cost ineffective that would be), but prior to 1984 this was the Padstow Star Cinema:

Padstow Star Cinema, 1964. Image courtesy Joe Simiana.

Built in 1952 as the sister cinema to the not-too-distant Panania Star, the Padstow Star was one of many suburban cinemas of old. It’s a concept you can barely imagine now, unless you live in Beverly Hills. In 1985 the cinema closed, with Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure being its last screening. See, Ewoks do ruin everything.

Ever since, it’s been a house of movies in a very different way:

The interior has been refurbished, but it’s still quite easy to see what it originally was. The screen is a dead giveaway:

The projection booth remains as well, and is now the manager’s office judging by the angry, managerial eyes staring out at me when I tried to take a picture of it. Given the impending death of video shops, it’ll be interesting to see if this building gets yet another lease on life in Civic’s wake, or whether the residents of Padstow will have to start drinking for entertainment on a Friday night, like the rest of us.