Tag Archives: old cinema

New Kings Theatre/Greater Union/For Lease – Mosman, NSW

The New Kings Theatre, Mosman, 1937. Image courtesy State Library of NSW.

Over the years, the New Kings Theatre at Mosman went by a variety of names – the Kings, the Classic – until it was finally caught in the current of progress in 1976. The Village cinema chain took over the art deco theatre that year, and it ran in friendly competition with its nearby contemporary, the Cremorne Orpheum.

But in a story that’s all too familiar in the world of old theatres, suits suddenly appeared on the scene and started making decisions on behalf of business. Greater Union demolished the New Classic Kings Village in 1986, a move which shocked the community. The twin cinema that replaced it opened in 1988 to much fanfare; so cheesy and contrived was the whole venture that even the cinema’s phone number was 9969 1988. Sheesh.

On paper, you’d think replacing an old 30s single screen picture theatre with a modern twin would be like printing money, but 23 years after its grand opening, the Greater Union Mosman was printing termination notices for its staff.

The GU’s profits didn’t come anywhere close to those at the still-vintage Cremorne Orpheum, and in 2011 the twin closed its doors for the final time. It’s currently waiting, like much of Mosman’s shopping district, to be demolished and redeveloped into residential/commercial towers, but until that happens it stands as a testament to the Orpheum’s appeal and triumph over progress.

Paragon No. 2 Theatre/Australian Academy of Gymnastics – Belmore, NSW

Since 1928, the Paragon No. 2 has loomed over the intersection of Burwood Road and Knox Street, providing a monolithic eye-catcher for passers-by. It has remained remarkably well-preserved from its days as a cinema.

Paragon No. 2, 1981. Courtesy Barry Sharp and City of Canterbury Local History Photograph Collection

For thirty years, the Paragon No. 2 picture theatre provided Belmore locals with a venue for concerts, plays, movies and state government debates. Close to the train line, for years it was speculated that a train station would open up near the theatre, but the plan never went ahead. Knox Street was eventually cut off from Burwood Road, becoming a cul-de-sac and torpedoing easy access to the theatre by road. By June 1958, the time of its closure, the Paragon No. 2 had been operating on a restricted screening policy, further limiting its viability as a cinema.

Following its closure, the theatre was acquired by Jeldi Manufacturing, a Sydney-based textile company, who proceeded to use the building as storage for curtains and carpet.

In 1982, the site was discovered by Andre and Edwige Rizzo, a French couple who had migrated from France in 1970. Andre had represented France in gymnastics at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, and was seeking to start a gymnastics academy. The Paragon No. 2 provided the perfect facility, enabling the gym to become the first club in NSW to provide both men’s and women’s training apparatus, and to function exclusively as a venue for artistic gymnastics.

Aside from minor practical refurbishments, the lobby is in remarkable condition. At the centre of this staircase is the former box office, now a display case for the academy’s numerous achievements.

The theatre’s 1144 seats may be gone, but again, the interior isn’t unrecognisable as a cinema, and gives a good idea of what it would have looked like.

The Academy is currently run by Antoine and Shannon Rizzo, who are proud to have coached young gymnasts here for the last 30 years. At this stage, it’s been a gymnasium just about as long as it was a cinema. Given the success rate of the Academy (Antoine’s brother Philippe Rizzo is Australia’s most successful male gymnast), Paragon has proved a fitting name. I’m sure Jeldi had no complaints about the quality of storage, either.

Of course, the name of the theatre begs the obvious question ‘what about Paragon No. 1 ?’. I asked Antoine Rizzo if he knew. He did:

To be continued…

A HUGE thanks to Antoine and Shannon Rizzo at the Australian Academy of Gymnastics for their generosity and assistance!

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.

Savoy Cinema/Quality House/Whitewood Warehouse/Poliak Building Supply Co. – Enfield, NSW

On the Hume Highway, Enfield stands this bright orange eyecatcher. According to Strathfield Heritage, the Savoy opened as the Enfield Cinema in 1927, but was redesigned in Art Deco style in 1938.

Enfield Savoy, 1938. Image from Strathfield Heritage.

Enfield Savoy interior furnishings, 2012.

At this point it was renamed the Savoy, and reopened to the public. In 1944 it was bought by Hoyts, but was closed as a cinema in 1960. The last film shown was Some Like It Hot.

Enfield Savoy entrance, 2012.

Julian Tertini was working as a public servant in the mid-1970s when he quit his job and started a furniture company with no prior business experience. That company was Whitewood Warehouse. By 2012, the Savoy has stood as the cartoon bear-sporting Whitewood Warehouse longer than it did as a cinema.

Tertini went on to start both Fantastic and Freedom Furniture, and is one of Australia’s richest people. The Savoy/Whitewood building is now home to Poliak Building Supplies. The foyer is a showroom for ovens and hot water systems, because some still like it hot.

QUALITY UPDATE: Thanks to reader Phil, Past/Lives can now reveal the hitherto unknown second phase of this building’s life! After the cinema’s 1960 closure, it began its long life as a furniture warehouse under the name of Quality House. Now there’s a name you can trust:

Quality House advertisement, June 27 1965

Quality House advertisement, June 27 1965