Tag Archives: squats
A common complaint when it comes to this line of work (It’s not work unless you’re getting paid – Ed) is that although we can admire these old buildings and speculate about their history, we’re forced to do so from afar. We’ve all been there: you’re standing in front of an old, seemingly derelict icon from another era, possibly from your own past. You’ve been past it thousands of times, and hell, back in the glory days you might even have gone in. Oh, to have one more look around inside…no one’s around, who would mind? It would be so easy to sneak in and spend a few hours in the past…
And then common sense kicks in, and you keep walking, only now you’re carrying the added burden of regret.
But thankfully, Past/Lives reader “Cylonicus” took full advantage of a temporary absence of common sense and managed to get inside the forbidding Homebush Theatre/Niterider/Midnight Star et al. In an even less sensical move (but one I’m eternally grateful for), he was kind enough to send Past/Lives the photos. Of course, Past/Lives does not condone this kind of thing, nor trespassing in general…but if you just can’t help yourself, be sure to send me the pics. I have a feeling this won’t be the first time…
I’ve written about this place twice before, so if you’re in the dark you might want to bone up on its history before you step inside:
And now, without further commentary from me, behold the fractured beauty of the Homebush Theatre one last time (before it becomes apartments). A massive THANK YOU once again to reader “Cylonicus”!
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.
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.
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.
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).
Homebush Cinema/Niterider Theatre Restaurant/Midnight Star Reception Centre/Derelict – Homebush, NSW
This site, on Parramatta Road at Homebush, is notable for several reasons, but today we’ll be looking at this structure – the Midnight Star Reception Centre. The history is long and colourful: it was built as the Homebush Cinema in 1925, and the initials HT are still prominent above the awning.
In 1930, the Homebush Cinema Ltd. company was liquidated, and the building was bought by Western Suburbs Cinemas Ltd., a company that also managed cinemas at Burwood, Parramatta, Granville, Auburn and Strathfield. In 1939 the theatre was extensively refitted and relaunched as the Vogue Cinema. Acquisition by Hoyts in 1944 saw it renamed again as the Hoyts Vogue.
The building ceased operating as a cinema in 1959, and subsequently became an ice rink. In 1986 it was refitted again, and turned into the Niterider Theatre Restaurant.
Perhaps realising that the concept of theatre restaurant was in 1986 already past its use-by date, it was converted (badly) into the Midnight Star Reception Centre. Looking at the building now, you’d be hard pressed to decide whether it wanted to be the Niterider or the Midnight Star, such was the amount of signage left up. The refitters must have been the mob Pizza Hut used, given how sloppily it was done. The Midnight Star operated until 1996(!). This is where things really get interesting…
The building sat derelict for many years, not an unusual sight along Parramatta Road. It’s sad to say that Sydney’s most important arterial road is peppered with derelict buildings like this. Karma works in mysterious ways, however, as in 2002 the Midnight Star got another lease on life…just without a lease.
In February of that year, squatters occupied the vacant building and renamed it the Midnight Star Social Centre. For eight months, and apparently with the begrudging consent of both the owner and the police, it was used as a hub for raves, gigs, pirate cinema screenings, an internet workspace and various activist meetings. The media eventually identified the Midnight Star as a “nerve centre” for anarchists and violent and politically motivated dissent, especially in the context of a WTO meeting held in Sydney that year. The police evicted the occupants in December 2002, and the building has remained derelict ever since. It’s heritage listed on Strathfield Council’s local environment plan, but it’s yet another example of a dead cinema in Sydney no one wants to use.
DEVELOPMENTAL UPDATE: This week’s Inner West Courier reports that the Niterider Theatre has been chosen to undergo a radical restoration and redevelopment.
Given how Parramatta Road is a total carpark twice a day already during peak hour, the idea of adding 460 apartments (‘I live in Unit 458’) worth of people to the mix is stupid. I think this should be taken as a sign that the M4 will never be completed. What’s also stupid is how this would look. Two towers sticking up from behind the ancient facade of the Homebush Theatre? It’ll look like a young person wearing an ancient pair of shorts got buried upside down up to their waist.