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.
George Street’s cinema strip has undergone many drastic facelifts and overhauls, particularly since 1971, when the Trocadero dance hall was demolished to make room for the Hoyts cinemaplex. In 1983, two more cinemas, the Rapallo and the Paramount, were razed by their owner Greater Union to make way for a more modern moviegoing experience: the Greater Union cineplex above.
By the early 1990s that west side of George Street contained only the big three cinemas: Village, Greater Union and Hoyts. Around 1999, the Village was demolished and all three joined forces in the greatest union of all to form one giant megaplex. The Greater Union above was absorbed by the Hoyts complex and until 2005 operated as a joint venture. Now, Event Cinemas (formerly Greater Union) runs the entire cinema.
When the Greater Union building became a part of the Hoyts complex, the facade was brought into line with the Hoyts look. Today, almost nothing remains of the Greater Union building…
…but if we look in the alley around the back of the buildings, not only is the dated triangular awning still present on the Greater Union building, but even the Hoyts building retains its older style. When the complex became Event Cinemas, an expensive overhaul for the entire George Street face of the building was undertaken. I guess they decided the back alley wasn’t enough of an event.
How does the front of the Greater Union look today?
Big, faceless and grey: just like the rest of George Street.