heritage theatres & cinemas

Almost all remaining theatre and cinema buildings constructed before World War II may be termed “heritage” items.

Heritage significance is a universal set of legal criteria but only one of those set criteria may determine an item’s heritage significance and so the papers, articles and documentary evidence in this category will detail exactly why a featured building is considered to be of “heritage value”. It may cover criteria such as social, cultural, historical, architectural and rarity values that are unique to a particular theatre or cinema building and its place within a community context.

Heritage reports where copyright may be owned by the commissioning agents is linked or referenced to those organisations.

Where documents are scanned from old publications the quality of reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the source material.

Capitol Theatre - then and now

capitol theatre sydney

Two items - one previously unpublished - on the Capitol Theatre in Sydney. The first states a valid case for restoration of the dilapidated building in 1985 and the other is a photo essay of the building just prior to its reopening in 1995.

The first article contains rare historical photos of the building when it was a produce market and its later remodeling as an indoor circus and finally an 'atmospheric' movie palace.

 

Articles and Papers

 
 

The Heritage Significance of the Cinema-going Experience
in New South Wales (2011)

Ross Thorne; 19 pages, illustrated

Previously unpublished, 2011

Understanding the reactions of the audience both to the films and the environments in which they were shown, are important to the history of film/cinema. An extraordinary number of single screen cinemas built before television arrived, have been demolished; efforts to save a few have been thwarted by stereotypical old-fashioned attitudes to popular culture. An example of this loss has been mapped for the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

File size 3MB

capitol theatrer Sydney as Markets before conversion to theatre
 

Capitol Theatre: A Case for Retention (1985)

Ross Thorne; 22 pages; 14 illustrations (including floor plans & cross section)

Originally published by the Department of Architecture, University of Sydney, 1985.

In 1985, the Capitol Theatre, Sydney was in a dilapidated state, with calls for it to be either demolished or restored. After research at the owner’s (Sydney City Council) archives, what had been lost to collective memory was rediscovered.

The building, with some of its foundation walls, and external decorative walls dated back to, and were part of the New Belmore Market building of 1892/3. This made the building more historically important than hitherto thought.

File size 21MB

capitol theatrer Sydney as Markets before conversion to theatre
 

Capitol Theatre: Restored (1995): a photo essay

Ross Thorne; 11 pages; 21 illustrations (all full colour)

Previously unpublished

After “expressions of interest” to redevelop the Capital Theatre (Sydney) site fell through, largely due to the 1987-90 financial recession, the Sydney City Council, the owners, negotiated with the most heritage conscious developer, Ipoh Gardens, to restore (but update the facilities at) the Capitol Theatre and lease the building to the company. The Council part-funded the restoration.

The photographs were taken just before its reopening early 1995.

File size 5.5MB

capitol theatre sydney old foyer after restoration 1995
 

The social significance of the picture theatre: how many people did attend picture theatres in New South Wales before television and video?

Kevin Cork and Ross Thorne; 15 pages; 19 illustrations (including tables & graphs)

Originally published in People and Physical Environment Research, Numbers 58-60, 2006, pp. 48-67.

Attendance figures for cinemas across the state up until 1953 are unreliable. Occasionally all seats were taxed, sometimes only a few, thus skewing admission numbers. Through other evidence an estimate of actual attendance has been built up in this paper.

File size 2.1MB

roxy theatre parramatta
 

Cultural Heritage of Movie Theatres in New South Wales, 1896-1996.
Part I, Introduction.

Ross Thorne; Les Todd and Kevin Cork

62 pages (illustrated)

A National Estate grant allowed the authors compile, from their existing research data, a list of venues used for cinema exhibition that were used regularly at some time over the centenary of cinema in New South Wales.

This part is the Introduction that describes the various criteria used to establish heritage value in relation to cinema building in the state, together with a comprehensive bibliography.

File size 18.9MB

regent cinema sydney
 

Cultural Heritage of Movie Theatres in New South Wales, 1896-1996.
Part II, List of Venues used regularly at some time as Movie Theatres in New South Wales, 1896-1996.

Ross Thorne; Les Todd and Kevin Cork

124 pages (predominantly an A-Z table)

A National Estate grant allowed the authors compile, from existing research data, a list of venues used for cinema exhibition, used regularly at some time over the centenary of cinema in New South Wales.

This part is the list of venues in the form of a 122 pages long series of tables. Each provides the location, the last known name, the street address (if known), whether the venue was purpose-built; if extant, an estimation of its heritage value, and the state of the venue in 1997 (operating, destroyed, etc.).

File size 7.3MB

 

sample pages as a graphic

 

The problem of assessing the cultural heritage of buildings through individual criteria: The case of social significance of the traditional picture theatre.

Ross Thorne

45 pages (illustrated)

Originally published in People and Physical Environment Reserch, 53-54, pp.58-102.

This monograph-long paper draws together a number of issues that have plagued the certification of buildings as items of cultural heritage.

The picture theatre has been chosen for the analysis since it has been seen as of “lesser” cultural importance than other building types, yet the traditional cinema possibly was the setting that experienced more cultural learning and social intercourse than most other building types.

File size 15.6MB

 

Regent Theatre Sydney

 

State Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Ross Thorne; 9 pages; 18 illustrations.

Originally published in Architecture Australia, 70, 3, 1981, pp.38-45.

After a period of doubt about its future, the Greater Union Organisation decided to rehabilitate and repair its flagship State Theatre, Sydney, in 1980. This article outlines the theatre’s history and what was done to bring it back to pristine condition.

File size 18.9MB

 

state theatre stalls and dress circle

 

Sydney’s Theatres – (parts 1 & 2) – Theatre Royal and Her Majesty’s Theatre

Ross Thorne

5 pages; 16 illustrations

Originally published in Theatre Australia, November & December, 1977.

In the 1970s Sydney only had two traditional theatres. The original Theatre Royal started life as the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1855. There were a number of fires and rebuilds until 1921 which was the theatre in existence until 1972 when it was to be demolished. A “Save the Theatre Royal” ad hoc organisation was set up and negotiated with unions and the property developer to achieve a new theatre on the site.

The second theatre, the Her Majesty’s, started life as the Empire in 1927, was considerably altered in 1959, burnt down in 1970 and completely rebuilt, only to be demolished some quarter of a century later.

Includes basic plan of 1927 building and cross section of 1973 building plus some photographs.

File size 7MB

 

state theatre stalls and dress circle

 

Hobart’s Historic Theatre Royal.

Ross Thorne

5 pages; 6 illustrations

Originally published in Theatre Australia, June, 1977.

The original theatre was built in 1837 and had undergone many alterations and much rebuilding until 1911, the date the auditorium was rebuilt. It is the auditorium seen today.

The article summarises the various alterations and additions until 1977, after which a fire on the stage resulted in a new stagehouse.

File size 6.2MB

 

Hobart's Theatre Royal interior

 

A study of the type of historical research needed to establish heritage significance: The case of early theatre and cinema in Junee, New South Wales.

Ross Thorne, 19 pages (illustrated).

Originally published in People and Physical Environment Research, Numbers 58-60, 2006, pp. 5-23.

Researching the early theatres and movie venues in Junee became a task of detective inquiry. There were the usual licence records and Fire Commissioners’ reports, followed by a search of land titles and finally, church archives before a reasonable story could be put together.

Thanks to the Junee Historical Society for the use of photographs and information from their collection.

File size 3.1MB

oudoor cinema Junee Australia
 

Problems of heritage assessment: A case study of the Athenium (sic) Theatre, Junee, New South Wales.

Ross Thorne, 31 pages (illustrated).

Originally published in People and Physical Environment Research, Number 58-60, 2006, pp. 92-122.

Local coucils often have a dream that becomes an indefensible ideology. Following a heritage assessment commissioned by the NSW (Government) Heritage Office, the Junee local council fought against the theatre’s listing on the state’s register in a most unbecoming manner, attempting every method to control opposition to its ideology.

Thanks to the Junee Historical Society for the use of photographs and information from their collection.

File size 2.2MB

junee atheneum