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On 2nd November 1969, Perth’s Sunday Times reported that:
The Town Cinema will be a single floor theatre – new overseas trends have swung away from those with balconies.
Heated and cooled for climatic comfort, projection equipment will permit the screening of 16, 35 and now popular 70mm films on a screen 40ft wide by 17ft high.
The cinema itself is 47ft wide and 90ft long.
A dished floor will give each person in the audience a full and unrestricted view of the screen.
Comfortable seats with padded armrests will permit complete relaxation.
The cinema will be fully carpeted and draped. In fact the carpets will extend up the walls to dado height.
Six-track stereophonic sound will flow from 20 speakers around the walls and behind the screen.
The sound design will also permit the constant flow of soothing mood music or the film sound track into the foyer of the hotel.
The Town was part of the Ace Theatres chain and had a seating capacity of 636 all on one level. Being on the ground floor, patrons walked straight into it from the foyer. No stairs. I saw a dozen or so movies there and really liked it.
This and other images of the Princess Theatre are held in the archives of the Fremantle City Library.
The Grand’s Art Deco / Moderne make-over came in 1938 under the direction of architect William T. Leighton. It was never particularly ‘grand’ and Leighton’s make-over simply made Denneby’s original more functional within the design sensibilities of the day. Even in its Art Deco ‘rebirth’, it remained a poor relation to the Piccadilly, Plaza and Metro.
The Grand was never ‘grand’ but it played an important role in the evolution of Perth’s cinema history.
If you look closely, you’ll see the words INTERRUPTED MELODY written across the curved stage. Given the film was released in 1955, the photograph would have been taken either in 1955 or 1956, most probably the latter.
Fremantle’s Princess Theatre - interior c.1955
Interior as it was c.1980
Wonderful, beautifully told reminiscence. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for this, Greg!
A deco masterpiece.
What a joy! So sad this gem no longer exists.
Wonderful pic! I fondly remember seeing Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Piccadilly on a Friday night in 1967. It was packed to the rafters.
If you copy this link and paste it in your browser you’ll find a slide-show of the Plaza as it is now: boarded-up and decaying. The images are by Gregory Bruyer.
Great pic, Greg!
I’ve only just realised that no-one has yet mentioned that the Regal was built for the Hewett family, the most famous member of which became Dorothy Hewett, a prominent poet, playwright and novelist. In her memoir titled WILD CARD, she writes:
My family have built the Regal Theatre, an Art Deco picture ‘palace’ with a crying room for mothers and babies, double plush seats with no arm between for lovers, a sweeping staircase from foyer to lounge with a huge gilt-edged mirror at the top. The manager, Mr Appleby, in his grey suit, is bowing in the foyer. Mrs Appleby is eternally smiling in the ticket box, the fireman stands guard at the bottom of the stairs, the identical twin usherettes tear the admission tickets in half, and up in the bio-box the operator and his assistant have one eye on the film and one on the blonde woman with the big tits across the street, undressing without pulling down the blind."
Hewett set her play BON-BONS AND ROSES FOR DOLLY in the Regal.
In one scene, the chorus sings:
Bon-bons and roses for Dolly – she floats down the stairs like a dream,
The people all rise and as I close my eyes she’s there in her green crepe de Chine.
Her pageboy bob is on her shoulders, she’s there making eyes at the men,
Silvery sequins, a-glitter, circle the swish of her hem.
When in at the Museum of Performing Arts at His Majesty’s Theatre a couple of weeks back, archivist Ivan King showed me the interior shots he has of the Plaza. They are wonderful – and thank heavens high resolution images still exist. They haven’t been scanned unfortunately but I’m hoping I can get Ivan to scan them for me so I can upload here.
Back in July 2005, I partly quoted Ross Thorne’s commentary on Perth’s Capitol from PICTURE PALACE ARCHITURE IN AUSTRALIA (Sun Books, 1976). Here is Thorne’s full assessment: “The Capitol Theatre in Perth was an intriguing and distinctive cinema designed by architects Poole and Mouritzen. It followed the classical line with an extremely late art nouveau overlay. Unencumbered by the design policies of the big exhibitor companies, they achieved a most remarkable design that should never been allowed to disappear. Whereas most of the popular, voluptuously vulgar Spanish and atmospheric cinemas of the time can only be termed pop art, the decoration of this one contained the essence of real art. The auditorium was a noble space, and the foyers and lounge lobbies were ingenious in decoration. Instead of moulded plaster, the architects decided to use paint. The flat wall, square column faces and ceiling panels were vividly decorated in patterns, panels and leafy murals. The lounge foyer displays curvilinear patterns and stylized plant forms in an art nouveau style still struggling to escape from Victorian clutter.” (p. 23).
The Piccadilly’s interior was genuinely classic Art Deco-cum-Moderne architecture and the detailing was of a very high quality. Most remains but it is really in desperate need of a fairy godmother to wave the proverbial and return it to its glorious original state. It’s not too late but the political will is waning. But I live in hope.
Regrettably, it seems the Piccadilly is now mothballed indefinitely with the recent decision by the City of Perth not to approve heritage restoration funds towards a new incarnation as a live music venue. Sigh.
The demolition of the Kings Marrickville was one of the earliest of the many crimes committed in the soulless 1970s …
This section of Perth’s CBD was essentially devoted to banking and the professions, with the big boulevard running through the left of the image being St George’s Terrace. The Capitol is at the Swan River end of William Street, and is the only theatre to have ever been built in this section of the city. Indeed, its location away from the commercial and retail streets where all the other CBD theatres were (Ambassadors, Royal, Plaza, Piccadilly, Metro, Grand, His Majesty’s) put it at something of a trading disadvantage as it did not enjoy a large volume of passing pedestrian traffic. It ultimately primarily became a live performance venue, being the home, until its demolition, of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
This is a VERY INTERESTING advertisement in that it reveals that “on Thursday evening” three radio stations (6WN, 6WA, 6GF) would be broadcasting the AUDIO of Mrs Miniver “in its entirety” as it was being screened ‘live’ to an audience at Perth’s Metro Theatre. Now, this has to be a rare occurrence!
When I posted this ad, I said c.1936 but it must have been 1938 as this was when THE HURRICANE was released in Australia.
Of VICTORIA THE GREAT, Variety wrote, “Not cloak-and-cocked-hat historical tedium of pageantry and fancy dramatics, Victoria the Great travels a long way toward a full and clarified explanation of the most popular ruler England ever had…Anna Neagle, in the title role, gives an unwavering performance throughout. Anton Walbrook as Albert, the Prince Consort, is superb…The film wisely puts its prime focus on the private life of Victoria, her romance, marriage, and personal characteristics. Backgrounded is her public life, and her gradual rise to such high estimation of her people. Victoria the Great is done with a lavish hand … ”