Hoyts Rialto Kew 218 High Street, Melbourne, VIC
“The Rialto Theatre” is a modest example of the Art Deco style
Cinemas of the 1920s and 1930s featured highly decorated interiors. The interior of “The Rialto” is a modest example of the Art Deco style. Constructed during the inter-war period (c.1919-c.1940) it is representative of the era. (Architects: Purchas & Teague) The official opening date was Wed 31st Aug, 1921. Fibrous plaster was utilized because of the moderate cost, and ease of molding, along with speed of installation. It also allowed them to give the building its own distinctive character. With “The Rialto” it can be viewed in the barreled ceiling and in the decoration of the side walls, which feature regularly spaced piers, adorned at the top of each pier with stylized plaster ornaments.
The building was made from brick and stone, and was mechanically ventilated from behind ornate plaster grills located on either side of the proscenium. This was a decorative opportunity, for the grilles and vents to eventually become an integral part of the all over scheme. Initially the theatre was heated with wall radiators, this was later changed to metal foot-warmers. An ingenious system where hot water is plumbed into the theatre via pipes to the audience’s feet. This type of heating is still installed in The Palais Theatre, St Kilda. Air-conditioning, evaporative or refrigeration, was never installed at The Rialto. The original seating capacity was 1269
The theatre was built as a cinema, with a backstage area suitable only to house the theatres speakers. A supplementary stage was built, extending out from the front of the screen, to cater for Saturday matinees and the odd social / political occasion. The upstairs lounge suggests something of the social make up of the era, that is the seats in the lounge were more expensive than those in the stalls below. The projection booth was located down-stairs in the back corner of the stalls, EG: off center, instead of the traditional position in the back of the dress circle. To make matters worse, just about everything that went on in the booth could be heard as distant chatter to the stalls audience. This was some-what remedied during 1957, when Hoyts sent in a carpenter to build a supplementary wall lined with fibrous sound insulation. Ventilation remained a problem in the booth until 1957, when a powerful exhaust system was installed. The projection booth sat on top of a head high basement, which housed two large car batteries that powered the exit lights. Exit lights by law had to be powered separate from the mains power supply. The concession shop ( lolly bar) was located off the foyer next to the projection booth. This was in competition with the milk bar, linked by a pedestrian crossing, located directly across the street … Contributed by Greg Lynch -
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