Mayfair Theatre 167 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC - David Wayside & The Blue Bird

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Mayfair Theatre  167 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC - David Wayside & The Blue Bird

Mayfair Theatre

Melbourne, AU

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Mayfair Theatre  167 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC - David Wayside & The Blue Bird

David Wayside & The Mayfair Cinema

The MGM reign at “The Metro Collins Street” came to an end with a re-run of Doctor Zhivago. The theatre went dark on June 30, 1971. The Greater Union Organisation moved in and ran the theatre until 1974, before handing over to Seven Keys, under the control of Andrew Gatty. The theatre was re-named “The Mayfair” The opening program was “The Wild Party” with an invited first night.. The company struggled to find consistent numbers, finally offering the theatre to David Wayside, an industry identity of some considerable experience, who had not long arrived from NSW and at that time was managing “The Dendy Theatre” Lonsdale Street. This writer remembers David’s first impression of “The Metro Collins Street” as he entered from the circle. To quote: Greg it’s beautiful, the screen is huge and curved, and the atmosphere is wonderful. So much tradition. I’m going to love this place.

An extraordinary “Picture Show Man”

This is more than a story of success, it’s the story of an extraordinary “Picture Show Man”. The opening program on July 7, 1976 was “The Great Spider Invasion”. Box office was average, however David was encouraged. At the same time Hoyts released “The Blue Bird ” in Sydney to miserable box office. The film was dumped immediately. 20th Century Fox looked for a house in Melbourne. “The Blue Bird” starred Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner & Jane Fonda. The film was made in Russia and the crits were really bad. David looked beyond the critiques and decided to give the film a go as the Mayfair Christmas attraction for 1976.

PLOT for “The Blue Bird” – Mytyl and her brother Tyltyl are peasant children who are led on a quest for the Blue Bird of Happiness by the Queen of Light, who gives them a hat with a magic diamond that allows them to call forth the souls of all things, both living and inanimate. On their journey, they are accompanied by the human personifications of a dog, a cat, water, sugar, bread, light, fire, and the like. They visit the kingdoms of the past and future and the queendoms of night and luxury, at each place absorbing more wisdom. Eventually they discover “The Blue Bird” they’ve been seeking has been in their own backyard all along.

The “Blue Bird” campaign

David built his “Blue Bird” campaign around a series of personally produced radio & television commercials, in an off peak deal supplied by Channel 9. From day one it was obvious that the film had been beautifully placed. The venue was perfect, and “The Blue Bird” would stand on equal footing against all competing major houses in Collins & Bourke Street. The kids & the mums loved “The Blue Bird ”, it gave new meaning to the phrase “Word of Mouth”. Opening day and the queue stretched down to Swanston Street and beyond. Day after day every session was sold out. Ivan Hutchinson loved the movie and gave many mentions on Channel 7, while David’s “Blue Bird” emblazoned Toyota van patrolled the city and the suburbs with “The Blue Bird message”. The high end retailers around the theatre began to complain, and petitions were taken to the council in an attempt to stop the screening of the film which was disrupting their business'. David was achieving something that no other exhibitor in the world had managed to do. He had made “The Blue Bird” work.

Top 20th Century Fox executives arrive in Melbourne

Three top executives from 20th Century Fox arrive on David’s doorstep, to see why “The Blue Bird” was working at “The Mayfair”. There was no time for visitors, and all they could do was step back and take photographs of the milling crowds of kids & mums, and wonder about the chemistry of David’s campaign. For eight weeks “The Blue Bird” reigned supreme, breaking records and filling the majority of sessions. The Mayfair was now the favoured place to play holiday attractions, and in subsequent years David was to follow up with a “Benji” movie, and then the first release of Filmways “Blue Fire Lady”. Stage one of the “Blue Fire” campaign was to decorate a city tram. The cost was $8000 dollars, unfortunately after two weeks of cruising the city streets, the tram was to crash and burn. The tramway invoice was never sent, while the box office at “The Mayfair” for “Blue Fire Lady” was massive. The story of David Wayside’s period at “The Mayfair” ( 1976 – 1982) is the stuff of Cinema Legend, and a fitting requiem to one of Melbourne’s Heritage Picture Palaces – Contributed by Greg Lynch –

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