127 Rundle Mall,
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Previously operated by: Hoyts Theatres
Architects: John Kirkpatrick
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Pavilion Theatre
The Rex Theatre, a few doors along from the Regent Theatre, officially opened as the Pavilion Theatre on June 22, 1912. A year prior to its opening was another theatre on that same site, the Arcadia Picture Palace, which opened on July 2, 1910, closing just seven months later on February 11, 1911.
In the late-1920’s, the Pavilion Theatre closed for a time and was used as a mini-golf course. In 1933 it was reinstated as a cinema and opened on 31st March 1933 as the Rex Theatre. The opening attraction was Paramount’s “The Big Broadcast” with Bing Crosby. The Edwardian style façade was not changed very much, except a new balcony verandah was added to allow patrons access to the balcony from the upstairs circle on balmy nights.
During the late-1930’s, the theatre was purchased from Union Theatres by a local Adelaide shopkeeper, who ran a few cafes around town. The original façade was replaced with an Art Deco style ‘Moderne’ front and new signage. Inside the theatre, the width of the original orchestra pit was covered by three steps which lead to the stage, and on either side were half-round steps fitted with glass tops through which indirect lighting lit the inside of the proscenium arch. In front of the French-action curtains were concealed footlights. For the first few years Paramount features were mainly shown. Set in the ceiling of the auditorium were three large indirectly lit centre domes. On really hot nights the roof could be opened to allow the cool breezes to blow through the theatre.
In 1940 the Rex Theatre could seat 1,100 patrons. The theatre then became famous as a second run house, most often as a move-over from the nearby Regent Theatre. In 1955 the theatre was bought by a neighbouring department store who wanted to expand onto the Rex Theatre site. Hoyts lease was expiring and the Rex Theatre closed on 12th February 1959 with Shirley Temple in “Curly Top” which completed a four week season. The Rex Theatre was never equipped with CinemaScope.
Cox-Foys the owner of the theatre were not ready to expand their department store, so Celebrity Theatres Ltd. who ran the Majestic Theatre obtained a lease on the Rex Theatre. It reopened with a Gala performance on 15th May 1959 with a Paramount double bill “The Sad Sack” and “Zero Hour” screening simultaneously with the Majestic Theatre. The theatre had been repainted and a new specially imported CinemaScope & VistaVision screen had been installed. The dual theatre release was a great success with over 10,000 admissions over the opening weekend. Foreign films were screened in 1960, followed by first run release films from MGM while their Metro Theatre was showing “Ben Hur” for a 27 week season.
The Rex Theatre was closed on 29th July 1961 with “Black Orpheus” after a three weeks season. The contents of the theatre were auctioned off two days later, grossing less than 2,000 Pounds.
After demolition, the Cox-Foys department store was extended westwards towards the Adelaide Arcade. The department store has since closed with the building now housing lecture theatres, a health studio, with retail on the ground floor and first floor.
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