Ashfield Kings Theatre

206-208 Liverpool Road,
Sydney, NSW 2131

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Greater Union Theatres

Architects: Guy Crick, Bruce W. Furse

Firms: Crick and Furse

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Nearby Theaters

Kings, Ashfield

Located in the western Sydney suburb of Ashfield, on Liverpool Road at the corner of Holden Street, The Ashfield Kings Theatre was one of a small chain of Kings Theatres in the Sydney suburbs.

It opened on 21st July 1937. Designed by the noted architectural firm Crick & Furse in a Streamline Moderne style. A feature of the auditorium was its lighting, which consisted of over 1,500 feet of neon tubing located in coves.

The Kings Theatre was taken over by Greater Union Theatres in May 1946, and they continued to operate it until it was closed on 2nd May 1981. It was demolished in November 1981, and the site remained empty for many years. Today an office block named Ashfield Court stands on the site.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

johngleeson on July 14, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Photo courtesy Ashfield & District Historical Society Inc. Thanks Ann and Mandy!

johngleeson on July 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Photo is from 1959. The marquee sign reads “First release simultaneous with City”
The film shown is “Too Many Crooks” with Terry-Thomas and Sid James.

brucek on January 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Why is this in the “Closed” and not “Demolished” category??

impalax327 on April 16, 2016 at 11:44 pm

As somewhere I spent a lot of time as a child this was a sad loss. My Grandfather, through his time with MGM, was a close friend of the manager (known as Uncle Phil) who always took us up into the projection booth to see how the place worked. Saw lots of Disney films and always got free tickets to premiers. I remember the opening to one of the “Herbie” movies (sadly forget which one) and all the kids received a bag full of sweets, stickers and other Disney promo stuff. I think the last movie I saw there was “The Rescuers” in the late 70’s. Lots of great childhood memories in this cinema, even standing for the Queen either before or after the movie was shown!

AnthonyLeKoala on September 26, 2020 at 7:19 am

I wish to make a few observations about the recent b/w uploads of the Kings Theatre Ashfield.

While all facets of cinema design including the exteriors and interiors are integral to the design and appearance of the cinema, by looking at the viewer counts, the most popular views are the views from the dress circle to the stage/proscenium and from the stage/proscenium to the bio box (top) (Notice the four ‘port holes'which is well above the dress circle seats).

The year of publication of the photos was 1937. I have seen a book at the Campsie Library’s reference section books on cinemas. In one of the books there is a photo of the Ashfield Kings' stage/proscenium as at 1959. At that time, the proscenium was widened for movies of an aspect ratio of 2.20 to 2.40. Previously movies were presented with an aspect ratio of between 1.37 to 4:3. It may well explain why despite many of the screen conversions of the Forum (George St near UTS), Century (George St), Paris (Liverpool Rd), the screens were too small for ‘Cinemascope’ presentation. There was not enough room to widen the proscenium. You wouldn’t do that to the State without detriment to the ‘decoration’ on the overarching arch.

In a cinema like the Ashfield Kings, and with the 1959 photo of the stage/proscenium, it was possible to sacrifice the left and right sides of the proscenium for widening the screen.

A similar approach to widening the proscenium is the Westfield Burwood Hoyts, formerly Astor in 1966. The published photos on this site from the 1930s show a ‘narrow’ proscenium compared to the unpublished photo of the cinema with a wider and taller proscenium for the exhibition of wide screen movies. While there are no ‘modern’ photos of the Burwood Hoyts (formerly Astor) in its 1966 remodelling, a similar approach was taken, reference this site of the “Hoyts Bankstown 19 Restwell Street, Sydney, NSW 2200”, one can compare the widened proscenium with the original proscenium. Click the “Photos” tab. You’ll see left and right sections of the proscenium have been sacrificed for a wider screen.

Thank you,

AnthonyLeKoala on September 28, 2020 at 2:42 am

I have never seen such an unprecedented number of people view the latest five uploads of the Ashfield Kings Theatre on the 24-09-2020.

Again the most popular pictures are those of the auditorium’s views: from the dress circle to the stage/proscenium and the view from the stage/proscenium to the bio box.

It indicates to me people wanting to view not just the facade (exterior), though the facade is integral to the exterior appearance, but people want to view the the interior, or the “…what did it look like inside…”. It may bring back memories and associated feelings of what it was like to go inside an art-deco cinema.

From the image of the Ashfield Kings, one did not need to design an auditorium with statues, frescos and other decorative items like the atmospheric cinemas like the Capital or State.

Simple flow lines used also as lighting direct the viewer to the front. The foyer with a lounge-room welcome the patron. There is a sense of awe in the designs of “Crick & Furse”. It was beauty in its simplicity. Today’s multiplex auditoria are dimly lit when there is no presentation and side drapes are a poor substitute for design. It is not a welcome feeling. Even an art-deco box-office looked beautiful.

The only ‘modern’ cinema that I could say that was aesthetically pleasing was the former “Roselands Theatre Beautiful” also known as “Roselands Cinema Beautiful” which according to the CATHS (The Cinema and Theatre Historical Society of Australia Inc) is beyond recognition. Which means that the former cinema space has been repurposed for cinema tenants.

As I recall as a toddler/child, the Roselands theatre had side wooden panelling, oyster lights on the side and the saw-tooth ceiling had hidden lighting within the back recesses of the saw-tooth. I stand corrected on this, but the ceiling lighting was fluorescent because of its bluish colour temperature.

Towards the proscenium, deep-red spotlights made the curtains look deep red colour when the curtains were brown. On the right side of the proscenium was a panel of XLR microphone connectors.

Thank you,

curmudgeon on September 28, 2020 at 5:52 am

Went to this beautiful art-deco cinema often in the late 1970’s when I lived nearby. Was well maintained right up to closing. Unfortunately I never saw an audience of more than a dozen or so, even for blockbusters like Superman or Grease.

AnthonyLeKoala on September 29, 2020 at 7:34 am

If you want to see the original equipment used at the Ashfield Kings in 1937, I avert you to the site of the Australian Museum Of Motion Picture & Television Inc. Google the search terms in the search bar: AAMPT Cummings Wilson projector.

Within the first few google results there is a page about the projectors installed in the Ashfield Kings' biobox in 1937. These projectors were made by the Australian manufacturer Cummings and Wilson. The sound head was made by another Australian manufacturer Raycophone, a company founded by Mr Ray Allsop.

Thank you,

AnthonyLeKoala on October 8, 2020 at 6:37 pm

Over a week since I posted the photos, and I am surprised that in some photos over 300 views. As at the 9th October 2020 at 1230, the most popular photos in order are: 1 to stage 332 2 to biobox 314 3 outside 275 4 steps 242 5 foyer 224

It means that people want to see what the interior of the cinema looked like more than the facade, foyer and steps even though they are integral to the overall design of the theatre.

Thank you,

AnthonyLeKoala on October 19, 2020 at 9:58 pm

As at 20-10-2020, while the photos of the biobox have not been as long as the other photos of the interior, it seems that there is some interest in the biobox but not at the same rate as those of the interior of the theatre.

The equipment that puts the picture on the screen and the audio through an amplifier are as important as the internal and external of the theatre. Without such equipment, you would not be able to enjoy your movie.

Furthermore, who would ever think that projectors, sound heads and amplifiers were once made in Australia? The photos of the projection equipment was state of the art in 1937.

Leaving aside the economic issues of producing goods in Australia, it demonstrates that where there is a will to make things locally, there is a way. The projectors were made locally by Cummings & WIlson and the sound head was made by Raycophone. Raycophone was founded by Mr Ray Allsop who also was a pioneer in radio and TV broadcast electronics. When it comes to theatre audio equipment, he demonstrated stereophonic sound at the Plaza cinema, George St, Sydney in 1938. For further information on his life use the following google search terms: Raymond Allsop adbonline.

Speaking of economics, one commenter remarked that in the late 1970s he noticed no more than 12 people in the Kings theatre. Thinking of the cost to pay for staff, council rates, power, water it would have been uneconomical to run the theatre. Then there’s the cost of hiring the movie. In the early weeks of the release of a movie, the theatre makes a profit from the sales of ice-cream, drinks, confectionery and popcorn. Most of the price of the ticket goes to the film distributor.

Then there is the technology to operate a modern cinema. In the 1930s, two projectors were needed to provide a continuous presentation of the movie. The carbon rods for the arc lamp needed replacement during the reel change. Xenon lamps replaced arc lamps using consumable carbon rods. Then two projectors were replaced by one projector running the movie on a very large platter running in a continuous loop. Before the Plaza’s demise in the late 1970s, the platter system was tested in the Plaza cinema before being applied to the new “Hoyts Entertainment Centre” now known as “Event” combining the Hoyts and GU complex.

Here, multiplexes such as Event, the then former “Pitt Centre” and “Village” were designed to have most of their auditoria adjacent to each other. There weren’t several bioboxes, but one. This also resulted in needing fewer operators. Later the digital projector took over from the platter system.

Instead of lugging heavy steel hexagonal-shaped boxes holding spools or lugging a large platter, movies are sourced from an encrypted hard disk or from a satellite distribution centre. Today’s cinema broadcasts live concerts. It is “back to the future”. One of John Logie Baird’s original idea of TV was to project images in public places such as a cinema.

Thus it was economics that resulted in the demise of the single-screen cinema and the rise of the multiplex.

Acknowledging that a multiplex having larger screens and improved multi-channel sound quality than the single-screen theatre of yesterday, the multiplex’s interior design lack the awe and feeling of going to the cinema of yesterday. There is an exception to this rule which are the interior design of the “Hayden Orpheum’s” auditoria. Generally the multiplex’s interior design of the auditoria lack the simplicity of those lines, lighting design of Crick & Furse as demonstrated by the Ashfield Kings.

Thank you,

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