De-Luxe Theatre

64 Goodwin Terrace,
Burleigh Heads, QLD 4220

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Functions: Arcade, Retail

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De-Luxe Theatre

William Fradgley arrived at Burleigh Heads in 1917, two years later he applied to operate a picture show and leased a site on the corner of Connor Street and the Gold Coast Highway. Here he built an open-air theatre. After the success of this enterprise William decided to build a modern picture theatre and dance hall. Plans for the new building were submitted at a meeting of the Nerang Shire Council on 31st May 1930. The building was to be constructed of wood and iron, the floor of the picture theatre from concrete and the dance floor of timber, while seating was planned for 1,200. The theatre would be fitted out with cloak and dressing rooms and a special supper room. The façade would feature a cantilevered awning, and shops would be included for the purpose of renting.

William purchased an acre of land, adjoining the former post office, in Goodwin Terrace and built the new theatre. The De-Luxe Theatre was officially opened on October 15, 1930 by Mr. S.R. Andrews, Chairman of the Nerang Shire Council, and fellow councillors. It showed silent films initially with the first ‘talkie’ screening on 9th September 1931. This was the Tiffany pictures release of “Paradise Island” which starred Kenneth Harlan, Marceline Day, supported by a “Mickey the Mouse” cartoon. The De-Luxe Theatre was also used for Catholic church services prior to the construction of the Infant Saviour Roman Catholic Church. The new business traded very well with a dramatic increase in business after the establishment of the Australian army convalescent camp at Tallebudgera and the American convalescent camp at West Burleigh. Pictures were now being screened seven days a week.

In February 1945 William leased the theatre to the Thams Brothers. The Thams family were also contractors and early cinema pioneers on the Gold Coast and at various times, had owned or leased other theatres including the Regnant (also known as the Regent Theatre), Pier Theatre, Sundale Theatre and and drive-in theatres in Southport and the Grand Theatre, Labrador. In 1950 the Thams Brothers purchased the Fe Luxe Theatre in Burleigh Heads.

On 19th & 20th February 1954, Burleigh Heads bore the brunt of a massive cyclone, and the De-Luxe Theatre was severely damaged with sections of the roof and sides torn off. Despite this, the theatre was operating as a ‘semi-open-air’ venue four days later screening the Dale Robertson western “The Silver Whip”, while repairs were underway. Following the cyclone, a modernized brick De-Luxe Theatre was constructed by the Thams. It included a house and six flats on the top storey of the building and shops on the ground floor. The Thams ran the theatre until 29th June 19566 before it was sold. The theatre was subsequently remodelled in the 1970’s and converted into retail and dining premises known as the Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade.

Update - In 2019, Gold Coast City Council has announced plans to protect the future of the Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade. The Council has endorsed a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) to have the building’s heritage protected. The Council recognises that this building has significant heritage value to the city. “We have decided to make changes to our planning scheme. In the first instance this will happen through a TLPI, and in due course those changes might be made to the state heritage register.” Councillor Caldwell said, “regardless of the development potential we see that the building has heritage value and we want that to be protected.” Councillor Caldwell also said “the Council is still waiting for the state’s reply and endorsement.

The response and the resolution - The Palaszczuk Government has granted extra planning protection for the iconic Gold Coast seaside theatre, and the Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade. Minister of Planning, Cameron Dick, today approved the City of Gold Coast’s request for a TLPI over the site, to ensure its local heritage values were protected. “The Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade has significant historical and aesthetic values that we need to ensure aren’t lost with future development” Mr Dich said. “The building has been a social hub for the Butleigh Heads community for around 90 years, after its life as the De Luxe picture theatre and dance hall in 1930. The TPLI begins in retrospective from 30th July 2019 and will be in place for up to two years while the Council progress the required changes to their planning scheme. During this time the TPLI ensures that the key historical elements of the building such as the façade cannot be demolished”.

Contributed by Ken Roe, Greg Lynch
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