Newmarket Theatre

310 Racecourse Road,
Melbourne, VIC 3031

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Newmarket Theatre 310 Racecourse Road, Melbourne, VIC - The Blue Jays, 1959-60 : Pictured on the stage of the Newmarket theatre. The theatre had closed for movies & was running as a Rock 'n' Roll dance hall.

Located in the inner city northwest Melbourne district of Flemington. The Newmarket Theatre was opened 1st November 1913. In May 1917 it was taken over by Robert McLeish Theatres. They closed it on 1st January 1959. New operators re-opened it and screened Italian films, finally closing in 1961.

The building then became a dance hall which closed in the mid-1960’s. It was demolished and a row of shops now stands on the site.

Contributed by Ken Roe

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film on April 5, 2019 at 6:02 pm

GREG LYNCH UPDATE – “THE NEWMARKET THEATRE” – The Flemington Spectator October 30, 1913 (references the opening of The Newmarket Theatre as November 1, 1913.) The Newmarket Theatre was built on a site that was a Hay Store. The Exhibitor is registered as Greater J. D. Williams Amusement Company. The theatre flourished until 1915 when the manager Mr. G. W. Brown made application to The City of Melbourne to pay the theatres rates in installments. Melbourne’s growth rate had stalled and the level of wages remained far lower than it had been in the 1880s. As a result, urban poverty became a feature of city life, and the slum areas of the inner industrial suburbs were spreading. The signs were bad and theatre attendance numbers continued to fluctuate over the years to follow. Then on Thurs 11 Feb, 1915 The Essendon Gazette ran the following extra – ordinary advertisement / article for The Newmarket Theatre …. Quote: “You should not fail to attend the matinee on Saturday next, February 13th at the above well-known theatre, where pictures of only the highest class are screened. We are now in a state of depression, however there is no reason why you should be prevented from having some enjoyment at a moderate cost.

The manager of The Newmarket Theatre has very wisely decided to present at each Saturday matinee such articles as Flour, Sugar and Wood which every householder will find of great' benefit. The prize to be given at next Saturday’s matinee will be One Ton of Wood delivered to your home, wherever you may live.” end quote…. By 1916 the social environment appeared to have improved and on Thurs 1 Jun 1916, The Flemington Spectator ran the following advertisement / article for The Newmarket Theatre – Quote: “ This well-known and favourite theatre is showing some good pictures just now and is drawing splendid houses. ‘The manager, Mr. G. W. Brown, announces that “The Rosary” will be shown this evening and on Friday and Saturday. Then on Monday night, in addition to the pictures, live on stage will be the Kilties’ Band, vocalists, instrumentalists and entertainers. Tuesday will be a Chaplin night, including the most laughable Chaplin comedy, “The Woman,” and this will be shown for the first time in Newmarket.“ end quote…

Thurs 3 May 1917 and The Essendon Gazette announces big changes. Quote: “The Newmarket Picture Theatre is RE-OPENING UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT under the guidance of Mr. Robert McLeish, well-known for his success at the Northcote Theatre. The Newmarket Picture Theatre will be re-opened on Saturday next. The theatre has received a thorough overhaul, being renovated and decorated throughout and has been provided with new seating, floor cloths, and electric lighting, A Simplex Biograph has been installed, which is claimed to be one of the best in the world. The programmes will be accompanied by the capable operatic orchestra under the direction of Mr.Geo. H. Breatnall. For the opening night special attractions have been secured with, Mary Pickford in “Hulda from Holland” supported by Olga Petrova in “The Black Butterfly” end quote – Special note: (The Black Butterfly is a now lost 1916 American silent drama film starring Olga Petrova and released by Metro Pictures. The last known copy was destroyed in the 1967 MGM Vault fire). Mr. Robert McLeish passed away Wed, 7 Oct 1953 at the age of 70, and it is believed that his son Rob carried on with the theatre until the television juggernaut caught up with him in the late 50’s. McLeish closed the theatre on 1st Jan, 1959.

The theatre continued under the exhibitors De S. Petro & S. Fava for a further two years running Italian language films. After this period the premises were rented out as a dance hall, which became famous as the birthplace of a Rock ‘n’ Roll band called The Blue Jays, who were running dances to good crowds twice a week. Marcus Herman legendary founder of Crest Records took the opportunity to record the band at the theatre resulting in a series of singles and EPs. – To quote Milesago: – The Blue Jays were already well established in Melbourne and one of the city’s leading dance groups. They formed in 1959, with the original lineup being Frankie Brent, Doug Stirling, Chris Lawson and Bobby Johnson. They cut a series of swinging instrumental singles and EPs for the Crest label, as well as a 1961 LP, “Twisting With The Blue Jays” and The Arthur Murray Twist Party Featuring The Blue Jays Big Dance Beat. Like so many Aussie bands, there was a regular turnover of personnel, and some of the members who passed through included Laurie Allen (later to be half of pop duo Bobby & Laurie), Johnny Cosgrove, Alan Easterbrook and Ray Houston. – The doors of the “now” NEWMARKET PICTURE THEATRE finally closed sometime during the middle 60’s and was ultimately demolished….Greg Lynch –

film on April 5, 2019 at 6:04 pm

Greg Lynch says – “THE NEWMARKET PICTURE THEATRE was the beginning of The McLeish chain of theatres – Sat, 5 May 1915 and “The Newmarket Picture Theatre is RE-OPENING UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT. – Mr. Robert McLeish, well-known for his success at the Northcote Theatre. The Newmarket Picture Theatre will be re-opened on Saturday. The theatre has received a thorough overhaul, being renovated and decorated throughout and has been provided with new seating, floor cloths, and electric lighting.” – The Herald (Melbourne, Vic) Sat, 5 May 1915 said: – Newmarket residents are to be congratulated upon the possession of a picture theatre that will challenge comparison with the very best that any of the Melbourne suburbs can boast. The building is an imposing structure, with outstanding architectural features. Through the enterprise of Mr Robert McLeish, it has been transformed both externally and internally Into a most handsome and up-to-date picture house, and one in which the convenience and comfort of patrons have received special attention. It has been renovated, re-seated, and decorated throughout. The approaches to the dress circle and main hall have been beautified with a tasteful and artistic design of cream colouring, and enhanced with a series of finely executed decorative panels in blue and fawn. For the main hall the colour scheme is a harmonious blending of white and brown, in keeping with the suggestion of light and brightness aimed at in the general design. The Newmarket Theatre is the first of a chain of theatres which it is his intention of running in conjunction with the theatre business he has already established in the suburb of Northcote –

DEATH OF A GREAT SHOWMAN The Argus (Melbourne, Vic) Wed, 7 Oct 1953 – Page 3 By F. KEITH MANZIE – THE Australian film industry suffered an irreparable loss yesterday in the death of veteran showman Robert McLeish. No one in Australia has done more in pioneering and establishing motion pictures and Cinema in this country. THEATRES in the McLeish chain, such as the luxurious Regal, in Hartwell, and Rivoli, in Upper Hawthorn, did much to gain for Melbourne suburban cinemas the reputation of “the best in the world. Mr. McLeish was a tireless worker for Melbourne’s charities and needy film industry employees. He has been President of the famed Green Room Club since 1920, the genial Bob had an international reputation as a host to visitors. And it was Bob’s own money which sustained this theatrical club when it passed through parlous times. ROBERT McLEISH, who was 70, began life in North Melbourne – where another world famous film personality in Al Daft, now chief executive of Universal Pictures in America also had his beginning. It was as a silvery throated baritone that he broke into show business. As a singer of “heart throb” songs – such as “Goodbye, Little Girl, Goodbye,” and “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” – Mr. McLeish was in great demand at the start of the century at Sunday night open-air concerts, and singing in front of the screen at silent film shows. AFTER appearing in Tivoli Theatre minstrel shows, Mr McLeish went into management for himself, conducting “McLeish’s Weekly Pops” in suburban and country town halls throughout Victoria and Tasmania. Then, sensing the potential growth of screen plays & cinema, he took over managership of the Northcote Theatre in 1912, where he showed complete programmes of pictures, instead of the mixed vaudeville-movie shows previously presented. In 1917 he leased the NEWMARKET THEATRE, and then acquired the Clifton Hill Theatre in 1918; and in 1921 the McLeish “chain” really started to operate with the building of the Rivoli Theatre, in Camberwell.

In 1944 Mr McLeish won the title of “Mr Melbourne” in a competition conducted in aid of the Australian Com- forts Fund. As the Amusement Industries candidate he topped the poll with something like a million and a half votes; which represented the sum of £18,148. – WHEN not working on behalf of the entertainment industry Bob McLeish found time to take a keen interest in horse racing. He was a member of the Victoria Racing Club, the Victorian Amateur Turf Club, the Melbourne Racing Club, and the Moonee Valley Racing Club. Mr McLeish added to an impressive personality a rare flair for story-telling and a rich gift for making speeches, *GREEN ROOM CLUB members gathered yesterday to drink a silent toast to the passing of a loved president and a good friend. Mr McLeish leaves his son, Rob, to carry on for him at the Green Room Club and in the conducting of the affairs of the McLeish Theatre circuit. The funeral service is to be held at St. George’s Church of England, Glenferrie road. (next to the Malvern Town Hall), at 2 p.m. today. It will be conducted by the Rev. Roscoe Wilson. The Funeral will then proceed to Springvale Crematorium. –

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