Addison Road Picture House: Reviving The Inner West’s Cinema Culture
Sydney – and the Inner West in particular – has a rich history of screen culture. Our city boasts many culturally-diverse film festivals, produces the bulk of Australia’s screen production and was named a UNESCO City of Film in 2010. Unfortunately, however, Sydney has lost many of its smaller independent cinemas over the past several decades.
This year, SLAFF has made an ambitious attempt to reverse this trend. With assistance from the Inner West Council via the Stronger Communities initiative, we have modified Gumbramorra Hall in the Addison Road Community Centre for high quality film screenings. We call it the Addison Road Picture House!
We officially launched the space as part of the 4th Pachamama Festival on Saturday 24 June. It was opened with a smoking ceremony by local elder Aunty Jenny followed by the Australian premiere of the award-winning Mexican Indigenous film, Mara’akame’s Dream (Sueño de Mara’akame). The film looked and sounded great in HD on the 6 metre screen!
The space seats up to 350 people and features bar & kitchen facilities, a green room and plenty of parking. Our hope is it can provide an affordable and accessible facility for independent film festivals, filmmakers and community groups for years to come. In the meantime, let’s take a look back at the Addison Road Picture House’s spiritual successors.
First up is the Addison Theatre in Marrickville, which opened its doors as the Victory Theatre on 29 October 1924. The Addison was a “typical suburban cinema, running double bills every week”. After almost 4 decades servicing moviegoers, it finally closed its doors on 21 June 1958 after screening Frank Sinatra & Sophia Loren’s “The Pride and the Passion”. Today, a petrol station occupies the site.
The Hoyts De Luxe Theatre first opened in 1921 and featured Spanish Colonial architecture. In 1938 it was renamed the Hoyts Marrickville Theatre with an Art Deco-style makeover before calling time in late 1959. Nowadays, the old cinema has been converted into retail space and its auditorium lives on as a function room.
Marrickville Kings Theatre first entertained patrons with independent and foreign language films in 1937. It lasted for a little more than three decades and, in this way, the Kings Theatre is perhaps the closest forebear of our Picture House. The cinema was demolished and a strip of offices and apartments was constructed in its place in 1971.
Located on the main drag in Petersham, the Majestic Theatre has changed hands many times through the years. Constructed on the site of the old Queens Theatre (which itself was built in 1912), the cinema welcomed its first customers in 1921. In 1946, it was taken over by Greater Union who renamed it ‘The Odeon’ and modernised its interior.
In 1967, new owners changed the name again to the ‘Oreon Cinema’ and began exclusively screening Greek and Italian films. It reverted back to mainstream films in 1977, but closed within 6 months.
Just two short years later, it was converted into the Majestic Roller Skating Rink, which was popular for its parties until 2003 when it closed down. The space was then given new life in mid-2015 by an ambitious husband-and-wife duo who opened Majestic Harvest, a grocer, market and restaurant. After one and a half years of being a European foodie paradise, the Majestic Theatre changed owners once again to become Palacio, a Portuguese restaurant.
The Stanmore Odeon is the final stop in our little journey through time. The cinema originally known as the Stanmore Theatre opened in the 1920’s and had many facelifts and rebrandings as the whims and fancies of the century changed. In the early days, it looked much like the Petersham Odeon thanks to architects Lewis Kaberry and Clifford M. Chard. But after Greater Union’s ACME Theatres took over, it got its Odeon name, an Art Deco makeover and a new widescreen. Like many of Sydney’s old theatres, it was demolished and replaced with a petrol station in late 1959.
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Looking back, it’s clear that Sydney – even just the Inner West! – has had a long and diverse history with cinema. With the Addison Road Picture House, SLAFF hopes to help continue this legacy well into the 21st century, supporting independent film and up-and-coming filmmakers.