AMMPT Logo spacer cinemaweb
WA CinemaWeb search spacer about spacer acknowledgements spacer comments spacer corrections spacer links spacer spacer



details_name details_othernames details_town


details_address.gif details_type.gif details_active.gif
81 Barrack St, Perth IN closed



81 Barrack St, Perth

Photograph of cinema

Lionel Hart first visited Western Australia in his capacity as salesman for Universal Pictures. He later, however, accepted the position of director of the orchestra at the Prince of Wales. In the fifties he attempted to distribute ´continental' films in Western Australia. At that time, cinemas such as the Sydney and Melbourne Savoys were sustained by the huge post-war influx of European migrants and by the growth of the film society movement which created an audience for what the trade called ´art' films. Neither of these audiences was as strong in Perth as in the east. But Hart saw a potential market, and decided that, rather than try to break into the established circuits with such films, he would open a specialist cinema comparable to those in the east.

He converted the first floor of an office building into a small theatre, seating 450 patrons, and the Liberty opened 4 March 1954, with a charity premiere of Rigoletto, followed in later weeks by mainly Italian and French films. The premises were also used by the Perth Film Society for Sunday night screenings. In 1955 there were three screenings a day, and by 1958 this had grown to four, with more varied programming in the later years.

The cinema survived the arrival of television in Perth in 1959, then on 1 February 1961 the building was completely gutted by fire. It was rebuilt and re-opened in June that year, continuing with the same policy. A distinctive feature of the new building was the ´garden lounge':
Situated at the rear of the 450-capacity theatre, the lounge will give patrons inside the impression of being seated in a garden.
They will be able to smoke and watch the film through a special glass partition window. (Sunday Times, 28 May 1961)

This did not, however, protect the theatre from fire, which again struck in 1971, requiring less extensive restoration, but still closing the premises for several months.

By now, the company that Hart had established, Independent Film Distributors (W.A.), was running the Savoy and the Windsor (Nedlands) as well as the Liberty, and was importing films for these theatres and distributing them in the rest of the state as well. This company was taken over in the late seventies by Frank Lloyd, whose background in the Savoy cinemas in Melbourne and Sydney ensured that the policy of continental programming would continue. However, the cinema industry depression finally made its presence felt, and even the fortunes of the specialist cinemas fluctuated till on 9 February 1978 the Liberty closed. Of Frank Lloyd’s chain, the Windsor survived as a prestige suburban cinema showing mainly 'art' films, and the Savoy became an R-movie house.

On 7 July 1978 the City Cinema opened on the Liberty/Kimberley site with a return season of A Star is Born, and from the end of July the theatre was known as Kimberleys City Cinema. It became first another R-movie house, then a repertory cinema for the Valhalla company, which was doing well in the east with classical revivals and specialist first runs.

By 1985, it was being run by a partnership of Bob Yelland, John Marsden and John Parker. It was still slightly seedy, known simply as the Kimberley, and presenting second runs of recent and popular films, and seasons of children's films in the school holidays. In 1986 a freshening up of the venue included recarpeting and repainting the entrance, hanging a new sign outside, and re-siting the ticket box. However, patronage continued to decline, and in January 1987 a consortium took it over, to screen first-run Asian (Chinese-language) films. Then it closed for renovations.

In December 1992, the renovated cinema was re-opened, with 390 seats and reverting to the old name of Liberty. For a while, Malcolm Leech (who was running similar screenings at the Piccadilly) was screening Hong Kong movies there, on week-nights and at weekends from about 2 p.m. till 1.30 a.m. The candy bar was completely rebuilt in the small foyer. The first years were successful, but Chris Simmonds attributes the decline to 'the black market in Asian Moveis and the Asian love of Western Movies'. A short-lived excursion into live theatre did not rescue the venture, which reverted to screening Chinese-language films in early 1997, but by October this closed and the cinema was again available for lease.

Building permits, Battye 1459 (Fol.2)
Max D. Bell, ´Liberty/Kimberley', Kino, no.20, June 1987, p.4; ´Perth Liberty', Kino, no.60, June 1997, p.11.
Max D. Bell, Perth: a cinema history, The Book Guild, Lewes, Sussex, 1986, pp.82-83
Jack Honnibal, ´The theatres of Perth 1939 - 1993', Kino, no.45, September 1993, p.29
Australasian Exhibitor, 1960 - 1968
Film Weekly 1957 - 1961; 9 February 1961, p.1 (photo of Lionel Hart)
Film Weekly Directory, 1953/4 - 1971
Kino, no.15, March 1986, p.22; no.19, March 1987, p.23; no.40, June 1992, p.26; no.43, March 1993, p.31; no.44, June 1993, p.36; no.58, December 1996, p.31; no.59, March 1997, p.31; no. 62, Summer 1997, p.35
Post Office Directory, 1947, 1949
Sunday Times, 28 May 1961; 26 February 1978 (photo of Frank Lloyd)
West Australian, 1955 - 1997
Interview (Ina Bertrand): John Marsden (1997)
Informant: Chris Simmonds (2002)

1 interior (removated concession), colour, 1992 (Chris Simmonds) Link to image
1 exterior, colour, 1981 (Bill Turner) Link to image