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656 Hay St, Perth IN closed



656 Hay St, Perth


P.A (Paddy) Connolly owned the Grand (later the Perth) Hotel, and there is an industry legend about his early involvement with films: Dennis Dease is said to have screened from the balcony of his hotel across Barrack St to a screen mounted on the wall of a shop opposite, till the police were called in to control the traffic jam which resulted, and Dease found himself in court on a charge of obstructing traffic (Weekend Magazine, 21 May 1966, pp.21-23).

I have been unable to confirm this story, but Connolly certainly became actively interested in the film business when a syndicate he headed built the Majestic Theatres, in Perth and Fremantle. They were in direct competition with the other cinemas opened during the First World War - the Palladiums (Perth and Fremantle), the Britannia, the Pavilion and the Grand. Like them, the Perth Majestic had a policy of cheap admissions and continuous programming. It opened on 21 December 1916, with accommodation for nearly one thousand people.

The auditorium will be furnished with the latest and most comfortable leather tip-up seats, and similar seats are provided in the gallery, but upholstered in Utrecht velvet. The proscenium is very fine, being specially moulded in fibrous plaster, with a striking ornamental mounting. The balcony front is also figured out in fibrous plaster, is most imposing, and forms a most artistic decoration. The whole of the ceilings are covered with Wunderlich metal, picked out in pleasing designs and charmingly painted. The vestibule is very lofty and commodious, and the lounge upstairs is roomy and bright and tastefully furnished. The operating cabin is built of brick and cement, and absolutely fireproof, and the very latest and improved biograph machines will, it is stated, be installed, reducing the risk to a minimum. Mirrors abound on the walls, vestibule and landings, and nickel-plated rails give the interior a very bright effect. The building is well-ventilated, and, in addition to a large number of oscillating fans, there are two very large sliding roofs, one over the auditorium and one over the gallery, which should make the building cool on the very hottest days and nights. The premises will be brilliantly lit with electric lights within and without. (West Australian, 9 December 1916)

On 27 July 1918 the cinema was taken over by J.C.Williamsons and in 1927, it became part of the Hoyts chain. Sound was installed in 1930 (it was the last of the city cinemas to join the trend), and in 1932 it became part of the General Theatres group when Hoyts and Union Theatres temporarily amalgamated.

In later years, a popular feature of the cinema were the working models constructed by R.W.(Dick) Burch for the foyer to advertise new programmes, bringing children in particular to gawp at the display.


Photograph of cinema

Hoyts' main city cinemas in the decade from their entry to the Perth scene in 1927 were the Majestic and the Regent. In 1937 the Majestic was demolished and a new, modern arcade was erected on the site, with shops on the street level and a cinema seating 1,313 - the Plaza - above. Shortly after, Hoyts relinquished the lease on the Regent, which became the Metro, so the Plaza took on the role of flagship for the company in Western Australia.

Architecture historian Ross Thorne describes it thus:

The facade to Hay St had a symbolic skyscraper effect. There were tall strips of windows; the centre third was taller than and projected from the remainder. Stepping from the centre of this central bay was the vertical sign which projected above the roof and curved back and down into the modern ziggurat roof form.
The auditorium was rather simple in fibrous plaster, striated lines and straight ceiling coves accentuated the long dimension of the room.
The slightly lower sections each side of the ceiling, as well as incorporating indirect lighting coves to wash light across upper ceiling levels and down the walls, probably boxed in the airconditioning ducts. (Ross Thorne, Cinemas of Australia via USA, p.274)

Further renovations, including the refurbishing of the interior and the installation of a Todd-AO sound system, were completed before the opening of South Pacific in 1960, which established a new long-run record for Perth of 45 weeks. The seating capacity of the theatre was reduced to less than one thousand in 1961.

On 17 August, 1965 the theatre closed, and re-opened two days later as the Paris. There were no major structural alterations this time, though later that year the entrance was resited in the Plaza Arcade. It was finally closed permanently in 1984, and the building was later converted into a disco.

In 1997 the cinema was derelict: the owners leased its entrances and exits for conversion into shops in the arcade, and access to the unused auditorium was only through a rear entrance on the laneway.

Building permits, Battye 1459, Folio 2
Max D. Bell, Perth: a cinema history, The Book Guild, Lews, Sussex, 1986, pp.83,89-90
Vyonne Geneve, ´William Leighton, architect', Kino, no.25, September 1988, pp.7-15
Vyonne Geneve, ´The vulnerability of our Art Deco theatres', Kino, no.28, June 1989, pp.6-8
Vyonne Geneve, Significant buildings of the 1930s in Western Australia, Vyonne Geneve, June 1994, National Trust of Australia (WA)/ National Estate Grants Programme, vol.1
Stage, Screen and Stars, West Australian, n.d. (1997?), pp.22, 41
Ross Thorne, Cinemas of Australia via USA, p.274
Everyone's, 29 January 1930, p.18
Post Office Directory, 1917 - 1971
West Australian, 9 December 1916, 22 December 1916, 14 October 1960, 10 August 1961, 25 October 1965, 1916 - 1984
Interviews (Ina Bertrand & Bill Turner): Ray Cooper (1981)John Pye (1981)
Interviews (Ina Bertrand): Ken Booth (1981), Arthur Stiles (1985)
1 exterior (Majestic), b&w, 1922, Battye 3187 11816P
2 exteriors (Majestic), b&w, 1936, West Australian, nos 1662/1753
1 interior, b&w, Ross Thorne, Cinemas of Australia via USA, p.274
1 exterior (Paris & Savoy), colour, 1981 (Bill Turner) Link to image
1 exterior (Plaza), b&w, 1988, Kino, no.28, p.10 (Vyonne Geneve)
1 exterior (Plaza), b&w, undated, Wolanski collection ACTS, Kino no.72, Winter 2000, p.24