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177 High St, Fremantle IN closed


177 High St, Fremantle

Photograph of cinema

On the site of the old 'Rose and Crown' Hotel (and later also the Fremantle Grammar School), on the corner of High St and Queen St, Hoyts built a new theatre which they considered calling the 'Crown', but finally named simply Hoyts Fremantle. The architects were H. Vivian Taylor and Soilleux, in conjunction with Messrs. Oldham, Boas and Ednie-Brown. The Gala Opening (a screening of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Love on a Budget) was held on 4 August 1938:

Convenience for patrons has been the keynote in the construction of the new theatre, and the quaintly shaped ticket office allows easy access from all sides. The circular foyer is spacious and is designed to prevent any overcrowding. One moves naturally towards the various stalls entrances and cloakrooms and to the ample staircase leading to the dress circle and lounge. The various fittings have been carried out to harmonise with the decoration scheme, in which pastel shades of green predominate. Entrances and all floors of the theatre have been richly carpeted, and noteworthy features of the theatre include a crying room, in which mothers may take recalcitrant children without spoiling their own entertainment and without interfering with the pleasure of other patrons.

Special attention in the theatre has been paid to the acoustics and an unusual (and attractive) 'ripple' roof aids the sound equipment. Streamlined 'fins' extending from the proscenium to the circle railing also play their part in giving faithful sound recording. The interior decoration of the theatre is carried out in toning pastel shades and curtains, lighting and other fittings have been made to conform. The 'floating screen' is a new departure in screen entertainment which adds to the enjoyment of programmes. During intermissions patrons will enjoy the quiet luxury of the lounge, in which comfortable furniture harmonises with the decorative scheme. (West Australian, 5 August, 1938)

Among congratulations received on the opening night were messages from Samuel Goldwyn, Gary Cooper, Walt Disney and Shirley Temple, quite overshadowing the local dignitaries. When it opened, the theatre had provision for 1376 patrons, and was controlled by the Board of Hoyts, Fremantle Ltd, chaired by S. (Stan) W. Perry.

But not all patrons appreciated the luxurious surroundings. In September 1939, two teenagers were convicted of 'rowdyism' in the cinema, and fined for disrupting the screening. Mr W.F.Samson, then Secretary of Hoyts Fremantle, brought the charges, saying that:
These young people come armed with whistles and other contraptions to make hideous noises for the sole purpose of spoiling other people's amusement. They come like lambs, and as soon as the lights go out they become jackals. (West Australian? Fremantle Gazette? 1 Sept. 1939)

The cinema continued to be known as Hoyts Fremantle till 1961, when it was taken over by City Theatres and renamed the Oriana. Renovations in 1967 reduced the seating capacity to approx.1000, and a new 70mm screen was installed as late as May 1968. But the cinema closed 4 December 1971, was demolished in March 1972, and the new building on the site used by Walsh's Menswear.

Fremantle Library, cuttings collection
Max Bell, Perth: a cinema history, The Book Guild, Lewes, 1986 pp.38-9
Max Bell, ‘Fremantle’s Theatre of Distinction’, Kino, no.65, Spring 1998, pp.30-31; no.66, Summer 1998, p.7.
Vyonne Geneve, ‘William Leighton, architect’, Kino no.25, September 1988, p.7.
Vyonne Geneve, ‘The theatres of the 30s in Western Australia’, Kino no.32, June 1990, p.18
Australasian Exhibitor, 16 May 1968 p.8
Film Weekly, 13 Aug. 1959, p.6
Film Weekly Directory, 1943/4 - 1971
Fremantle Advocate, 4 Aug. 1938
Post Office Directory, 1938/9 - 1949
West Australian, 5 Aug. 1938 p.4, 1938 - 1971
Interviews (Ina Bertrand): Ken Booth (1978), Chris Spivey (1978), Arthus Stiles (1978)
Interview (Ina Bertrand & Bill Turner): Jack Gynbn (1981)
1 exterior (Oriana), b&w, 1969 (Roy Mudge)Link to image
22 interiors (Oriana auditorium, foyers, biobox) b&w, 1969 (Roy Mudge) Link to image Link to image
1 exterior (Hoyts), colour n.d. Link to image