Historic Astor Theatre “saved by bell”
ST. KILDA, MELBOURNE, VICTORIA — The venerable Astor Theatre opened on Friday, April 13, 1936. It is one of Australia’s last remaining single screen movie palaces still in operation. The theatre has seen very few alterations and has survived mostly intact. The interior has been repainted and a new wall to wall screen was added in 1998.
In was saved from demolation in 1967 when the owners converted it to a Greek-language theater. It was also used for occasional concerts. After a brief closure from February to September of 1982 it returned to film presentation and currently runs classic double features along with occasional blockbusters.
The theatre was recently put up on the auction block and received one bid for $2.5 million dollars, a bid which was passed on by the owners. One of Victoria'a top private grammer schools, St. Michael’s, saw an opportunity to expand its current 150 seat studio and offered $3.8 million for the theatre 20 minutes after the previous offer was declined. That offer was accepted by the owners. The theatre, conveniently located across the street from the school, will be used for school concerts and speech nights.
The great news for cineastes is that when not in use by the school it will maintain its program of classic and independant films. Additionally St. Michael’s head Simon Gipson said the school would clean and repaint inside and out, while protecting heritage-listed features. Mr Gipson said: “We are honoured to have become the custodians of a building that holds such architectural and emotional significance for St Kilda.”
An article on the purchase can be found at Theage.com website.