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National Theatre in Melbourne, Australia (built 1921 as The Victory)still stands and is remarkably similar. Website www.nationaltheatre.org.au
Fairly certain the interior of The Victory Theatre St Kilda was similar but have not found photos. Victory altered in a major way in 1928 & ironically renamed National in 1972
The building is open & doing great business with live acts under the new management.
Now called the Memo Theatre & used as a commercial venue for live music (2011)
Sadly the Astor is on the market again. Following the recent multi-plexing of The Westgarth Theatre it is the only unaltered balcony cinema in Melbourne so it will be a tragedy if altered substantially – but economically it has stuggled for years.
Some links between the Regent Theatre & The Victory (now National) in St Kilda. Francis Thring (father of actor Frank Thring)was involved in both as was the architect. The Victory (c1921) was substantially altered in 1928 following the opening of both The Regent and The Palais (ST Kilda) in 1928. In 1970 Hoyts transferred the Regent projection equipment to the Victory where it still remains in perfect working order. Recent Heritage registration was granted to the Victory (National) as well as its contents including the Regent equipment and seating rescued from the now lost Tivoli Theatre.
Well Carolyn Harper has been evicted by the local Council who own the Palais. She fought a long legal battle but a new manager is now in place. The Council has also evicted the operators of the very successful Palace NightClub next door which was promptly burnt to the ground by arsonists – luckily without effecting the Palais Theatre as they were separated by a small laneway. The Palace site has now been cleared (interestingly the Palace itself replaced the 1920s Palais de Danse which was also lost to fire.
The “Triangle” site which includes the Palais Theatre, the Palace site and a car park is now subject to a major development with a $20,000,000 (Australian dollars) refurbishment and restoration of the Palais. Five new small boutique cinemas are being added to the rear of the Palais (behind the existing stage) with a new access point to the Dress Circle so that can be used separately as a medium sized theatre. The rest of the development includes 181 shops, 3 nightclubs, several bars, a hotel and a health centrew, as well as new Art Gallery.
The new Palais Manager has announced that he will continue to encourage international musical acts while opening the venue to more community groups which might create issues for the nearby National Theatre (c 1921)which operates as a community arts centre and performing arts School.
The Palais is in fact on Crown land as is the Palace nightclub and Luna Park on either side. The current management’s lease is due to expire and the whole site (the triangle project) has been put to tender by the local council. The Palais itself is protected and whoever gets to redevelop the site apparently has to “restore” the Palais (its in the tender contract).
However, rumour has it that the current management is taking the view that possession is 9/10 of the law and refusing to budge. Should be interesting to see what happens next.
The cinema chain has recently bought the building located at the rear of The State and rumours are that they intend to extend the stage and staging facilities to make this beautiful building more workable for live theatre – its current stage is triangular narrowing severely to a point upstage centre, and the fly lines get smaller as you move upstage. Also the backstage facilities and dressing rooms are small & cramped.
Despite this some major musicals have played in the venue as Sydney has few major venues surviving the office building boom in the 1960s and 1970s.
As a local the Roxy and the nearby Astra were the nearest cinemas to me. The Astra was long ago demolished for offices but the Roxy really has no competition for its forecourt and layout – at least in Australia. Very glad it has been saved. Who knows – maybe the hideous multiplexing may go one day….
The Australian National Theatre Movement was established in 1935 and toured nationally with opera, ballet & drama until 1954 when the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust (AETT) was formed- the National Movement as a private company could not compete with the government-supported AETT and gradually would back its production department, finishing with the Melbourne Opera season in 1971. Hence the “national” name for a company now based in Melbourne only.
The streetscape of the building is classical with rotunda and columns to solve the dilemma of a corner site. Given the building was constructed in 1920/21 and refurbished in 1928 many of its features – including the wonderful first floor chandelier in the Foyer – are clearly art deco. Its a very interesting mix.
The capacity of the Victory Theatre in 1920/21 was actually 3,000 – it was reduced to 2,550 in the 1928 refurbishment as seats were widened to go for the top end of the marketplace (The Palais Theatre and Regent Theatre both opened in 1928 as competition). In 1971 the National Theatre Movement bought the Victory and renamed it as The National Theatre. The stalls were removed and divided into studios for the schools of drama and ballet. The new live theatre (pros arch with fly tower) was added to the front of the old dress circle and the capacity reduced to 800. Subsequently provision for followspots reduced the capacity to the current 783.
Frank van Straten (National Treasure 1994) has written an excellent book on the company, while the building is covered in both “Picture Palaces and Flea Pits” (1983) by Simon Brand, and “Cinemas of Australia via USA” by Ross Thorne (1981)
Check out our website www.nationaltheatre.org.au
Please note the English spelling!