Astor Theatre

1 Chapel Street,
Melbourne, VIC 3182

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Astor Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built on the site of an earlier cinema known as the Diamond (1908) and latterly the Rex (1914-1925). That building stood empty and derelict for ten years, until it was demolished for the construction of the Astor Theatre.

The Astor Theatre, located in the Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda, opened on Friday April 13, 1936, with a seating capacity of 1,692. The opening films were “Hands Across the Table”, starring Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray and “Wanderer of the Wasteland” starring Dean Jagger.

The Astor Theatre is truly a rare survivor of a type of suburban picture theatre that appeared in the 1930’s. In this period, the emphasis had shifted from the construction of mammoth picture palaces in the city to building more intimate theatres in the suburbs.

The Astor Theatre has seen very few alterations since 1936 and has survived to this day untouched by time. It functioned as a typical independent suburban cinema until 1967, mainly showing films on their second run, and later in 1967, making a radical change by becoming a Greek-language theater. It was also used for concerts, but closed in February 1982.

In September of that same year, the theater was re-opened by its present owner, George Florence. To show films to their best advantage, new projection equipment was installed in 1985, and in 1998, a new wall-to-wall superscreen (20 meters wide) was erected. The stalls seats 550 and the dress circle can accommodate 620.

The current operators of the Astor Theatre have sought to reinstate and restore long-ignored internal features, such as the theater’s original bold color scheme, indirect lighting, and much of the internal fittings and furniture.

The Astor Theatre, in true Australian tradition, usually runs “classic” double features, with a daily change of program. Blockbusters have longer runs. The Astor has managed to survive virtually intact and has succeeded in recreating the ambience of a traditional suburban picture theatre from the era of pre-television cinema.

The Astor Theatre was listed on the Historic Register on 26th November 1998.

Contributed by John Adey

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

JohnHolloway
JohnHolloway on February 4, 2009 at 9:09 am

Saturday matinees ceased long ago, and now, latest calendar has every Tuesday “closed for private function”. Double feature policy also seems to be waning. Many nights programmed for single feature only. Is this the beginning of the end?

AstorTheatre
AstorTheatre on April 20, 2009 at 6:02 am

Thank you to all the posters on this page. I am the proprietor of The Astor and am pleased to say that the new owners, St Michael’s Grammar School have embarked on an ambitious programme of upgrading and restoration. Nothing relating to the heritage nature of The Astor can or will be altered. It will remain a balconied theatre with 1100 seats. We were pleased with St Michael’s purchase of the Astor freehold, and together hope to launch the Astor into a new phase, that being re-instatement of the stage area for St Michael’s live productions, and other community performance and music related useage. It is my intention to also maintain film screenings as long as the public continue to support this aspect of the Astor. The screen can be engineered so that it is moveable to allow the stage to be used. The level of screenings will depend on the public’s support. As we also control a large library of 35mm and 70mm films (mainly classics from the late 1920s to the late 90’s) it is my intention also to see that the Astor survives well into the future as a ‘working cinema museum’ able to screen real film prints when most other cinemas have converted to digital. Digital is great, yes, but it cannot compare to watching real film – the stuff that ran through the cameras. As there has been no major disruption to the Astor’s continuous screening of film since it opened in 1936 is a good enough reason to expect that film screenings can continue to be part of its future. Thank you for your support. George

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Wish the street car wasn’t in the way.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on August 18, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Very nice theatre,great looking vertical sign.

BrianMc
BrianMc on April 3, 2011 at 10:46 pm

The theatre yesterday celebrated it’s 75th anniversary with a screening of 1933’s KING KONG.

Well done George — your theatre is an absolute credit and when it comes to cinema treaures, it is world class.

Giles
Giles on May 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm

wow, what great programming, I see that a week long run of ‘Raiders of Lost Ark’ of the new 2K Digital Cinema re-master is happening the first week of July!

kennerado
kennerado on August 24, 2012 at 4:24 am

The theatre has been sold again, this time to someone who actually knows its value!

The new owner, Ralph Taranto intends on keeping George as the Theatre manager as well.

AstorTheatre
AstorTheatre on August 31, 2012 at 12:55 am

Just to clarify, Ralph is now the new landlord, with no connection to The Astor Theatre – which is my business, and in operation since 1982. The landlord owns the physical building, The Astor Theatre – my business and a registered Trade Mark – is owned by my company (I am not simply a ‘manager’)

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