1 Chapel Street,
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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.
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