ASO Grainger Studio

91 Hindley Street,
Adelaide, SA 5000

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Wests Theatre – Eastern side of auditorium

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Originally on this site stood the Olympia Skating Rink. It was converted into Wests Olympia Cinema in 1908 and had a seating capacity of 3,000 on one raked level, with a small fly tower, stage and a very popular orchestra. It was one of several large theatres built in Australian cities by silent film entrepreneur T.J. West. It was closed in the early-1930’s as a result of the great depression and was demolished in 1938, retaining only the stage area.

The new Wests Cinema was built and operated by Greater Union Cinemas and seated 1,504, with 1,036 in the stalls and 468 in the circle. It opened on 1st December 1939 with Leslie Howard in "Pygmalion" and a supporting film starring Tom Walls. Very early in its career it ran “Gone With the Wind” simultaneously with the Metro Theatre directly opposite.

The entrance led through to a rotunda, which has a central dome, illuminated by indirect lighting and a double staircase leading to the circle. The air-conditioned auditorium is set at a right-angle, parallel to Hindley Street and contains troughs of concealed lighting in the ceiling. Wests Cinema was considered one of the finest examples of an Art Deco/Art Moderne style cinema in Australia.

In 1955 it was equipped with CinemaScope and the first film to be screened in this process was “Sign of the Pagan” starring Jeff Chandler. The seating capacity was reduced to 1,448. In 1961, the cinema was closed from 30th November until 18th December to install Todd-AO. It re-opened with “Porgy and Bess”, presented in Todd-AO and using only 650 seats in the stalls (the circle was closed). Greater Union then booked many roadshow engagements into Wests Cinema, including: “Spartacus”, “El Cid”, “Guns of Naverone”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, “A Clockwork Orange”, “What’s Up Doc?”, “Earthquake”(in Sensurround), “Jaws” and “Battle for Midway”. Wests Cinema closed on 19th February 1977 with “Carry on England”. The building was sold by Greater Union, as they were operating the former Metro Theatre across the road, which in 1975, they had converted into the Hindley Cinemas 1-4.

In May 1978, the former Wests Cinema was converted into the Jade Palace Restaurant. This was a failure, and the operating company went into liquidation in December 1978. In June 1979, it was opened as Sinatra’s Nightclub. Greater Union Cinemas re-purchased the building in October 1980. In November 1981, the building was damaged by a fire (thought to be arson).

In 1982, the auditorium was gutted back to bare brick and the ceiling was removed. A new projection booth was built in the rear stalls. A new auditorium was built on the south side, on the former staff car park, with access from the former upstairs foyer of the original cinema. It re-opened as the Hindley Cinemas 5 & 6 on 10th December 1982. Cinema 5 had 768 seats and opened with “ET”, Cinema 6 with 488 seats opened with “Year of Living Dangerously”. On 6th April 1991, Cinema 6 was closed with “The Godfather”. The equipment was relocated to the new Greater Union Hindley 1-5 across the road. On 11th April 1991, Cinema 5 was closed with “Edward Scissorhands”. Greater Union’s Hindley Cinemas 1-4 (former Metro Theatre) also closed on on this date, with all business directed to the new GU Hindley 1-5, which opened on 13th April 1991.

In 1994, it opened as the Meridan Time Zone Nightclub. The property was sold in 1999, and the Meridan Time Zone was closed in May 2001. The former Wests Cinema/Hindley 5 & 6 was taken over in October 2001 by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra as their permanent home, re-opening as the 680 seat (former Cinema 5) Grainger Studio. The former Cinema 6 was gutted and was converted into office space used by an advertising agency.

Contributed by Ken Roe, Brian Pearson

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Warner
Warner on January 10, 2013 at 10:41 pm

One of the most memorable films that I saw at the Wests Theatre was All The Presidents Men.

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