247 Belmore Road,
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Riverwood is a small suburb about 16 miles southwest of Sydney. Until 1957 it was named Herne Bay and you might wonder why an entrepreneur like Tom Virgona would want to build a cinema in a district with only 2,000 people. The answer arrived in 1943 when the US Army established a large hospital and barracks base. The 490 buildings housed over 4,000 beds and a medical staff from Johns Hopkins University. General MacArthur, Eleanor Roosevelt and Bob Hope were among the visitors.
At war’s end the Royal Navy moved in, treating over 9,000 patients. A few years later buildings were converted to public housing and Herne Bay’s increased population could see the latest films at the Melody Theatre which opened in 1947. The Melody Theatre operated until the late-1960’s, closing after Tom Virgona died in 1966.
The site is now part of Riverwood Plaza shopping centre.
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