Liberty Theatre

81 Barrack Street,
Perth, WA 6000

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Liberty Theatre, Barrack Street, Perth, Western Australia

At 81 Barrack Street, the Liberty Theatre became Perth’s first art house cinema opening 1st March 1954. The architectural firm Sheldon & Krantz (the principals of which were Jewish refugees) was engaged to transform the first floor of a goldrush era building into an intimate contemporary cinema with the express purpose of screening foreign-language and art house films – mostly, of course, European.

As a speciality ‘European’ house it lasted less than a decade, but it endured screening a variety of film genres until the early-1990’s (by which time it had been renamed the Kimberley Theatre and was showing Chinese martial arts films). When I was a teenager, I remember it as the Perth ‘home’ of the Sydney Poitiers film “To Sir With Love”, which screened there for well over two years! It was closed in October 1997. It still exists today in retail use.

Contributed by barryinperth

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on July 8, 2015 at 12:34 am

The Liberty Theatre opened on 1/3/1954 with Rigotetto,and supported by Continental puppet cartoon,Tchaikowsky piano concerto b flat minor,and latest Royal tour films. The theatre closed in October 1997.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on August 10, 2016 at 1:18 am

The boards that held the film posters and other advertising above and to the right of the entrance is no longer there!

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on August 11, 2016 at 1:41 am

The jewellery store in the Liberty Cinema building is called Opal Gallery.

film
film on November 4, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Greg Lynch says… I first became aware of Lionel Hart in 1953 when he converted the first floor of a building in Barrack Street, Perth into a 450 seat theatre. He named it “The Liberty” (no doubt inspired by a similar named theatre he had been involved with years before). The Liberty opened Ist March 1954, interestingly with the Ist release? of the 1946 Italian production “Rigoletto”. For those who care Sergio Leone was the assistant director (un-credited) From memory there was a special program screened every Sunday night featuring what was then known as “continental' films”. During the early 50’s Perth cinemas were not allowed to commence screening on Sunday’s until 9.00pm. By 1954 this writer was working in the cinema industry and itching to check out the new venue. Then along came “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T” in Wonderama ? (Columbia Pictures 1953). It appeared that Columbia Pictures were moving their first city release away from The Capitol Theatre to The Liberty. “The 5,000 Fingers” became my introduction to The Liberty. There is no doubt that The Liberty Theatre at the time was the most modern cinema in Perth. The layered indirect ceiling lighting was very pleasing and the sight lines excellent. The seating was exceptional and I loved the atmosphere of the place. Today “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T” is regarded as a masterpiece and for those wondering about Wonderama . (your guess, it certainly wasn’t a wide screen process) On Saturday 8 October 1955 the Mirror Newspaper ran the following double column advert for The Liberty Theatre ( Quote) “Ist Australian screening. James Stewart in a magnificent outdoor CinemaScope production “The Man From Laramie” (G) plus “The Glass Wall” (A) with Gloria Grahame”. (End Quote). Columbia Pictures “The Man from Laramie” was one of the first Westerns to be filmed in CinemaScope and I believe this was the first scope production to screen at The Liberty. I had cause to drop in while they were lacing up the new wide screen, and then sat through a test screening of “The Man from Laramie” trailer. For those who survive this industry the inaugural installation of CinemaScope in any theatre was an exciting occasion. Many years later in the early 60’s I went to work for Universal Pictures in Melbourne and discovered that Lionel Hart had worked as a salesman for Universal some thirteen years earlier under the guidance of industry patriarch, Dan Casey. By then the name Lionel Hart and his achievements were approaching legendary status….Greg Lynch –

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on February 20, 2018 at 7:55 pm

What was the building used for before it was converted into the Liberty Theatre?

film
film on February 21, 2018 at 2:38 am

David Coppock asks – What was the building used for before it was converted into the Liberty Theatre?…Greg Lynch says – The Liberty sits dark (metaphorically) on the first floor of 81 Barrack St, Perth. Patrons gained entrance from Barrack street through a narrow walkway and a staircase. We know that Lionel Hart converted the first floor of an office building into a small theatre, seating 450 patrons. The theatre was opened in 1954. My information is that the upstairs space he acquired was general office space. I’m not able to link the space with any business entity. We do know that the Dease Lafayette (Photographic) Studio operated from 81 Barrack Street, for 75 years, closing in 1972, when a fire at the Liberty Theatre destroyed the photographic equipment, and caused the family business to close. The owner Denis Dease 1869 -1959 was an adept businessman, publicist and organiser. In 1900 he established an open air cinema in Perth, projecting short films from a balcony at the Grand Hotel (later the Perth Hotel) across Barrack Street onto a nearby building. Alongside these showings, Denis further illustrated his business savvy by including paid advertisements. This apparently drew the ire of the local police, and he was charged with unlawful obstruction, but the matter was taken to court and he was ultimately acquitted. Denis Dease died on the 16th of April, 1959, at Edgar Reid Hospital three years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He had lived to the age of 90 and had fathered four children. – Acknowledgment – Museum of Perth –

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on May 11, 2018 at 5:14 am

There may be a dressmaking studio that now, as well as a jewellery store?

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on May 11, 2018 at 12:14 pm

I can,t believe that To Sir With Love ran in one theatre for almost 2 yrs anywhere in the world not even here in the USA. Is this correct?

film
film on May 11, 2018 at 4:58 pm

Reference dickneeds111 comment regarding the Liberty Theatre season for “To Sir With Love”– Greg Lynch says – As a comparison the Odeon Theatre in Bourke St, Melbourne ran “To Sir With Love” from Jan 5, 1968 to Sept 26,1968 – from memory it was locked in by the powers that be for a 2 week season, and then became a real surprise sleeper, running 9 months in total..It’s hard to know exactly how long this title ran at The Liberty, (with what little records that are available) “BUT” it would have been big. Also there is the possibility that the season was extended with limited screenings. Your guess, or does this mean a visit to the records office of the West Australian Newspaper??… “LOVE THIS BUSINESS”

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on May 11, 2018 at 9:43 pm

Or you could try looking on the microfilm of the West Australian newpapapers in the Alexander Library(3rd floor, Battye Library), or possibly on online on Trove? The New Oxford Theatre(now Luna Leederville), ran the Movie “The Gods must be crazy” for over 2 years, maybe even 3 years, saving that thestre, so long movie runs are possible.

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