164-168 Murray Street,
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Previously operated by: Greater Union Theatres
Firms: Baxter-Cox & Leighton
Built by entrepreneur Thomas Coombe, the Grand Theatre opened on 20th September 1916. It was designed by architect R.J. Denneby. Seating 1,100, with 842 in the stalls and 274 in the balcony, it had a windlass-operated sliding roof, like the more prestigious live theatres, and also shutters on the side walls which could be removed for ventilation like the semi-open-air theatres.
While initially independent, it soon became an an important part of the Greater Union Theatres chain. It was wired for sound in 1929 (and abandoned its orchestra), and in April-May 1932 became an all-British house, a showcase for the most prestigious of the British films.
During the difficult times of the Great Depression, the Grand Theatre was under threat and was saved by a new company, the Grand Theatre Co. Over the years, very little change was made in the façade of the Grand Theatre: brickwork was painted over, a neon sign added in the manner traditional to cinemas (down the length of the façade), and the ornate metal verandah replaced with one of cleaner, more modern lines.
Inside there was more change. The first major reconstruction took place in 1938 to the plans of architectural firm Baxter-Cox & Leighton, headed by architect William T. Leighton. The Grand Theatre became the first theatre in Australia entirely illuminated by neon lights. By the time of the second major renovation in 1959, the Grand Theatre Company had been transformed into City Theatres Pty. Ltd., in recognition of the wider activities of the company, though the management, in personnel and policy, had not substantially changed. This renovation was extensive.
The theatre ultimately closed in December 1982 following the opening of Cinema City nearby in 1980. The building became a pizza restaurant and was, regrettably, demolished in 1990.
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