Rapallo Theatre

525 George Street,
Sydney, NSW 2000

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Greater Union Theatres

Architects: Guy Crick, Bruce W. Furse

Firms: Crick and Furse

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Colonial No. 2 Theatre, Empress Theatre, Victory Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Rapallo Theatre

The Colonial No. 2 Theatre was built by J.D.Williams in 1910 and renamed the Empress Theatre on August 26, 1912 when taken over by Union Theatres. The opening films at the Empress Theatre were “Into the Jungle” & “A Romance of the Border”.

It was demolished in 1939, replaced by a Streamline Moderne style design cinema by architectural firm Crick and Furse, which was named Victory Theatre. The opening program was a double bill of Leslie Howard in “Pygmalion” and Niall MacGinnis in “The Edge Of The World”. For most it its life the Victory Theatre showed action movies. Along with the Capitol Theatre it was Greater Union Theatre’s main outlet for Columbia and Paramount B’s. In 1956 Bill Haley in “Rock Around The Clock” ran for 12 weeks, the only long run ever at the Victory Theatre.

As the Rapallo Theatre it showed classier films but was marked for demolition when Greater Union Theatres decided to build a multi-screen complex next to the huge Hoyts complex (today operating as the Greater Union Event Theatres). The National Trust objected, trying to save the last remaining Streamline Moderne style theatre in the city centre, basically unchanged since 1938.

The Rapallo Theatre and adjacent Paramount Theatre were both demolished in 1984.

Contributed by john gleeson

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

johngleeson on March 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm

The lane at photo left of the Victory is Albion Place, should the map be adjusted

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm

The architects of the original Colonial No. 2 Theatre, 1910-1939, were Eaton & Bates.

johngleeson on January 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

the person who told me Rock Around The Clock ran for a year has backed off, saying well it seemed like a year. The film actually ran for 12 weeks, on a double bill with Five Against The House.

Brooksie on August 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Actually the Rapallo was built on the site of Colonial No 1. Colonial No 2 was demolished for the construction of the Plaza Theatre, across the road.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm

A drawing of the Colonial No. 1 and a photo of the Colonial No. 2 have been uploaded to this theater’s photo page by CharmaineZoe, plus there is an architect’s drawing of the Colonial No. 2 which I uploaded. They indicate that Brooksie is mistaken. The Colonial No. 1 had an alley to the right, as does the Plaza Theatre, and Colonial No. 2 had an alley to the left, as did the Rapallo Theatre. It must have been the Plaza that was built on the site of the Colonial No. 1.

This post from Cezar Del Valle’s Bijou Dream weblog is also a bit confused. The heading gives the address of the Colonial No. 2, at 525 George Street, but I believe that the photo on the page actually depicts the Colonial No. 1, and on the bottom of that photo it says “Australia’s first continuous moving picture show” and then “J. D. Williams Ams. Co., 610 George St. Sydney.”

610 George Street would be under the footprint of the Plaza Theatre. The Colonial No. 1 was an existing theater that J. D. Williams acquired in 1910, and which he then remodeled. The MPW photo must depict the house pre-remodel. The entrance is wider and the decorative details are different in CharmaineZoe’s drawing, so it must be a post-remodel view.

610 George Street was the main office of the J. D. Williams Amusement Company, according to an advertisement for the company that is one of many illustrations in a photo essay by Ross Thorne (PDF here.) The essay features vintage photos of the Colonial after it had been renamed Empress and the Victory after it had been renamed Rapallo.

There are also numerous color photos of the Victory/Rapallo by the author. Despite numerous Art Deco features, especially on the facade, the Victory was a very streamlined theater. Its interior could serve as a textbook example of the transition from Art Deco to Streamline Modern that took place through the 1930s.

rivest266 on July 13, 2016 at 4:54 pm

August 26th, 1912 first ad as Empress in the photo section.

davidcoppock on May 7, 2019 at 2:42 am

Opened as the Empress with “Into the jungle” and “a romance of the border”.

itsjohn on March 15, 2024 at 4:27 am

I remember in 1978 seeing the Henry Winkler & Sally Field movie ‘Heroes’ here and then a few months later, ‘The One and Only’. The fading of the lights in the ceiling as the movie began was so beautiful. Hated the day they announced it was to close and soon after, torn down.

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