Hoyts Town Theatre

303 Pitt Street,
Sydney, NSW 2001

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Hoyts Theatres

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: American Picture Palace, Shell Theatre, Arcadia Theatre De Luxe, Egyptian Theatre, Cameo Theatre, Esquire Theatre, Town Eroticon

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Hoyts Town Theatre

Located on the corner of Pitt Street and Park Street. Originally built as the Temperance Hall, opening on 19th April 1859. Around 1900 it was renamed Queen’s Hall and it began screening Biograph Pictures. It was renovated in 1909. It became the American Picture Palace from 31st December 1910. On October 9, 1919, following a modernisation it reopened as the Shell Theatre with Lillian Gish in “The Greatest Thing in Life”. In 1919 following a modernization it was renamed Shell Theatre. By May 1926 it had been re-named Arcadia Theatre De Luxe operating as a playhouse. Films returned in August 1927 when the documentary “Moana” was screened. In March 1929 it was renamed Egyptian Theatre, but that was short lived and it returned to the Arcadia Theatre name by January 1930. Another remodel this one in an Art Deco style, took place and it reopened on 10th August 1935 as the the Cameo Theatre screening Carol Lombard & George Raft in “Bolero” and Dixie Lee in “Love in Bloom”. It became ‘The New Home of the Stars of Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Paramount Pictures’ On the 15th February 1946 it was re-named Esquire Theatre, operated by Hoyts Theatres and screening Robert Newton in “This Happy Breed” and specialising in British films. With 1,000-seats this was the smallest of Hoyts city theatres.

CinemaScope was installed in April 1954, but the narrow proscenium hampered the width of the screen. Like the nearby Palace Theatre the screen size did little justice to outdoor sagas. It became Hoyts Town Theatre on 30th June 1965 with Melina Mercouri in “Topkapi”. New seats had been installed and the theatre had been repainted. Programming was mostly 20th Century Fox second string films. Big star westerns that weren’t expected to do well were booked - films like “Broken Lance”, “Warlock”, “Track of the Cat”, and oddball films like “Modesty Blaise”.

As the Hoyts Town Theatre it tried to go upscale with some foreign titles that would have gone to the Paris Theatre, which had become the home for blockbusters. The seating capacity had been reduced to 684-seats. When Hoyts opened their Hoyts Entertainment Centre in 1976, all their other city centre theatre became redundant. The carried on operating the Hoyts Town Theatre for a short while playing sexploitation films.

In 1979 Hoyts sold the Town Theatre to an independent operator who renamed it the Town Eroticon screening X certificate adult films and live sex acts on the stage. They converted the dress circle into a second screen and the seating capacity was reduced to 200 downstairs and 200-seats in the former dress circle. The upstairs cinema had been constructed without planning permission and was ordered to be closed as it had inadequate fire exits.

It closed in December 1983 after being sold to a property developer in June 1983. It was demolished in February-March 1984 for a skyscraper with offices and a shopping arcade.

Contributed by john gleeson

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

impalax327 on April 16, 2016 at 11:34 pm

A lasting pubescent memory of this theatre was during it’s final years. I think it must’ve been showing some of Russ Meyer’s work and adorned on the facade were a massive pair of fiberglass/ paper mache breasts, somewhere around 6 feet high. I regret not paying more attention now!

davidcoppock on October 4, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Opened in circa 1912. Closed in circa 1980.

davidcoppock on October 30, 2020 at 2:29 am

May have originally been a temperance hall? Named American Picture Palace opening in july 1912. Renamed Shell Theatre in august 1919. Name changed to Arcadia Theatre in mid 1926. Renamed Cameo Theatre on 10/8/1935. Renamed Esquire Theatre on 15/2/1946 with “This happy breed”. Renamed Hoyts Town Theatre in 1965.

curmudgeon on November 1, 2020 at 6:13 am

Worked front-of-house here during the final years under Hoyts. A very pleasant art-deco cinema, albeit very narrow and not particularly suited to scope ratio. Did bumper business with “Case Of The Smiling Stiffs” and “The Adventures Of A Driving Instructor/Window Washer/Taxi Driver” series. It remained open under Hoyts management for a few months after the 7 screen Entertainment Centre opened and I was often sent round to that new venue to help out with their full houses while the Town struggled on with dwindling audiences.

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