Or how I love old cinemas, eccentric architecture and overwrought decor.
Shame on you 1960s through to 1980s in Sydney. Just tore down old buildings willynilly to ‘modernise’ the city. And as the bricks tumbled, down came more than 20 old-style, elegant cinemas in Sydney including the Roma, Lido, Lyceum, Regent, Palace and sadly on and on the list goes.
The remaining cinemas are the State Theatre and the Capital Theatre.
And the State Theatre is here because its history spanned so many economic changes in the city that plans made to demolish, reinvigorate, turn into an office block and more, never got past the drawing board – and lucky it had history on its side.
It opened to grand fanfare in the social heyday of Sydney in 1929. It was the “Palace of Dreams’. Amazing architecture for the time and innovative structure behind the gothic, Italianate French and Jacobean crazy decor and foyer, theatre seating and private rooms design, made this extraordinary addition to the prominence of development in Sydney.
I recently took a two-hour tour of my fave theatre and discovered so much about it. I went as a child to the State when it was a movie theatre. And as television stole the movie-going public away from the theatres it became a live venue – as it had originally started out – with vaudeville acts and showy musicals.
I’ve seen artists from Bette Midler, through to Bob Dylan perform here and am off to see Catherine Tate soon.
There are many facts that are fascinating about the theatre which include:
- Standing in the 2000 seat auditorium beautifully framed by 13 hand-cut crystal chandeliers
- Observing the eclectic elements of the Theatre’s Gothic, Italian and Art deco design
- Discovering the State’s famous Character Lounges including the exotic Butterfly Room (the ladies loo), the Pioneer Room, College Room and more
- Be mesmerised by the world’s second largest hand-cut crystal chandelier, the
Koh-i-Nor. This is the second largest hand-cut chandelier in the world – the first is the divine chandelier that hangs in the Hapsburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.
- Admire prize-winning artworks by famous Australian artists including William Dobell, Mary Edwards, Charles Wheeler and Raymond Lindsay. Stories of people trying to steal these paintings are shocking. In fact the theatre has so many stories of vandalism and what has been stolen over the decades makes you realise that Sydney is a den of thieves.
- Delve into the depths of the Theatre to discover engineering marvels and mechanical masterpieces.
The ladies toilets (powder rooms) were designed to be hidden away discreetly because way back in the 1920s it was unseemly that a ‘lady’ would go to the toilet. Women would not eat or drink during the show until they arrived at home – and they ‘went’ before going out for the night.
Also there were private smoking rooms throughout the theatre (smoking wasn’t permitted in the foyer or inside the theatre) and these were for men only – ladies didn’t smoke!
The beautiful brass filigree doors to the seating were going to be melted down in the 1950s and the metal would have been worth around $130 but now and still standing (or opening and shutting) and are worth $17000.
When the American servicemen were in Sydney on R&R during WWII, smoking was allowed in all public areas. And 40 years later when the entire interior of the foyer and staircase areas was cleaned there was so much nicotine clinging to the walls that the decoration had disappeared.
The Theatre is still available for special films and recently held the premier of Ladies in Black. The annual Sydney Film Festival is held here and always begins with a silent film.
The State’s famous Wurlitzer organ that entertained the masses for many years is almost finished being restored. It will be back in action with its glorious makeover in 2019 when the State Theatre celebrates its 90th birthday. (The organ has to be played once a week to keep it in good working order.)
If you enjoy ‘old Sydney’ and the charm of the eccentric, try for a tour, it’s interesting, nostalgic as you learn the character and traits of this magnificent and special building of majestic elegance.
Architectural purists may scoff, but remember this is a Palace of Dreams, am amusement park.
Visit: http://www.statetheatre.com.au to book tickets for a tour $25 – mad if you don’t.
Writer Bev Malzard was pashed in this cinema when she was 17. And on another note, she grew up in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood that supported two cinemas – the Chelsea (now a bottle shop) and the Mayfair (now three small shops). She likes to visit the last of the grand old girls in Sydney – The Randwick Ritz and the Cremorne Orpheum.
Snce its opening in 1929, The State Theatre Sydney has captivated the hearts and minds of patrons with its majestic elegance. Join in a guided tour of this magnificent and unique building and discover why it’s known as the Palace of Dreams.
During a fascinating 2 hour tour, you will: