It’s not the first hidden cinema in our series to have been converted into an antiques centre, but the former Victory Theatre in regional New South Wales is definitely the most colourful!
This is the first hidden cinema on this list that I have yet to personally visit, but one of our Cinemazzi contributors happened to pass it on a road trip through rural NSW and sent in these pics. Doesn’t it look great?
I love how the owners have transformed one entire side of the building’s exterior into a mural wall – a Jenny Kee-designed community mural wall, no less.
1931: Screening “talkies” in Blackheath. (Image: Victory Theatre Antiques Centre)
2014: Known in later years as the Victory Theatre, today the space is used as an antiques centre and cafe
While I do normally prefer it when buildings are restored to their original glory (as the front facade has obviously done) I think this community idea makes the space look quite vibrant, and perhaps a tad more enticing to the younger generation? (Iconic 80s fashion designer Jenny Kee is back in vogue this decade, after all!)
I also think this is probably one of those modern ideas that people love or hate. What do you think of it?
Similar to the way in which Brisbane’s Paddington Plaza has been repurposed into an antiques centre, the Arcadia Theatre, known in later years as the Victory Theatre, now houses an Aladdin’s Cave of treasure. Today it is the largest antique centre west of Sydney and also home to the Victory Cafe, situated in the foyer of the old theatre space.
Originally opened in 1918 as the Arcadia Theatre, by 1940 the cinema had been leased to Katoomba Theatres Pty Ltd (who operated the nearby Savoy and Embassy theatres) after which the cinema’s name changed to the Victory Theatre, possibly as a nod to the end of World War II.
The title to the building was transferred to the name of Cornell Theatres in April 1954, at which point prominent cinema architect Guy Crick was appointed to make further alterations to the building, including a new awning, remodelling of the entrance vestibule, raising the floor level at the rear of the auditorium and other interior adjustments.
“The building is aesthetically significant because it is the only purpose-designed cinema surviving in the Blue Mountains that has retained a relatively large amount of its original fabric and is an important element within the townscape of Blackheath,” states the NSW’s Heritage Register. “It provided an important focus of recreation and entertainment for the town for approximately forty-five years, between circa 1915 and 1960.”
The Heritage Register also identifies the cinema facade as representing the Free Classical movement, a popular architecture style witnessed during the first and second decades of 20th century cinema design.
After it closed in the 1960’s because of falling attendance it was variously used for ice-skating, receptions, public meetings and socials, as well as a peg factory and for manufacturing seat belts.
In 1977 it was leased as a junkyard then, after refurbishment, it was transformed into its current manifestation as a major retail centre. Today, with its magnificent Jenny Kee designed community mural along the length of the building, the Victory Theatre has deservedly become a Blue Mountains landmark and tourist destination.
Isn’t it lovely? Dying to know what you all think of the mural wall!
* Images: Photographed by Victoria Walton in 2014.
Got a story or photo to share about the old Victory Theatre? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
THE HIDDEN CINEMAS PROJECT
Once used as cinemas, these iconic pieces of architecture are living reminders of weekend trips to the “pictures”.