This time I followed the clues to Rosalie looking for the old Beverley Theatre – and stumbled across a fashionista’s dream.
By now I was months deep in cinema research. Since finding the old Rialto and Plaza theatres, I had become obsessed. I was constantly looking for other buildings that had at one time or another been picture theatres – in town, in the suburbs, it didn’t matter where.
I manically made lists, started spreadsheets, did stakeouts (often cut short thanks to the crying infant in my back seat), poured over old photos from the SLQ, bugged my father senseless with questions and basically tried to find out everything that had ever been and might (just might) still be.
These rare discoveries, often masked by urban growth and major renovations, became more than just old buildings to me. They became “the hidden cinemas of Brisbane” and finding one still intact was a major thrill. Architecture was the key, heritage-listed features were the clues, and oh, if those walls could talk!
During the course of my
very professional pretty amateur research I knew that Rosalie had theatres back in the day, but I had no names and no locations. Then I came across a listing for the Rosalie School of Arts and I thought, what the hey, a community hall seemed like a good enough place to start, especially since many old halls had been outfitted to screen movies over the years. Had this one?
Rosalie School of Arts Brisbane, 1938, State Library of Queensland, #33769
I went looking for an address. Some records for suburban cinemas were nothing more than a vague reference (“next to the greengrocer”) or an undistinguishable picture, making the comparison between then and now extremely difficult and almost always leaning towards demolition.
But no, this one pointed me towards Nash Theatre Company, an acting troupe who had a working history of the building since they had called it their home for several years. The website was a good starting point: “Having been, at different times throughout its history, a kindergarten, election centre, flood refuge, dance hall and even a movie theatre (during WWII), The Beverley Theatre (or “Bev”) was brought back from neglect by the inspiration of (theatre designer) Godfrey Bathurst.”
Bingo. I had found my target. A name (the Beverley Theatre), a location (8 Nash St) and it was still in use today. Now for the big question: had it been rendered beyond identification or would I recognise my prize? Google Maps soon confirmed it… we got one! I grabbed Kristina to take some shots and we were on our way.
Built in 1928, the Rosalie School of Arts initially opened as a war memorial to commemorate those from the district who gave their lives in World War 1. By 1942, the hall had been transformed into the 300-seat Beverley Theatre until circa 1957, after which point it was home to the Ithaca RSL for the next 60 years.
In his paper Rosalie – Brisbane’s Forgotten Daughter, A. T Miles writes:
“The hall was opened in July 1928 by the Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Jolly. It contains a large hall, small meeting rooms and two shops for rent. For many years it became the Beverley Theatre three times a week when the pictures were on, but this function ceased about 1957… Before the advent of the Beverley there had been the open-air pictures Bungalow Picture Palace directly opposite, run by Mr J.J. Ross. Another open-air show was the Arcadia on the corner of Haig Road and Torwood Street. Other open-air theatres in surrounding suburbs eventually became “hard-tops”, but all have since closed.”
Eventually I found the Reminisce in Rosalie – Brisbane Heritage Trails and it confirmed what Miles had written:
From about 1914, Rosalie had its own outdoor picture theatre, the ‘Bungalow Picture Palace’. It was situated near the corner of Nash Street and Baroona Road beside Alfred Bouthan’s blacksmith store and shop… The flourishing film industry in both America and Australia assured the Rosalie audience a variety of silent films. By 1918 the name of the theatre had changed to ‘Crown Picture Palace’. It continued to show films until 1921 when the theatre closed. From 1942, on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, the ‘Beverley Theatre’ was run from the Rosalie School of Arts. In the era before television, the 300-seat picture theatre provided entertainment for Rosalie residents. By 1957, perhaps due to decreased patronage caused by the introduction of television to Australia in 1956, the Beverley Theatre had closed.
In addition to housing the Nash St Theatre Company, the site has been used in recent years first as a gym and now as the clearance outlet for Maryon’s Shoes clearance outlet. When the designer footwear salon moved in four years ago, the building’s owner also erected an internal wall to split the upper space into two tenancies, with the other half now occupied by a yoga studio.
Aesthetically, the reno makes for a charming effect, as I discovered when I returned with Paul to take some internal photos a few weeks later. The original timber trusses have been left to zigzag, exposed, across the pitched ceiling while the lovely checkerboard timber panelling added in decades later mirrors the original effect. It’s a striking backdrop to display the likes of Givenchy, Armani, Christian Lacroix and Dolce & Gabbana stilettos and strappy sandals and it is hard to remember this is only the outlet store for sale stock.
Even more exciting? The stage apparently still exists out the back, but is now closed up as a store room for the mountains of shoes.
Rosalites, never fear – while this quaint box might no longer be operational as a picture theatre, you still have the charming Blue Room Cinebar above the restaurants across the road!
Do you have any memories of the Beverley Theatre or any other cinema in Rosalie? Got any tips on where we can find an old picture theatre? Let us know in the comments below!
THE HIDDEN CINEMAS PROJECT
Once used as cinemas, these iconic pieces of architecture are living reminders of weekend trips to the “pictures”.