Of all the hidden cinemas I have managed to track down so far, the Planet Cinema at Camp Hill is definitely the most mysterious.
For the life of me I cannot remember how I came to learn of the Planet in Coorparoo or who might have tipped me off along the way.
All I had in my original notes was the following sentence jotted down from an old newspaper article: “Bardon boasted the Plaza, Camp Hill families went to the Planet and Grange residents enjoyed movies at the Liberty”. That was it. That was all I had to go on.
Usually through my own research and that of others who have assisted me in this exciting cinema hunt, photos can be found. Not so for the Planet. I couldn’t find any of the usual newspaper advertisements, no written histories, no architecture notes, barely a word about its story… nada.
I’m only an amateur researcher, granted, but I did find this unusual given the Planet was built fairly recently in terms of suburban picture theatres. And it is still standing on Old Cleveland Rd, as I discovered with Kristina below:
I eventually discovered that independent theatre operator Roy Fielding had opened Planet Cinema at Camp Hill in 1957, according to a Department of Environment and Heritage document relating to Brisbane theatres.
This was at the peak of Fielding’s cinema chain days, when he had grown his business to include the Boomerang Theatre in Annerley Rd (est circa 1924), Mowbray Park at East Brisbane (est 1915), the Hawthorne at Hawthorne (est 1921) and the Odeon at Chardon’s Corner, Annerley (est 1939).
But Planet couldn’t have lasted very long as a cinema because in 1977 it became the Brisbane headquarters of a Pentecostal religious group called Revival Centres International, who refer to it on their website as Planet Theatre. It has stayed that way ever since.
Well, that explained why we haven’t heard much about the building. It had been used as a church for 37 YEARS – more than double the time it ever operated as a cinema.
Last week I took Paul back with me to get some close-up shots to show you here. I would have loved to see the interior but we couldn’t find anyone to speak to on the day we went (although there does appear to be someone living upstairs).
Today when I rang the number provided on the church’s website to see if they could provide me with any info about the history of the building, I was redirected to a voicemail message informing me the church’s Pastor was currently overseas. Damn. So the best I can do to give you an idea about the interior is to point to the gallery on the Revival Centre’s Brisbane website where you will find pics of rallies, fundraising events and even a recent wedding at the Planet. (Yes, really.)
Don’t you think this building still looks as though it could pass as a cinema – the posters covering the windows, the terrazzo floor, the awning? Like the Rialto, it was another one of those sites where I was like, how on earth hadn’t I noticed it before? Especially the sign! (Of course once I started publishing this series, it was suggested to me along the way – if only I had thought people would actually get in touch!). From the road it reminds me so much of the old Dawn Theatre at Chermside (minus the maroon sign of course), because it has that familiar cinema feel I remember from my days growing up on the northside, when I could never have predicted these things would be completely wiped out.
As a side note: Interestingly, the old Planet Cinema is not the group’s first foray into cinema architecture. In November 1986 Revival Centres bought Melbourne’s Forum Theatre (formerly known as State Theatre) to use as their international headquarters for 10 years, according to the Forum’s website. Revival Centres later sold it in 1996 to David Marriner, who converted the Forum into one of Melbourne’s premier live music and cabaret venues.
Got a story or photo to share about the old Planet cinema at Camp Hill/Coorparoo? Let us know in the comments below, we 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”.