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Cinema and Audience Research Project

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Crown Picture Palace / The New Crown Theatre, Illawara

Venue Summary
Name Crown Picture Palace / The New Crown Theatre, Illawara
Address Cnr Keira and Burelli Streets, Illawara, New South Wales 2500
Operation Dates 1911-10-07 - 1965-10-11
Capacity 2456
Suburban/Country City
Purpose Cinema
Screens 1
Roles
1924-01-01 - 1965-10-11 : Owned : Wollongong Theatres Pty. Ltd.
1928-01-01 - 1931-01-01 : Leased : Union Theatres Feature Exchange
Venue Comments

The Crown Picture Palace opened on 7th October 1911 originally as an open-air cinema with seating for 2000 patrons. The cinema was built on land owned by Wollongong businessman Alexander Lang and run by a Parramatta-based company Bennington’s Pictures Illawarra. Soon after local cinema entrepreneur Herbert Boland took over exhibition rights and in the June 1912 enclosed the building (Parkinson 1995, 11 – 12).

Throughout the early teens in addition to Boland’s regular picture shows the building also used by travelling companies and live theatre shows.

In 1918 Boland reached a thirty year leasing arrangement with Lang, which was renegotiated in 1920 increasing the term of tenancy to 50 years. In the same year Boland arranged for the demolition of the original building and the construction of a modern Kaberry and Chard designed cinema in its place. Throughout the period of dislocation Bolan exhibited from the Globe under a sub-letting agreement with leaser, Mr. Robert Cram (Parkinson 1995, 12).

The New Crown Theatre reopened on 26th November 1920. The building was licensed to seat 2044 and comprised dress circle, stalls and private boxes. The proscenium is described as being “strikingly designed with fluted columns” and the stage large enough to stage live theatre events (Illawarra Mercury 26 November 1920). In November 1923 Boland formed Wollongong Theatres Ltd and the following year the company purchase the site from Lang (Parkinson 1995, 14).

The cinema, the most luxurious in the Illawarra consistently drew large crowds and as evidence of its success was extended in 1926 and the seating capacity increased to 2456 (Parkinson 1995, 14). The South Coasts Times (11 December 1947) credits the New Crown Theatre as being the second largest in New South Wales and the third largest in Australia.

In 1928 Boland leased the cinema to Union Theatres, under the management of Mr Stuart Doyle, for a period of 20 years, however, the company went into liquidation in 1931 and Wollongong Theatres Ltd resumed control of the cinema. It was during Doyle’s period of management that the Crown was fitted for sound, the first cinema in Wollongong to do so (South Coast Times 12 July 1929).

In 1937 the Crown was remodelled, the roof and ceiling stepped and an impressive lighting system installed. According to Parkinson “As ceiling lights in opalescent glass assemblies from gold to red, green to blue, these were mimicked by stage foot and side lights (recessed behind the proscenium). Gradual dimming of the lights ushered in the program… (Parkinson 1995, 20).

In December 1947 Westrex projection and sound equipment complemented by a new Bakelite screen installed. CinemaScope was introduced in 1955 (Parkinson 1995, 21).

Audiences continued to be entertained at the Crown until the mid 1960s, the last screening taking place on 11 October 1965. The Australian Exhibitor – Forum of Australia’s Showmen, used the cinemas demise to demonstrate the cost of high film rental rates and increased taxation, as well as the new leisure activities such as television and licensed clubs on the cinema exhibition industry (reported in Parkinson 1995, 21).

The cinema was demolished in 1972.

Reference:
Parkinson, R. J 1995, Gauffered Velour: A history of motion picture exhibition and picture theatres in the Illawarra district of New South Wales 1897-1994, Australian Theatre Historical Society Inc, Campbelltown NSW.

Venue Events
Event Date Name of Venue Address Latitude /
Longitude
Capacity Suburban Purpose Screens
1911-10-07 Crown Picture Palace Cnr Keira and Burelli Streets
Wollongong
New South Wales 2500
-34.4260624
150.8929945
2000 City Cinema 1
1920-11-26 New Crown Theatre



2456
1934-02-19
Illawara


Screenings

Screenings
Films Distributor Dates
Mad Game, The Fox Film Corporation 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
Her Bodyguard Paramount 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
Olsen's Big Moment Fox Film Corporation 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
My Woman Greater Australasian Films (GAF) 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
This Day And Age Paramount 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
Broadway to Hollywood Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
Torch Singer, The Paramount 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
Looking Forward Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
Flying Devils RKO Radio Pictures 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
Mayor Of Hell Warner Bros. 1933-12-25 - 1933-12-25
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