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Civic Theatre / Wollongong Town Hall Theatre

Venue Summary
Name Civic Theatre / Wollongong Town Hall Theatre
Address Kembla Street, Wollongong, New South Wales 2500
Operation Dates 1927-12-07 - 1964-01-25
Capacity 1564
Suburban/Country Country
Purpose Cinema
Screens 1
1928-06-30 - 1931-06-30 : Leased : Union Theatres Feature Exchange
1931-07-01 - 1938-06-30 : Leased : Wollongong Theatres Pty. Ltd.
1939-01-01 - 1964-01-25 : Leased :
Venue Comments

The Wollongong Town Hall was built in 1927 to augment the council’s two existing buildings: the administration offices and a hall, henceforth known as the Annex. The council intended the hall to be used for the exhibition of film from planning onset and cinematic requirements were incorporated into the original design.

The hall was officially opened on 3 December 1927 and the cinema opened four days later under the auspices of Wollongong businessman Mr W Turnbull. Turnbull succumbed to the financial pressures of the pre-depression years and by mid 1928 was experiencing difficulties. The lease was subsequently transferred to Union Theatres. When the company went into liquidation in 1931 Wollongong Theatres, proprietors of both the Globe and the Crown cinemas sought to eliminate competition and bought the lease. The exhibition of film ceased immediately. When the lease expired in 1938 despite threats of legal action the council under heavy pressure from community members and groups to remedy the situation did not renew Wollongong Theatre’s lease. Instead the lease went to tender, the successful bidders being Herbert and Emily Jones of Corrimal, trading as South Coast Theatres Ltd (Parkinson 1995, 25 – 27; Huggett 2002, 51). After minor renovations conducted at the request of the council the cinema was relicensed to seat 1564 patrons.

The Wollongong Town Hall cinema, now known as the Civic Theatre, reopened for business on 5th October 1939. In 1943 Herbert Jones died. Emily and her son continued to manage the cinema which despite the presence of Wollongong Theatre Ltd.’s two cinemas located in the close vicinity, remained popular with patrons and was a commercial success. However Wollongong lacked a suitable venue for other large scale events and the council was faced with a choice between building another venue at considerable cost or else reclaiming the space designated to the cinema. Councillors took the second option and did not renew Jones’ lease from 1956 rather extended tenancy on a weekly basis. In 1957 The Jones’ opened a new cinema, the Regent, in Keira St Wollongong. She continued to run both cinemas until 1963 when the council gave notice of closure. The last exhibition of film in the Civic occurred on 25th January 1964 (Parkinson 1995, 31 - 33).


“Film Weekly Motion Picture Directory”, Film Weekly, Sydney, 1936 – 1971.

Huggett, N 2002 ‘A cultural history of cinema-going in the Illawarra (1900-1950)’ PhD thesis, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong.

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 /
Capacity Suburban Purpose Screens
1927-12-07 Wollongong Town Hall Theatre Kembla Street
New South Wales 2500
1694 Country Town Hall 1
1939-10-05 Civic Theatre

1564 Cinema