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The Fitzroy Teletheatre

By Kenneth Mulholand (Australia)

'Oh we can't show all the pictures so we only show the best. The others show the rest, you can put it to the test. So call your girlfriend right away. When she hears the news she'll shout Hooray. You're happier in a Hoyts suburban theatre. Happier, happier. Happier in a Hoyts suburban theatre.'

An extract from the Internet.

First erected in 1911. It was built as the Solway Theatre. According to Smith (1984) it was officially opened in October 1912, with a seating capacity of 846 on the ground floor and 292 in the gallery, however the Argus reports the opening in 1911.In the mid-twenties the Solway was burnt down and in 1928, extensive reconstruction of the theatre took place, enlarging seating capacity. The theatre was re-opened in September 1931 and re-named the Regent Theatre. TV Week (1960) reports that the Regent showed its last film Saturday, September 17 1960. Later the same year the theatre was altered and purchased by H.S.V 7 and became known as the H.S.V. Teletheatre. Seating capacity was reduced to690 on the ground floor only. Further alterations where made in 1970decreasing the seating capacity to 399. Sold in 1979. The building was demolished in 1984. 


Smith, C 1984, 'Sorry folks the show's over', Fitzroy Voice, April/May.

The Regent theatre in Fitzroy was bought by HSV Channel 7 sometime in1960. And it was destined to become The Fitzroy Teletheatre.

In the 1950's this old Movie theatre, designed long before, with stalls and dress circle, a foyer that boasted a lofty stairway that turned tithe right and ascended to the next floor where patrons could further tread carpeted stairs that led to the dress circle, or wander to the right again, down past a kiosk dispensing soft drinks and snacks, to the further end where more steps again led to the circle, or the male and female toilets. (I stress the layout of the upper floor for a reason that will become clear later.)

On the ground floor there would have been the front of house ticket box, and possibly another kiosk, not only selling drinks and crisps but also ‘The Screen News,' a publication that, in the forties, was the size of the Herald Sun today, resplendent with sepia photos of all the up and coming Hollywood stars. Stars such as Roy Rogers, showing off his latest trailer home for him, his wife Dale Evans, and of course Trigger, Roy’s horse. Or perhaps a snap of the up and coming starlets, Terry Moore and Robert Wagner.

The stairs were marble, the draperies rich, the banisters polished, the decor opulent, the ushers and usherettes uniformed and vigilant.

Such were the suburban picture houses of the twenties, thirties, forties and fifties.

When the decision was made to acquire the theatre in Fitzroy, I do not know. It was said that Norman Spenser had much to do with it. His arrival at 7 certainly had a great impact on the Channel. After all, he had directed Graham Kennedy to the dizzying heights that soared Nine’s ratings into the heavens.

As photos of the part demolition and refurbishing show, the old cinematheatre was transformed into something never before encountered. Here was the resurrection, from old, Golden Age Movie Palace to new Television remote studio. In the beginning of the sixties in Melbourne, this was a revelation.

The upstairs area was divided off into a number of change and dressing rooms for Stars and Dancers. The Circle was simply abandoned. Most of the seating was left to drown in dust. Old, or broken or useless scenery, bits and pieces of props were all deposited up there amongst the forlorn seating.

But above again and at the rear of the Circle were the abandoned projection boxes, and a vertical ladder that led up into the roof. This became of great interest to various people later on.

Inside the theatre, beyond the Foyer, much of the forward ground floor front stalls were removed. The original timber stage, over which had hung that Silver Screen where-on Bogart and Bacall, Gable, Garbo and Garfield had moved and lived and loved, was left standing. The screen, of course, was of no further use. Nor were the old performers.

The area where the stall seats had been, was re-constructed into studio floor, reaching out from the old timber stage, deep into the audience area. Between the seats a 'run' complete with banisters, was built to house the crane-camera, the technical show-piece that raised t.v. camera 10 feet off the ground and moved it swiftly all over that vast, studio floor. Right up to the old boards, if required.

At the rear of the theatre, loomed the Control room. It was like a military block house. One door in, glass panels looking out to the studio floor. Lighting panel as you entered, Director, Switcher, Director’s Assistant, and Technical Director on the far left. Another glassed room. Audio. No Smoking.

On the extreme right of the audience, another low-set building, which waste technical workshop: maintenance and spare parts. Closer to stage right and the public male toilets is a small scenery bay and along the right wall on the stage is an area for the orchestra. On the stage itself there are the front tabs, drapes that mask off the bulk of the stage, and also some fly lines for backdrops. At the rear of the stage is a counter-weighted Cyclorama and a ground-row that curves to merge into the floor but is low enough to step over. All a pale blue to match the studio floor. When the rear Cyclorama is lifted up it reveals two large rear doors where scenery can be unloaded from vans sent from South Melbourne. In the far right corner there is another small props cage and a timber staircase that leads up to the next level. This is a partly covered walkway that connects to the Dress Circle and is used by cast and ballet, even in cold, windy and wet weather. At the extreme rear left of the stage are the fly-lines and beneath the old stage is a tunnel that leads to a rather unsavory, grunting and muttering pump that extracts seepage, and is somewhat unsettling in the half-light down there.

And this converted building was to become the sometime home of Consider Your Verdict, The Price Is Right, Sunny Side Up, Coles 3000 Pound Question, Homicide, Time for Terry, Video Village, and Daly at Night, The Deli and Daly Show and numerous other productions.


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