BOOK REVIEW: Sorry! House Full: An A to Z retrospective review of the cinemas of Sydney by Ian Hanson and Les Tod OAM; Foreword by Anthony Buckley AM
This book is an extraordinary achievement. Its 220 pages represent the triumphant culmination of seven years ‘hard labour’ by two of this country’s most knowledgeable—and resourceful—theatre historians, Ian Hanson and Les Tod OAM.
The authoritative text and more than 400 illustrations—many in colour—document around 70 cinemas in the Sydney CBD and inner suburbs. Many of these cinemas also served as live venues. Among the most notable were the Palace, the three Tivolis, the Capitol, the State, the various iterations of the Theatre Royal, the Empire/Her Majesty’s and the elegant Minerva in Kings Cross, presently the subject of a major preservation struggle. Indeed, the book is a sad reminder of how much entertainment history has been lost with the comparatively recent destruction of so many important cinemas and theatres.
A notable Sydney survivor is the Capitol, the only fully intact ‘atmospheric’ cinema left in this country. Its extraordinary evolution began in 1892 when the council built the New Belmore Markets on the site. In 1916 the building was repurposed as a circus venue, then in 1928 came its transformation into the spectacular ‘atmospheric’ Capitol cinema. After movies waned, the theatre hosted live shows but soon fell into disrepair. In 1992 a massive restoration project restored its glory, so today the Capitol is one of Sydney’s busiest live theatres. It’s currently hosting Moulin Rouge! The Musical. The Capitol’s surprising history, profusely and colorfully illustrated, is just one of the many delights to de discovered in this book.
The opening night of Wirths’ Circus Hippodrome, 3 April 1916
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney