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Adelaide’s Lost Picture Theatres; Part One

How many old picture theatres can you remember from the ‘golden era’ of when going to the pictures was a special event.

I’ve already touched on the wonderful Regent Theatre in Rundle Street, now the Regent Arcade. But can you also remember the Rex or the Savoy, how about the Metro or the Majestic. Here are some of those wonderful old theatres you might recall.

Rex Picture Theatre

Photo from Frank Hall. Rex Picture Theatre probably about the early ‘50s.

Photo from Frank Hall. Rex Picture Theatre just before demolition in the early 60s.

Here’s a photo of the Rex Picture Theatre in Rundle St which closed and was demolished in 1961 to make way for extensions to the Cox-Foys Building.

The Rex apparently replaced an earlier picture theatre called ‘The Pav’ or the Pavillion which was the first theatre in South Australia to show pictures continuously, from 11am until 11pm. This is going back a bit but does anyone have any memories of the Rex?





The Savoy

The Savoy, also in Rundle St, showed the latest newsreels from Cinesound Review or Movietone News.

Photo by Frank Hall. Hoyts Savoy Theatrette. I have fond memories of going there and watching the newsreels to fill in time. Note how beautiful and ornate the building was.

Photo by Frank Hall. Hoyts Savoy Theatrette. I have fond memories of going there and watching the newsreels to fill in time. Note how beautiful and ornate the building was.

I think from memory it was 1/- for a child’s ticket (not sure about adults) and the sessions would run for about an hour.

Newsreel Theatrettes originally started during the war years when people were anxious to find out the latest developments from the front, and lasted until the early 60s by which time TV had come along and taken away their audience.

You would get the latest newsreels (just a few weeks old), and generally a comedy short like a ‘Steve Smith Special’, and possibly a cartoon.

The Savoy closed in 1961 and became ‘The Globe’ which only lasted 18 months, closing in 1963.

The York

Photo by Frank Hall. The York in Rundle Street was demolished when Gawler Place was widened on the 60s

Photo by Frank Hall. The York in Rundle Street was demolished when Gawler Place was widened on the 60s

The York was located on the corner of Rundle St and Gawler Place. It was a tall building with a very narrow entrance (when you consider its seating capacity).

It was originally built by the Greater Wondergraph Theatres chain and opened in 1921.

The side walls of the auditorium had painted landscapes, representing Australasian scenery, the work of decorator George Coulter.

The York Theatre was taken over by the Greater Union Theatres chain in January 1929.

It was modernised in May 1938 when it became a first run release house for MGM films. It was finally demolished in the 1960s for the widening of Gawler Place.

Plaza Theatre

Here’s a photo of the side lane off Rundle Street in 1961 showing the Plaza Theatre.

The Plaza was erected out of the old Embassy Ballroom. It opened in 1955 and was off Rundle St, down the lane from the Regent Theatre.

In February 1966, the Plaza was renamed the Paris Theatre and opened with its new signage and the blockbuster, The Sound of Music, which ran for two years.

Shortly after, it was demolished to make way for the Regent 2. I have vivid recollections of this lane being decorated with hundreds of miniature hot air balloons for the David Niven film, Around the World in Eighty Days.

More theatres to come in our next post, Adelaide’s Lost Picture Theatres, Part Two.

12 Responses to Adelaide’s Lost Picture Theatres; Part One

  1. barbara November 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    I worked at the majestic in king william street from 1965 till 1967

  2. Adrian miller November 11, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    I visited everyone of them in the 1950’s, there were wonderful films in those days

  3. marjorie brown November 12, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    My memories of the Rex Theatre are that it was considered rather down market to the Regent while the York as I recall showed English Rank films. I remember seeing at the York Theatre The Desert Song with Rise Stevens and Nelson Eddy. Perhaps notable because Nelson Eddy usually sang with Jeanette McDonald.

    • STEPHEN BUGE April 14, 2022 at 1:29 am #


  4. william cotter March 19, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    Went to the Majestic theatre in King William st. [ now the Southern Cross arcade ] in 1960 and saw Zulu starring Michael Caine , Stanley Baker , Jack Hawkins .

  5. Katherine Halsey March 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    I think the Majestic was further along toward Victoria Square?

  6. Tom Mahoney August 19, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    maybe that was The Warner Theatre

    • barry james June 6, 2018 at 10:52 pm #

      The Majestic theatre was renamed Warner. not sure what year

  7. Bob Harris September 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    The Rex, Regent and the York were my favourite theatres, and I would attend at least 2 and often 3 of them a week during 1958 -1960. I collected the Pass Outs as I often only watched the one movie, but next time I went there I looked to see which Pass Out was being used for that session and see if it matched one I had already collected. I would then use that to get in. Over the period of near 30 months, I went to the pictures 277 times. I recorded the name and details of each picture I saw and what type it was in a “little black book”, which now tells me that Westerns were my most popular (62 films) followed by thrillers (60 films). I liked the Regent with its grandiose interior and the Wurlitzer organ played at interval time.
    I often also did the newsreal at the Savoy on my way down Rundle Street to the bigger theatres.
    Those were the days.

  8. Lynne Boothey December 30, 2020 at 3:13 am #

    We had a permanent booking at the Regent – in the Dress Circle – every Saturday night. It was wonderful with the Grand Piano coming up through the stage before the movie began. If we had seen the film we would sell the tickets and go to the Dulwich, Marryatville or an Unley Theatre. One night I found a 20 pound note and handed it in. The next week they let me have it as no one had claimed it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any films I saw there.
    On Sat. afternoons my cousin and I would go to the Rex to see a Western.
    The Savoy was wonderful for an hour’s break during shopping. It was a shilling for everyone and you could sit there all day if you wanted and the news was repeated every hour.
    I saw ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘The King and I ‘ at the Savoy.
    At the Theatre on King William Street I remember seeing ‘The Blob’. In those days that was
    At one of the Unley Theatres I remember seeing ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’.
    What about the theatre in Hindley Street before ‘Her Majesty’s’ was built. I remember seeing Tommy Steele there. Don’t remember what it was called?? – not a picture theatre though.

  9. Stanley Brett Afford January 13, 2021 at 11:16 am #

    I remember in the 1950s coming down from the Mid North and seeing the newsreels continuously running and I thought it was fantastic !
    Very disappointed when it closed and no longer there when I came to Adelaide

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