Hindley St cyclorama and rink becomes Adelaide's first picture theatre, West's, in 1908

Some of the art deco style of West's cinema in Hindley Street remains in its new role as Adelaide Symphony Orchestra's Grainger Studio.
 

Adelaide's first permanent cinema was in Hindley Street on the site of the cyclorama and the Olympia skating rink. Cinema chain owner T. J. West bought the site and revamped it as West’s Picture Theatre. It opened in December 1908.

In 1939, West decided to knock down the theatre and build a modern one in its place. (The theatre is now the home of Adelaide Symphony Orchestra as the Grainger Studio  – named after Percy Grainger.)

By 1912, several silent movie picture theatres were built, mainly around Hindley Street.

The Empire Theatre opened alongside the newly-built 1901 Central Market in Grote Street.

The style of picture theatre buildings was influenced by the American cinema industry. They were often ornate and the most flamboyant building in the streetscape.

Two former cinema buildings survive as substantial shops along Rundle Mall.

One is the five-storey Lotteries Commission building at 23-25 Rundle Mall which was a former Grand Picture Theatre built for sole proprietor Alfred Drake. He held a grand opening in November 1916 for the city’s mayor and other dignitaries before it was premiered to the public the next day with The Fool's Revenge.

It closed in 1976, having also been known at different times as the Mayfair and Sturt cinemas.

 

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First picture show in Adelaide at Theatre Royal in 1896; Salvation Army doco made in 1899

The first public film show in South Australia was at the Theatre Royal in 1896 – within a year of the Lumière brothers’ first film screening in Paris. There were also screenings at the Beehive building (1896) and the YMCA’s Victoria Hall (1897) in Galwer Place. Each of these first films in Adelaide, depicting dancers and American folk heroes, lasted just under one minute. In 1897, Wybert Reeve, manager of the Theatre Royal, became the colony’s first travelling “picture showman”, screening 30 short films in metropolitan and country towns. But the novelty of moving pictures lasted just over a year. From 1898 to 1905, only occasional picture shows were presented. But during that time, the first film to be made in South Australia, General William Booth boards SS Arcadia at Largs Bay (1899), was shot by Joseph Perry of the Salvation Army. Adelaide Town Hall was used occasionally in 1906-10 as a cinema under names such as Tait’s, Bruce’s, Peacock’s and Prince’s. The Black Eagle Hotel on the corner of Hindmarsh Square and Pirie Street in 1909 had an open air cinema called Paris on the site of the former Elite Skating Rink. Another open air cinema was on the present site of the Adelaide Hilton. In 1906, when cinema regained the popularity, local and interstate entrepreneurs would produce local shorts such as Happenings Taken at the Adelaide Show, Adelaide’s Fire Service and Animated Adelaide. These would be shown at night in a vacant hall.
 

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