Prince Edward Theatre

In the early 20th century, moving pictures became an increasingly popular attraction. They were generally considered a less acceptable form of entertainment than live theatre. Established theatre, particularly vaudeville, recognised this popularity and their stars attempted to incorporate moving pictures into their acts. For example in 1910, Houdini's Australian performances included moving pictures of his exploits. The public's craving for motion pictures increased greatly after the First World War. This resulted in the creation of specialised moving picture theatres in the major cities of Australia. In Sydney, the Prince Edward Theatre Beautiful and the State Theatre (1929) represented this trend.

The Prince Edward theatre opened in November 1924. It's elaborate style imitated that of live theatre venues. It was the goal of the proprietors to make the moving picture experience as special and as acceptable as the live theatre.

The Carroll's concept of theatre design and operation was heavily influenced by trends in the United States. This is shown by their employment of Americans and the importation of an American Wurlitzer organ. The operation was also designed to directly compete with the vaudeville venues of Sydney such as The Tivoli. The theatre was located between Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets Sydney, near King Street. It had two entrances, one on Castlereagh and one on Elizabeth. For those familiar with old Sydney, it's Castlereagh Street entrance was located opposite the Hotel Australia. Today the site is occupied by the Verandah building on Castelreagh Street opposite the MLC centre.

It was a beautifully presented and designed building. It's plush carpeting, marble foyer and rich blue and gold colour scheme were magnificent. The Castlereagh Street entrance was considered the main one. It was expected that patrons would gather there during intervals. The marble foyer contained several lounges for the purpose and was highlighted by a fountain with hidden lights as a centrepiece. The State Theatre, being almost contemporaneous with the Prince Edward, probably demonstrates similar opulence. Inside the auditorium, the stage was set at the Castlereagh Street end. Two tiers of seating faced it. The total capacity of the theatre was 1500 people . 800 in the stalls and 700 in the dress circle. One aspect of the Prince Edward which is remembered fondly by those who knew it, was the organ. It rose from the orchestra pit on an hydraulic lift. An unusual feature for the 1920s.

The theatre had the capacity to present stage and screen productions either separately or in combination. As such it was an indication of the evolution of entertainment in the country. It was a monument to the changing times when vaudeville was being replaced by the new and exciting world of film.
Location: Prince Edward Theatre, 36-42 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, NSW

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