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Astor Theatre, 1-9 Chapel St, St Kilda, VIC, Australia

Photographs None
List Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive)
Class Historic
Legal Status Identified through State processes
Place ID 101651
Place File No 2/11/046/0097
Statement of Significance
The Astor Theatre, designed by architect Ron Morton Taylor, was built by the contractors Clements Langford in 1935-36. It was officially opened on 3 April 1936 at a ceremony attended by the mayor and councillors of St Kilda and a large number of invited guests. The theatre is in the Jazz Moderne style with distinctive brickwork on the facade in cream and dark brown. Its facade includes a stepped parapet wall, a projecting bay flanked by three large recessed panels with casement windows, and a cantilevered awning with pressed metal ceiling. The projecting bay features an eight point star in bas relief with an illuminated neon sign and flanked by twelve illuminated, ascending stars. Beneath the theatre awning are four shopfronts and the theatre entrance. The side walls are red brick and the roof is corrugated iron.

The Astor Theatre has architectural, historical, social and scientific significance to the state of Victoria.

The Astor Theatre is architecturally significant as a highly intact, rare survivor of a Jazz Moderne, or Art Deco, style cinema. The Art Deco style was the predominant design of cinemas during the 1930s, but the Astor is one of only a small group of intact cinemas surviving from this period. It is also one of the earliest and most important examples of the suburban Art Deco cinemas. The exterior is relatively restrained in its decorative treatment, featuring distinctive brickwork, a stepped parapet and a neon sign. The interior includes important decorative details such as the entrance foyer with its terrazzo floor, staircase with wrought iron balustrade and polished timber handrail, and the distinctive spatial sequence of the foyers with the elliptical open well with fine chevron pattern friezes in wrought iron linking the ground floor foyer with the upstairs foyer, tiered ceilings, and characteristic Jazz Moderne foyer and auditorium decoration. It is a fine example of the work of the architect Ron Morton Taylor who had been a partner in the prominent firm of cinema architects Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson responsible for the design of the State Theatre, Flinders Street, Melbourne.

The Astor has historical and social significance for its associations with perhaps the most important mass entertainment of the twentieth century, the cinema. The scale of the theatre and the quality of its decoration evoke the popularity and glamour of cinema as entertainment, particularly during the heyday of cinema in the 1930s. The Astor Theatre, with its Moderne design, spacious foyers and its many original furnishings, objects and surviving early signage, symbolises the suburban cinema experience during the inter-war years when cinema-going reached its peak. The use of the theatre for Greek language films from 1969 until 1982 has associations with an important aspect of post-war life and demonstrates the impact of migration on Australian society.

The Astor Theatre is of historical and scientific significance for its collection of fixtures, fittings and movable objects which assist in an understanding of the history and development of film technology, including the original screen threaded on its frame still in situ, a 1929 Western Electric amplifier, original projector and original lighting rack.

This place is entered in the Victorian Heritage Register and the above statement is provided by Heritage Victoria.
The Australian Heritage Commission recognises the standards of historic assessment of Heritage Victoria and acknowledges that this place has national estate historic values. Enquiries concerning the assessment or conservation of this place should be directed in the first instance to Heritage Victoria.

Commonwealth authorities and bodies should contact the Australian Heritage Commission directly if any Commonwealth action is proposed in relation to this place.
Official Values Not Available
The theatre has undergone few alterations. The original ticket box in the centre of the entrance foyer has been removed. A sweets counter has been installed near the entrance and a door blocked which once led to the coffee lounge (now a laundromat) next door. The original opalene lights have been removed and replaced with chandelier style fittings. The stage has been extended into the body of the theatre reducing the seating capacity (originally 1673, now 1150). A new screen, 62 feet wide and 30 feet high, was recently installed with the original screen still threaded on its frame and a later one (from the Bercy Cinema, Bourke Street) still in situ. The original plaster proscenium surrounding coloured light boxes was removed and re-positioned 3 metres further back along the walls of the auditorium. A replica of the original proscenium surround, a triple stepped moulding, was made and forms the new proscenium opening. Spotlights, fan ceilings and air conditioning vents have been added. New carpet has been fitted to the upstairs foyers. Some seting from the ex-Hoyts Cinema, Malvern and the ex-Chelsea Cinema were installed. Many original furnishings, equipment and signage still remain, including a John Campbell vase, lounge chairs, sofas, tables (upstairs foyer with vase on top and in the ladies' cloakroom), the original 1929 Western Electric amplifier, original projector and original lighting rack.
History Not Available
Condition and Integrity
1-9 Chapel Street, corner Queens Way, St Kilda, as entered in the Victorian Heritage Register on 26/11/1998.
Victorian Heritage Register citation: H1751

Report Produced  Fri Jul 11 21:59:03 2014