Cremorne Orpheum Theatre | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Cremorne Orpheum Theatre

Item details

Name of item: Cremorne Orpheum Theatre
Other name/s: Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Recreation and Entertainment
Category: Cinema
Primary address: 380 Military Road, Cremorne, NSW 2090
Parish: Willoughby
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: North Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
380 Military RoadCremorneNorth SydneyWilloughbyCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The Cremorne Orpheum like the Roxy at Parramatta, was built to rival the city cinemas, and accordingly is a large and impressively detailed building. Designed by eminent theatre architect, George Newton Kenworthy, its intriciate and lavish ornamentation exemplifies the successful use of Art deco stylism in popular architecture and with original fittings and decoration intact, it survives as one of the best surviving examples of Art Deco cinema design in Sydney.

Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include information on landscape significance, interiors or the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are updated by Council as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conversation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Date significance updated: 21 Nov 19
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: George Newton Kenworthy
Builder/Maker: F. T. Eastment and Sons Pty Ltd
Construction years: 1934-1935
Physical description: The Cremorne Orpheum is an extravagant and lively Art Deco conception, and a particularly sumptuous example of a thirties suburban cinema. The horizontal facade is lined with shops. The entrance to the cinema is impressively defined with stepped awning and stepping metal and glass light prisms over the doors. The interior remains remarkably unaltered. The two tiered auditorium exemplifies Art Deco whimsy and fantasy; it features two 'gambolling Nordic nudes' ensconced in backlit niches beside the stage, grasping disc-like suns in their outstretched hands. The ornately modelled plaster ceiling sets off chrome and glass light prisms. The decorative proscenium arch outlines a stage built both for vaudeville and cinema screenings, while a series of wall panels at the rear of the auditorium, reveals a gradually ascending sun. The foyers too are in character.This building is designed in the Inter-War Art Deco style.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Alterations internally to allow for additional cinema screens, including removal of original retail arcade. Steel windows at first floor along Military Road removed and in-filled.
Current use: Multiplex cinema
Former use: Single-screen cinema, live theatre, ground floor retail arcade


Historical notes: The Italian-Australian Virgona family led by Angelo Virgona, ran the North Sydney Orpheum on the corner of Alfred Street and Junction Street in North Sydney from 1913 (renovated in 1924). The North Sydney Orpheum was resumed and demolished in 1968 for the new Warringah Expressway. In 1934, Virgona commissioned a new cinema further north in the Cremorne area in 1934 with an Art Deco design by prominent architect George Newton Kenworthy, who allowed for the theatre to also be used for live stage productions. Completed at a cost of over £45,000, the Cremorne Orpheum Theatre was officially opened on 4 October 1935 by the Member of Parliament for Neutral Bay, Reginald Weaver. On its opening the Sydney Morning Herald noted that it was "designed on strictly modern lines, especially with regard to acoustic response and internal furnishings. It is regarded as one of the most up-to-date structures of the kind in Australia."

After a failed attempt to sell the theatre in 1971, it remained a family operated cinema until the Orpheum closed in 1979, a fate shared by many other suburban cinemas across Sydney, with the cinema concealed behind ground floor retail uses. The theatre was acquired in 1987 by a new owner, television personality Mike Walsh, at a cost of $2.5 million, who commissioned restoration works that transformed the theatre into a multiplex cinema, with the addition of a second screen in the former Ballroom area. The 1987 restoration also added a 1925 Wurlitzer pipe-organ that was originally installed in the Wilson Theatre in Fresno, California until 1973, and it is often played at selected film screenings. Rechristened as the "Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace", it reopened on 9 December 1987, and a third and fourth screens were added in the 1990s. Two more screens were added in 2000 in the place of the former shopping arcade.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural Styles and Periods - Inter-war Art Deco-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with George Newton Kenworthy, architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria f)
This item is assessed as aesthetically rare statewide.
SHR Criteria g)
This item is assessed as historically representative statewide. This item is assessed as socially representative regionally.
Integrity/Intactness: Good - altered internally and externally
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanNorth Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2013I006602 Aug 13   
Local Environmental Plan - LapsedCremorne Orpheum Theatre119801 Jun 01   
Local Environmental Plan - LapsedCremorne Orpheum Theatre 03 Nov 89   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
North Sydney Heritage Study Review19931198Tony Brassil, Robert Irving, Chris Pratten, Conybeare MorrisonTB September 1992 Yes

References, internet links & images


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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2181198

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