Ritz Theatre | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Ritz Theatre

Item details

Name of item: Ritz Theatre
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Recreation and Entertainment
Category: Cinema
Location: Lat: -33.9200380912 Long: 151.2433489870
Primary address: 43 St Pauls Street, Randwick, NSW 2031
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Randwick
Local Aboriginal Land Council: La Perouse
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT101 DP1029883
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
43 St Pauls StreetRandwickRandwickAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address
39-47 St Pauls StreetRandwickRandwick  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The Randwick Ritz is a good example of a picture theatre showing the smaller scaling and reduced decoration often applied to suburban theatres. It is one of the few surviving examples of the hundreds of cinema which were built during the 1930's, the most creative period of cinematic design in Australia It has many fine pieces of Art Deco decoration in a restrained Art Deco setting.The Ritz Theatre is a record of the cinema culture of the 1930's. The building has an excellent ability to interpret aspirations, uses, tastes and importance of cinema in the society of the 1930s It is the last known surviving theatre by A.M. Bolot. Following demolition or alteration of most suburban picture theatres, it is now an important and rare survival.
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: A.M. (Aaron) Bolot
Builder/Maker: C & B.J Williams
Construction years: 1937-1937
Physical description: The Ritz Theatre is constructed of brick with a galvanised iron roof supported on angle steel trusses. It has seating capacity of about 900.

The Randwick Ritz was built on two levels in the Art Deco linear geometric style. The rendered facade reflects the early skyscraper style concept with a strong vertical emphasis expressed by vertical linear ribbing and reeding, as well as the stepped parapet. This feeling of strong verticality was even further emphasised by the deliberate stepping of the street awning over the entrance foyer doors. The awning itself retains its original pressed metal soffit, or underside lining, which is wholly decorated with characteristic geometric Art Deco motifs in a regular repeated pattern.

The Art Deco linear geometric style is relieved internally by curved walls to the main stair, half landing and curved corners in the foyer and first floor lounge. The auditorium is distinctive through its Art Deco lights in two panels of 9 wall lights to either side of the screen and the continuous ground glass box lighting with its chevron motif. The plaster decoration to the walls and ceiling is in geometric patterns in low relief with extensive use of grills and reveals. The detailing to the gilded plaster speaker boxes, which flank the main screen is particularly fine. (Commission of Enquiry 1985:10,18)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good. Archaeological potential is low.
Date condition updated:01 Oct 97
Modifications and dates: Built in 1937. Alterations made about 1954 to accomodate a wide screen. Interior redecorated around 1963.
Current use: Cinema
Former use: Cinema


Historical notes: pre-1780s - local Aboriginal people in the area used the site for fishing and cultural activities - rock engravings, grinding grooves and middens remain in evidence.
1789 - Governor Philip referred to 'a long bay', which became known as Long Bay.
Aboriginal people are believed to have inhabited the Sydney region for at least 20,000 years (Turbet, 2001). The population of Aboriginal people between Palm Beach and Botany Bay in 1788 has been estimated to have been 1500. Those living south of Port Jackson to Botany Bay were the Cadigal people who spoke Dharug (Randwick Library webpage, 2003), while the local clan name of Maroubra people was "Muru-ora-dial" (City of Sydney webpage, 2003). By the mid nineteenth century the traditional owners of this land had typically either moved inland in search of food and shelter, or had died as the result of European disease or confrontation with British colonisers (Randwick Library webpage, 2003).

Colonial History:
One of the earliest land grants in this area was made in 1824 to Captain Francis Marsh, who received 12 acres bounded by the present Botany & High Streets, Alison & Belmore Roads. In 1839 William Newcombe acquired the land north-west of the present town hall in Avoca Street.

Randwick takes its name from the town of Randwick, Gloucestershire, England. The name was suggested by Simeon Pearce (1821-86) and his brother James. Simeon was born in the English Randwick and the brothers were responsible for the early development of both Randwick and its neighbour, Coogee. Simeon had come to the colony in 1841as a 21 year old surveyor. He built his Blenheim House on the 4 acres he bought from Marsh, and called his property "Randwick". The brothers bought and sold land profitably in the area and elsewhere. Simeon campaigned for construction of a road from the city to Coogee (achieved in 1853) and promoted the incorporation of the suburb. Pearce sought construction of a church modelled on the church of St. John in his birthplace. In 1857 the first St Jude's stood on the site of the present post office, at the corner of the present Alison Road and Avoca Street (Pollen, 1988, 217-8).

Randwick was...slow to progress. The village was isolated from Sydney by swamps and sandhills, and although a horse-bus was operated by a man named Grice from the late 1850s, the journey was more a test of nerves than a pleasure jaunt. Wind blew sand over the track, and the bus sometimes became bogged, so that passengers had to get out and push it free. From its early days Randwick had a divided society. The wealthy lived elegantly in large houses built when Pearce promoted Randwick and Coogee as a fashionable area. But the market gardens, orchards and piggeries that continued alongside the large estates were the lot of the working class. Even on the later estates that became racing empires, many jockeys and stablehands lived in huts or even under canvas. An even poorer group were the immigrants who existed on the periphery of Randwick in a place called Irishtown, in the area now known as The Spot, around the junction of St.Paul's Street and Perouse Road. Here families lived in makeshift houses, taking on the most menial tasks in their struggle to survive.

In 1858 when the NSW Government passed the Municipalities Act, enabling formation of municipal districts empowered to collect rates and borrow money to improve their suburb, Randwick was the first suburb to apply for the status of a municipality. It was approved in Februrary 1859, and its first Council was elected in March 1859.

Randwick had been the venue for sporting events, as well as duels and illegal sports, from the early days in the colony's history. Its first racecourse, the Sandy Racecourse or Old Sand Track, had been a hazardous track over hills and gullies since 1860. When a move was made in 1863 by John Tait, to establish Randwick Racecourse, Simeon Pearce was furious, expecially when he heard that Tait also intended to move into Byron Lodge. Tait's venture prospered, however and he became the first person in Australia to organise racing as a commercial sport. The racecourse made a big difference to the progress of Randwick. The horse-bus gave way to trams that linked the suburb to Sydney and civilisation. Randwick soon became a prosperous and lively place, and it still retains a busy residential, professional and commercial life.

Today, some of the houses have been replaced by home units. Many European migrants have made their homes in the areaa, along with students and workers at the nearby University of NSW and the Prince of Wales Hospital. (ibid, 218-9).

The Ritz Theatre:
Aaron Bolot was born in 1900 in Crimea. To escape persecution against Jewish people, Bolot migrated to Brisbane in 1911. Bolot enrolled at Brisbane's Central Technical College to study architecture and graduated in 1926. Upon graduation he was awarded the Queensland Institute of Architects Gold medal.

Following graduation Bolot worked for Hollinshed and Gailey and whilst there assisted on two notable theatre projects, the Melbourne Comedy and Brisbane Regent.

In 1930 Bolot moved to Sydney and set up his own practice. He completed several building projects during the decade ranging from houses and multi-storeyed apartments buildings to incinerators and theatres. During this time Bolot worked with Walter Burley Griffin. Bolot produced drawings for Griffin for two incinerators, one located at Pyrmont and the other at Willoughby.

Bolot designed two theatres, the Hoyts Theatre at Goulburn described at that time as 'an outstanding example of its genre' and the Astra at Wyong. In 1937 Bolot designed the Randwick Ritz for his clients Randwick Estate Ltd. At the same time he also designed the Regal Theatre at Gosford.

In 1938 Bolot designed Ashdown located at 96 Eilzabeth Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay. Consisting of thirty-six apartments it is regarded as an outstanding building of interwar functionalist style. Later in 1938 Bolot remodelled the Melba Theatre in Melbourne which was renamed the New Liberty Theatre. In 1941 he remodelled West's Nowra Theatre.

In 1942 Bolot joined the army and served as a Warrant Officer in Egypt and New Guinea.

After the war Bolot resumed work as an architect and in 1948 designed the landmark apartment building located at 17 Wylde Street, Potts Point. Designed in 1948 and completed in late 1951 due to shortages in building materials, it was one of the largest buildings of any type to be constructed in the inner city area following the Second World War.

In 1965 Bolot married and lived with his wife in Gommerah an apartment block located at Darling Point designed by him in 1957.

In 1989 Bolot died leaving a legacy of innovative architecture. (Veale 1995:5-7)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the pictures/movies-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Ritz Theatre is one of the few surviving examples of the hundreds of cinema which were built during the 1930s, the most creative period of cinematic design in Australia. (A. Jean 1995:12)

It is an excellent example of the later expressionist style of cinemas showing the evolution of the theatre from the picture palaces of the 1920s, the french inspired art deco designs of early 1930's to the german influenced expressionist futuristic cinemas of the late 1930's.

It is an example of cinema design and philosophy reflecting the influences of the german dominated cinematic world of the 1920s rather than American Hollywood which has had a mjor and overpoering impact on the world for the past 50 years.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Ritz Theatre is aesthetically significant because the exterior and interior detailing and remaining fittings and finishes are excellent example of the 1930s crafts and skills which are of high aesthetic quality.

It is a very good example of A.M. Bolot's cinema architecture, and is the last surviving of his cinemas/ His early association with the architects Walter burley Griffin and Hollinshed and Gailey has particular significance for tracing the evolution of cinema design in Australia and represents a major cultural item in Australia's cinema history. (A. Jean 1995:12-13)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Ritz Theatre is socially significant because is is a record of the cinema culture of the 1930s. These values have undergone a metamorphosis since the 1930s. The building has an excellent ability to interpret aspirations, uses, tastes and importance of cinema in the society of the 1930s. (A. Jean 1995:12)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Ritz Theatre is of scientifc signifiance because it is an excellent record of a 1930's cinema which is substantially intact with all associated acoustic and ventilation panels, lighting systems, original materials and fabrics and projection room. (A. Jean 1995:13)
SHR Criteria f)
The Randwick Ritz has a major rarity value. The Randwick Ritz is one of the very few which remain in Sydney. it is comparable in architectural importance to the Orpheum in Cremorne. (A. Jean 1995:13)
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.

Recommended management:


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementDocument and prepare an archival record 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act

Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material:
(2) The minor repair of the building where minor repair means the repair of materials by patching, piercing-in, splicing and consolidating existing materials and including minor replacements of minor components such as individual bricks, cutstone, timber sections, tiles and slates where these have been damaged beyond reasonable repair or are missing. The replacement should be of the same material, colour, texture,tform and design as the original it replaces and the number of components it replaced should be substantially less than existing.
Mar 19 1993
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0034802 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0034819 Mar 93 26 
Local Environmental PlanRandwick Local Environmental Plan 1998 - Sch3 30 Apr 99   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Ritz Theatre View detail
WrittenAmanda Jean1995Heritage Assessment Randwick Ritz Theatre
WrittenArchitectural Proejcts P/L1996A conservation plan, plan of conservation management, an assessment of cultural significance, a state of conservation policy for the Ritz Cinema, Randwick
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Ritz Theatre View detail
WrittenO'Connell, Charles1985Inquiry pursuant to Seciton 41 or the Heritage Act 1977 into objections to the making of a permanent conservaiton order in respect of the buildings known as the Ritz Theatre, Randwick
WrittenPollon, F. & Healy, G.1988Randwick entry, in 'The Book of Sydney Suburbs'
WrittenSharon Veale1995Research Report on A. Bolot in Amanda Jean., Heritage Assessment Randwick Ritz Theatre
WrittenW Chapman1984National Trust Classification Card

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045406
File number: S90/04681/001-004 & HC 33112

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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