Crest Theatre | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Crest Theatre

Item details

Name of item: Crest Theatre
Other name/s: Hoyts Crest Theatre
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Recreation and Entertainment
Category: Cinema
Location: Lat: -33.8458485999 Long: 151.0099634010
Primary address: 157 Blaxcell Street, South Granville, NSW 2142
Local govt. area: Parramatta
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Gandangara
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT2 DP217971
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
157 Blaxcell StreetSouth GranvilleParramatta  Primary Address
Cnr Blaxcell and Redfern StreetsSouth GranvilleParramatta  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
The Australian Blouza Assocation Inc.Religious Organisation 

Statement of significance:

The former Hoyts Crest Theatre, corner of Blaxcell and Redfern Streets, Granville South, designed by Cowper, Murphy and Associates and built by A. W. Edwards Pty Ltd is of State significance. The cinema is one of the very few cinemas built in the late 1940s.

The interior of the Crest Theatre reflects the cinema designs of the late 1930s continued into the post- World War II period in a simplified manner and, as such, is rare in New South Wales.

The interior features intact decorative plasterwork, light fittings, drapery, candy bar and entry foyer, all largely intact. They have high aesthetic significance and their style is unique among the cinemas of New South Wales.

The theatre's distinctive facades, original signage and corner location make it a prominent landmark in the locality.

This building has social significance, as a local cinema from 1948 until 1963 and since then has been adapted for use as a public hall for social and entertainment purposes.
Date significance updated: 11 Jun 02
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: Cowper, Murphy and Associates
Builder/Maker: A. W. Edwards Pty Ltd
Construction years: 1948-1948
Physical description: The Crest is of Quonset design with one level, vaulted ceiling auditorium, using steel frame construction and with a vestibule/amenity block running parallel to the theatre on the Redfern Street side of the block.

The exterior walls are of concrete with stucco finish. The corner entrance to the cinema has two facades at ninety degrees, which are lower than the main Blaxcell Street stepped faade. The junction of the corner facades is accented with a tapered vertical pier with an art deco motive above the faade below the tip of the pier. On either side of the pier is the name 'Crest' in script style large neon lettering. Between the lower and taller Blaxcell Street facades is a large, prominent, triangular concrete pier with five protruding circles which originally contained the letters - H - O -Y - T - S. This has more recently been replaced with the letters B - I - N - G - O.

The corner facades have a curved, cantilevered awning, which featured the word "Crest" at the corner in the same lettering style as the neon signs. A row of small light bulbs outlined the bottom edge of the awning.

Below the awning at the street frontage a display board is situated on the splayed corner below the tapered pier. A bank of six glass-paned, wooden-panelled doors is sited on either side of the splayed corner with a small maquee sign above each bank of doors. These doors open onto the tiled-floor vestibule with the box-office on the inner wall directly behind the entrance doors. There are two entrances to the main theatre, the first beside the box-office and the second at the mid-point of the theatre. Both entrances have their original deep red velvet curtains. The vestibule is painted in a light colour and around a mirror behind the splayed corner, above the doors, box-office windows and along the walls at the two metre mark is very decorative lighter coloured plasterwork in art-nouveau style. The plasterwork partially overlaps the top of the door entrances. The architrave plasterwork is simpler in style and the ceiling lighting has banks of four circular lights, each in a diamond pattern, edged with decorative plaster applique and separated by pairs of fluorescent tubes.

The original candy bar is sited on a higher level at the rear of the vestibule with two doors on the rear wall giving access to the toilets. The Crest and the Castle at Granville were the first to be permitted to use stainless steel flat back urinal stalls, the use of which the Water Board had not previously approved.

The auditorium floor was sloped to accommodate the stalls seating, and has a stepped platform gallery towards the rear, with the projection box behind this 'lounge' section. In recent years the sloped floor was removed and replaced with a flat floor. The curved proscenium splay walls swept up to the curve of the acoustic ceiling, following the line of the roof arch. Shell-like light fittings are arranged one above the other on either side of the stage opening, from ceiling to floor. The front of the stage is edged with polished wooden paneling and at its centre is a protruding alcove in which the Hammond organ was originally installed. On either side of the organ is a curved stairway of six steps narrowing at the stage level. Between each of the steps and the proscenium are curved stage projections forming an edging to the steps.

Exit doorways on the angled proscenium wings have elaborate art nouveau plasterwork particularly around the circular ventilators above the doors. The proscenium wings do not extend to the ceiling and their top edge which curves downwards to the side walls is accented with large plasterwork decoration which projects into the space above each wing. This plasterwork extends along each wall to the rear of the theatre with semicircular decoration above each doorway. There is an exterior door on the opposite side of the theatre to the vestibule and this door opens onto the grassed area beside the cinema.

The main curved acoustic ceiling has an elaborate plaster pseudo latticework decoration reminiscent of the theatre ceilings of the early 1920s. On the lower curve above the walls this breaks into bands of different styles of plasterwork in vertical panels with the higher panels in a pink colour. Plasterwork extends over and incorporates air vents on the sidewalls.

The cinema's original pelmet drapes in deep crimson and outlined in gold brocade are still in position. The proscenium arch is highly decorated in large art nouveau style plasterwork.

The main theatre auditorium lighting is provided by two rows of five chandeliers along each edge of the main curved ceiling.

At the rear of the auditorium along each side wall is a thirteen step stairway to the upper gallery, edged in polished timber and with the original "Hoyts" carpet still in position.

The cinema's architectural style and period is post-Art Deco, post-Moderne eclecticism (R. Thorne et al.)

The Crest is currently in excellent condition with the majority of its interior and exterior decoration intact from the late 1940s. The only modification of note was the removal of the raked flooring in the auditorium and minor exterior signage changes. In the early 1990s the exterior was repainted, new Colorbond roofing was iinstalled and the lavatories were modernised.

The theatre was used for Bingo until late 2001and is currently used for functions on an occasional basis
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building is in excellent condition with the majority of its internal and external decoration intact from the late 1940s. The only modifications of note have been the removal of the raked flooring in the auditorium and minor exterior signage changes.
Date condition updated:13 Mar 07
Modifications and dates: 1948: constructed.
1963: following its closure as a cinema, the raked floor was rebuilt as a flat floor and the theatre was converted into a ballroom.
After 1963: the 'Crest' neon lettering was removed from the vestibule entrance.
Mid-1990s: the vertical 'Hoyts' lettering on the façade was replaced with 'Bingo'.
Current use: venue for Bingo, balls and events
Former use: Cinema

History

Historical notes: Granville:
The territory of the Dharug (or Sydney language grouping of) Aborginal people is thought to have stretched from the narrow neck of land between Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay, spreading in a widening arc towards and through the Blue Mountains. Within the Dharug language area were two distinct sub-groups who differed both in language and culture. One comprised those who lived by the coast and harbour, whose main food supply was fish and other types of seafood - called the "katungal" group (also known as the Eora). The other Dharug sub-group included all those who lived inland - the "paiendra", who used stone tomahawks to hunt possums in the trees (Flynn, 1995b, 10).

The Aboriginal people of Parramatta ("the place where the eels sit down") were the Burramattagal. Their land marked the border between the two Dharug cultures of the harbour and the inland (Flynn, 1995a, 7). It is uncertain as to which which Dharug grouping they belonged, but the evidence suggests that they were the westernmost Katungal clan. The early colonial commentator Watkin Tench states that the Aboriginal people of Parramatta spoke the coastal dialect. Yet, although the Burramattagal fished in the Parramatta River at the narrow western extremity of the harbour, like the Katungal, it seems likely that they derived most of their food from land and freshwater sources, like the paiendra. "Theirs was undoubtedly a borderline culture" (Flynn, 1995b, 10).

Thomas Fowlie's unpublished "History of Granville", 1918, incorporated his own observations from living in the district since 1886 as well as oral history testament from elderly residents of the area, whose memories stretched back to the first half of the nineteenth century. Fowlie described middens along Clay Cliff Creek, Duck River and the Parramatta River, suggesting that for thousands of years the Buttamattagal economy incorproated fish and shellfish. He also mentioned two significant Aboriginal camping and ceremonial sites in the area: one on the corner of Union Street and Woodville Road, Granville, just a few blocks from the current loation of the Granville Town Hall; the other within the Elizabeth Farm Estate. He noted that:

"The whole of the district and surrounding country was covered with a dense large timbered forest. Granville was especially noted for its fine trees, which were a source of wealth for years afterwards to the timber getters. . . The district being well watered and heavily timbered was naturally a great resort of native fauna. . . I have been assured by old Colonists of the vast numbers of wild ducks and other water frequenting fowls that disported in the river and creeks in the early days" (Flynn, 1995a, 162-3).

Fowlie also noted that "in those early days" of the colony, Aboriginal people camped in their preferred two sites when they visited the district to receive their allocation of blankets:

"During those visits they indulged in great revelry and held corrobborees nightly. They were patronised and visited by many of the youth of Parramatta till they became a public nuisance and had to be moved on. Those yearly visits of aborigines gradually became less in numbers . . . Till by the close of the seventies they had ceased to come" (Flynn, 1995a, 164).

When Europeans first explored the Parramatta and Duck rivers in 1788, the area now known as Granville was covered in a dense forest of stringybark, blackbutt, box and ironbark trees. The junction of the two rivers (site of the suburbs of Camellia and Rosehill) was a significant meeting place for the Cadigal from the east and western Dharug peoples, such as the Wategora, Burramattagal and Bidjigal. An Aboriginal forest track also connected the coast and the headwaters of the main river feeding the harbour, and it appears that colonial authorities adopted it to build the road connecting the settlements at Sydney Cove and Rose Hill (Parramatta). This road - the colony's major artery - ran through what is now Granville (Dictionary of Sydney staff writer, 2008).

The 10th Governor of NSW, Charles FitzRoy, set up a hunt club in Granville in the late 1840s to pursue the wild dogs that infested the area. The main road in the area was called Dog Trap Road until 1879 when it was renamed Woodville Road (Parramatta Sun, 16/9/2010). Another pest of the highway (Parramatta Road/Great Western Highway) was the bushranger, preying upon settlers. The first industry in Granville was timber-getting, with the surrounding country heavily covered with gum, box and ironbark trees. The timber, cut by pit-sawyers, was used in many Parramatta district buildings and quantities were also transported to Sydney via the Duck and Parramatta Rivers. Charcoal burners were also active in the early years, providing fuel for householders and blacksmiths' forges (Pollen & Healy, 1988, 114).

The township developed following the construction of the railway in 1855 from Sydney to Granville, which was originally called Parramatta Junction. It was initially a fruit-growing area for the colonists and well-known for its oranges and other citrus fruit (Graham Edds & Associates, 2000).

Subdivision of the area began after the railway came through in 1855, and from 1862 the (Garnham Blaxcell's) Drainwell estate was being subdivided (Pollen & Healy, 1988). By the mid-1870s Granville had become a popular site for the erection of "gentlemen's villas". John Nobbs was a major figure among the early group of gentlemen, tradesmen and workers who settled at Granville (Graham Edds & Associates, 2000).

In 1878 the locality received its own post office, which was then part of the station master's house. In 1880 the population was 372, of which 172 were male. In this era German settlers Joseph Klein and P.W. Merkell tried to establish vineyards in the area, but eventually found the land was not suited for this type of agriculture. More farmers discovered the limitations of the local soil and fruit growers complained about damage from flying foxes (bats). The only practical use for the grasslands, which replaced the original bushland, was for dairy cattle. The towhship retained the name of Parramatta Junction until 1880 when public meetings voted to change the name to Granville, in honour of the Earl of Granville, George Leveson-Gower, who had been the 1851 English Colonial Secretary (Parramatta Sun, 16/9/10), later (1870-74 and 1880-85) English Foreign Minister (Dictionary of Sydney staff writer, 2008; Pollen & Healy, 1988, 114).

A significant boost to the area came with the establishment in 1881 of the Hudson Brothers engineering works nearby at Clyde. A workforce had to be recruited and housed. On 12 February 1884, a petition calling for incorporation of the area was published in the Government Gazette, and in January 1885, Granville was officially gazetted and incorporated as a municipality. John Nobbs was elected the first Mayor, and enjoyed a reputation as the "Father of Granville". Council meetings were initially held in the School of Arts building in Good Street, north of the railway line.

In 1888 Granville Council decided to erect its own Town Hall to celebrate the centenary of European settlement in Sydney. The foundation stone was laid by John Nobbs on 5 September 1888. In his speech at the ceremony, John Nobbs as Mayor referred to the rapid growth of Granville over the decade. From 12 or 13 houses, it had grown to 900 buildings including 760 houses, 60 shops, two banks, three public halls including a School of Arts, seven churches, two public schools and 13 factories, of which, two were the largest in the colony: Hudson Brothers and Brunton's (Flour) Mills.
The official opening of Granville Council Chambers was held on 16 January 1889.

In 1949 Granville was incorporated into Parramatta City Council. The Granville Town Hall, though no longer a seat of local government, has continued to be a municipal facility and is used for local events and ceremonies (Graham Edds & Associates, 2000).

The Crest Cinema:
Cinema was first established in the suburb of Granville at the Granville Picture Palace which opened on Saturday 3rd September, 1910 on land adjacent to the old Post Office in Railway Parade.

In 1911 Alfred James Beszant organized screenings of films at Granville Town Hall on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In 1919 Beszant became the sub-lessee of the Picture Palace.

The Castle Theatre in South Street was erected in 1911 in a paddock in South Street and was capable of seating 800 people. The Castle had lofty castellated towers, search light, arc lights, small coloured electric lights and a screen larger than the Sydney Glaciarium. The electric lighting was powered by a dynamo driven by a steam engine in the nearby woolen mills.

In 1923 Granville Cinema Ltd was formed with the principal shareholder Alfred James Beszant of the Avenue, Granville. This company took over the operations of both the Castle and Picture Palace. This company built the Granville Cinema on the corner of Parramatta Road and Good Street, which opened on 28th April, 1924 which has since been demolished.

The Granville South Crest cinema was built by Hoyts' Western Suburbs Cinemas Ltd on land leased at the corner of Blaxcell and Redfern Streets from its owners, the Roman Catholic Church. It was the second of two Quonset cinemas built in Granville by Western Suburbs Cinemas, the first being the Granville Hoyts Castle in South Street which opened on 26th December, 1947 and was built on the site of the original 1911 Castle Theatre (this theatre still survives but has been heavily modified and is now used as a public space).

The Crest opened on Easter Saturday, 27th March, 1948 with 'The Swordsman' and 'Dangerous Years.' Both theatres were designed by Cowper, Murphy and Associates and built by A. W. Edwards Pty Ltd.

The Crest seated 852 and was similar in construction to the Castle.

Mr L. (Nobby) Clark was the Crest's first manager and he stayed until 1956. In 1963 he was recalled to close the theatre.

A Hammond electric organ was installed in front of the stage and, for a time in its early years, Miss Ruby Coulson (well-known in the Auburn area) played at picture screenings.

In the early 1960s the Crest operated only on Saturdays before screening its final programme on Saturday 24th August, 1963. The theatre then reverted to its previous owner, the Roman Catholic Church. At this time the raked floor was rebuilt as a flat floor and the theatre was converted into a ballroom and used for a variety of social functions, particularly as a Bingo centre. The original projection equipment was removed when Hoyts vacated the building.

In the early 1990s the exterior was repainted and the asbestos roofing was replaced with new Colorbond roofing. The interior ceiling was repaired and the lavatories were modernised.

In the mid 1990s the five circle 'Hoyts' lettering on the faade's vertical concrete triangular plane was replaced with five letters making up the word 'Bingo'. Otherwise the interior and exterior are mostly intact.

In more recent years the Crest has been the venue for the annual Cointreau Ball, the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Cinema & Theatre Society and was featured in Anthony Buckley's television series of Poor Man's Orange (adapted from the novel by Ruth Park). In late 2001 Bingo ceased and the cinema is presently vacant except for occasional functions.

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. Building and using prefabricated structures-
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. Postwar use of Nissen, Quonset and Saar huts-
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 Going to the bingo-
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 Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Operating amusement facilities by religious bodies-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Crest Theatre in South Granville is of state significance in being only one of two Quonset cinemas built in New South Wales and the only one which survives intact. It is also one of few cinemas built in the 1940s and incorporates the pre-fabricated Quonset structural system creatively adapted to civilian use.

The cinema is therefore a rare, surviving intact example of a wartime cinema and is highly significant in demonstrating the history of cinema in New South Wales.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Crest Theatre has local significance in relation to the following people of note in the Granville area:
- Miss Ruby Coulson who played the electric organ in the early years of the cinema
- Mr L (Nobby) Clark, who was the cinema's first manager (1948-1956).
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Crest Theatre is of state significance as a rare example of interior cinema design from the 1940s and post-World War Two.

The interior is aesthetically distinctive and features original decorative plasterwork, light fittings, drapery, and original candy bar. According to the Movie Theatre Heritage Register for NSW prepared by Professor Ross Thorne in 1996, the interior of the Crest Theatre is almost totally intact and its original features and decorative plasterwork are unique in New South Wales.The cinema was rated as Category 1 building for its originality and intactness.

The cinema is also a prominent local landmark.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Crest Theatre is of local social significance as a cinema from 1948 until 1963 and as a venue for local entertainment following adaptation for use as a public hall for social and entertaining purposes.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Crest Theatre is unlikely to display archaeological potential relating to former uses. It does display research potential in relation to surviving prefabricated wartime structures (ie Nissen and Quonset huts), their re-use for civilian purposes, and in relation to cinema design and decoration.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Crest Theatre is of state significance for being one of two surviving Quonset style cinemas in New South Wales. Its intact interior decorative scheme is unique in New South Wales.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Crest Theatre is a representative example of a suburban theatre, many of which were built in the post-war period. It is a good example of an ex-military Quonset hut creatively adapted to civilian use.
Integrity/Intactness: This building and its interior and exterior decoration is almost totally intact.
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
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.

FRANK SARTOR
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

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0166401 Aug 03 1217597
Local Environmental Plan     
National Trust of Australia register      

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCork, K.1986A History of the Cinemas of the Former Municipality of Granville.
WrittenDictionary of Sydney, The (staff writer)2008Granville entry, in The Dictionary of Sydney View detail
WrittenGraham Edds & Associates2000Granville Town Hall Conservation Management Plan
WrittenQuint, G.2002Classification Report: Former Hoyts Crest Theatre
WrittenR. Thorne L. Tod K. Cork.1996Movie Theatre Heritage Register for New South Wales 1896-1996.
WrittenSharp, B.1982A Pictorial History of Sydney’s Suburban Cinemas, Volume 1.

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: 5053520
File number: H03/00113


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