The Sun Theatre is my favourite cinema. While not the closest to where I live, it is not so far out of the way that I feel put out to go there. Nestled at the top end of Ballarat Street in Yarraville, an inner western suburb of Melbourne, The Sun is literally a beacon for the area.
So why do I like the Sun? For a start it is Art Deco. It opened in 1938 and displays several telegrams in the foyer from various Hollywood stars celebrating the first night. But by the 1990s, the building had been derelict for about 20 years and was looking in very bad shape. That was the first time I saw it. Within a few years part of the building had been restored and a film society operated at weekends. Blankets were even provided through the cool Melbourne winter to help keep patrons warm in the unheated auditorium.
Since those early days, the whole building has been restored and turned into a multiplex. I can feel you gasping in horror but believe me, this is the best multiplex you are ever likely to see.
The foyer looks like a proper cinema foyer, perhaps not as it would have been in the 1930s but the terrazzo floor has been resurrected and the ticket box and candy bar have a very sympathetic deco feel.
In 2003 four cinemas were opened in the original Sun building. They were named after the other cinemas that used to be in neighbouring suburbs but have long since gone.
The Grand is the biggest cinema and has been turned around 180 degrees so that the original proscenium arch is now at the back of the auditorium. The walls feature banks of lighted alcoves with plaster work creating a striking chevron effect,
The Barkly occupies the original dress circle and features curving brown stripes which seem to continue onto the curtains. By the way, the curtains in all four cinemas are brilliant because the people that own it also make cinema curtains.
The Trocadero has been restored so that some of the original art deco plasterwork has been retained and new pieces had been created from moulds of the remaining plaster.
The fourth cinema in the building is The Lyric which is intimate with a private bar area making it perfect for that special party.
In 2006, two further cnemas were opened.
La Scala offers luxury film viewing from beautiful leather couches and seats and is named after an Italian cinema which operated from Barkly St, Footscray.
The final cinema is called The Davis which honours Brian Davis who was a major benefactor to the restored Sun. He was a projectionist there in the 1950s and many of the features in new cinemas such as the telegrams in the foyer, the original cinema seats and the fantastic Wurlitzer organ were donated by him.
As great as the interior has been restored, my favourite part of the building in the neon sun on the roof. Separate rays light up to complete the semi-circular sunburst. Anytime I cross the Yarra River on the Westgate Bridge after dark, I look for that glowing sun and I feel good. I feel everyone on the bridge should be looking to Yarraville to make sure The Sun is still shining.
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