Monday, February 25, 2008

Sun Theatre, Yarraville

Sun Theatre, Yarraville.  Boutique Art Deco cinemas.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.

Sun Theatre, Yarraville.  Boutique Art Deco cinemas.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.


  1. Hi David like you the Sun is one of my favourite cinemas in Melbourne. It's across the other side of town for us (from Greensborough) and of course you cannot always be sure which cinema the film will screen in. Also love the foyer but more so the bookshop off the cinema and the cafe next door to this again. As you face the cinema there's another interesting building next door which for a time was a Morrocan restaurant. Recall with great fondness having lunch there one weekday on a sunny Melbourne day. Sadly I think since the woman who owned or ran this has returned back to her motherland and the busienss is no more.

    Naming all the cinemas after now defunct ones in and around Footscray is a nice touch. Makes you wonder if the Palace could have done the same with their renovation of the Westgarth Cinema. Westgarth is a lot closer to us and I love the new cinemas built up in the roof. Cinema 2 feels so cosy (cosier perhaps than the Sun which is never really a warm place). Then you have the area upstairs at the Westgarth with the free book exchange and free WIFI in the lobby downstairs.

    Now what we need is another restored cinema somwhere to cover the old Orient in Heidelberg, the marvellous Hoyts that used to be in Upper Heidelberg Road Ivanhoe and the late and very lamented Montmorency Cinema that used to run sessions a bit like the Astor (2 movies, a sandwich and coffee). Sadly the Monty was pulled down in the early 1990s to make way for what is now the Montmorency Newsagency. If there is any karma in life, the developer of the newsagency went broke. Monty has developed into a really nice village since. An oldstyle arthouse cinema if it was still there would have have been the icing on the cake.

    The Rivoli Camberwell has plenty of cinemas (8). Naming these after some of the closed ones would be an option. The Rivoli is a great building which could be really enhanced with more history or revolving exhibitions of cinema history on its walls.

    Congratulations on a great site

  2. Thanks for your detailled comment. I'm sorry to say I wasn't able to experience the cinemas in Heidelberg & Montmorency but I have friends from that part of town and I'm sure they would remember them dearly.

    I too think it is great what the Sun have done to remember the former cinemas of Melbourne's west and it would be great for the Rivoli to take up your challenge to incorporate more history into their fabulous cinema(s).