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About Paddington Antique Centre / Plaza Theatre

plaza theatre paddington antique centreThe heritage listed Plaza Theatre at Paddington, an inner western suburb of Brisbane,  commenced construction in 1929 and opened for business in September 1930. The Paddington “Plaza” was one of seven theatres designed and constructed in the “Atmospheric” style in Australia and is now one of only two remaining. It was commissioned by Associated Theatres but ownership passed to the builders, J. Hutchinson and Sons, who still operate as builders today. It was part of the short lived Picture Palace movie theatre phenomenon.

There were eventually to be three theatres in the Paddington area, the "Plaza" being the first. It was followed by the "Paddington Theatre" situated on Given Terrace across from the Paddington Tavern, and the "State" theatre on Enoggera Terrace, which became the Red Hill Skating Rink until it was burnt down in the early 2000s.

Although most suburban theatres at this time were rather plain, Paddington “Plaza” was an exception. It’s simple exterior concealed a comparatively elaborate interior. Designed as an “Atmospheric” theatre, a style that became popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, themed and appropriated from Spanish and middle eastern architecture to create illusion and an imitation Mediterranean sky with twinkling stars, moving clouds and a gibbous moon. The ceiling is vaulted, painted dark blue and, unique to the Australian "Atmospherics", features suspended, wooden, cut-out clouds which were originally back-lighted to simulate the moon behind the clouds. Together with lights imitating the stars, this enabled patrons to imagine they were seated out of doors. A special soundproofed glass room was also built, called the 'cry room' which was provided for young mothers and their babies.

Structurally the building is of timber with rendered brick at either end and along the street. The roof is gabled and clad with corrugated iron and the northern part of the building is supported by tall piers because of the steepness of the site. The theatre foyer and eight retail shops occupy the Latrobe Terrace frontage and feature black ceramic tiles and silky oak joinery. Internally, the theatre features a large Spanish style proscenium arch heavily decorated with mission tiles and plaster scroll-work and includes the original textile valance embossed with the theatre’s name. Flanking the wide proscenium are ornamental balconies topped by large, arched columns under which used to stand classical style statues. Below the balconies are niches with twisted Roman columns all interspersed with scroll-work and other ornamentation.

The theatre was open seven days a week, with serials shown on Monday and Tuesday nights, and feature films and newsreels on other nights. A matinee was also shown on Sunday afternoons. The theatre had a capacity of 1500 who were seated in double canvas chairs on one large sloping level.

The tram would wait across the road (Trammie’s corner) until the movies had finished to transport patrons home.

Originally the shops along the Latrobe terrace frontage included a milk bar which relied heavily on theatre patronage, an associated grocery, a barber, a drapery and a chemist shop which operated until 1960. Wedmaier’s garage occupied the adjacent site next door.

The theatre continued to operate with relative success until television arrived in the late 1950’s diminishing patronage brought about its closure in 1962. After its closure, a level floor was installed, making it suitable for use as a basketball court and basketball matches were played until around 1968.

Hutchinsons eventually sold the building in 1977 and the antique centre was established here in 1985.


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