HISTORY, State Cinema Hobart
The State Cinema is a city-wide institution and is of historic significance as a rare working example of a purpose built picture theatre dating from the Federation period. It is believed to be the first Tasmanian building built specifically for the screening of moving pictures and is the only pre-1970 picture theatre to have survived in Hobart as a functioning cinema.
The years prior to World War 1 saw a wave of enthusiasm for the new medium of film. Many cinemas were built in Hobart during this period including the "North Hobart Picture Palace". Constructed in 1913, the cinema was built on the former site of Badcock's Fuel Depot and was operated by Alf Chenhall and Edward Morris. It opened on Thursday, 2nd of October, 1913, with a moving picture programme plus orchestra. There was generally two screenings including a matinee on Saturdays and one on Sunday night. These nights attracted considerable criticism from those fearing that the city’s youth would be led astray. Their opponents suggested that the films were educational and kept the young people off the streets where they might get up to mischief.
The North Hobart Picture Palace had fluctuating fortunes. Vaudeville shows were often used to attract audiences to see films, however in 1921 the Palace was sold and the new owners changed the space for use as a billiard saloon, gymnasium and boxing arena operating under the name of the Broad B Billiard Saloon.
The building re-opened once again as a cinema this time under the name of The Liberty Theatre. The floor had been lowered and the seating returned to make the Liberty "The Theatre Beautiful".
Under the new ownership of Ross Holyman and Gordon Gourlay the building changed to its name to The State Theatre on August the 18th 1948. Running two or three shows a day the future seemed assured.
With the advent of television audiences quickly dropped off. The theatre became uneconomic and was placed on the market once again. Despite stiff competition from firms wanting to use the building as a furniture store, the Film, Radio & Television Board of the Australia Council (now the Australian Film Institute) acquired the cinema for the express purpose of screening Australian and internationally acclaimed films.
Confronted with financial constraints, the AFI decided to close the cinema. However following a public outcry, the decision was reversed and the State lived to see another day.
Similar circumstances confronted the AFI once again and this time there was no option but to sell. Keen interest was expressed from large cinema organizations however the cinema was sold to a "local" to see the State continue as an independent, community based art house cinema.
At this point the cinema was at a major crossroads. A seven point development plan was instigated to give the cinema its best chance of survival. Computer systems and improved projection and sound equipment were installed.
In late 2005 a major new development of the cinema foyer space began, transforming the quaint but poky lobby space into an elegant cafe bar. Just a few months later, in July 2006, a thirty seat cinema equipped with a state-of-the-art projection and sound system was built above the cafe, opening with the documentary Ballets Russes. Clocking up a few name changes along the way, this cinema eventually settles as Cinema Six a number of years later.
In November, work is completed on the front of the building, restoring the facade to its original 1920s state.
On Anzac Day work begins on a third auditorium, to seat fifty. The entrance to the main auditorium was bricked up, and a hallway installed to lead into both ground floor cinemas. With a lick of paint and a few bottles of sparkling wine, the State Cinema launched into a new era, opening the new Cinema Two to a sell-out audience for The Italian.
New Cinema Three is born late '07, seating 52. How did this happen? No one really knows. The State Cinema now boasts four auditoriums, with a selection of films to please even the most discerning film buff.
Our underground star, Cinema Five, is unveiled. Decked out with plush leather sofa seating, it accommodates 20 people in lounge-style comfort. An extended cafe area is also opened, as demand for space continues!
A commemorative star-shaped plaque honouring Tasmanian born actor Errol Flynn is unveiled in the footpath outside the cinema by his daughter, Rory, on the 100th anniversary of his birthday, June 20th.
The sixth cinema - taking the title Cinema Four, however - is now open! Below ground, it's the perfect cool escape for a hot summer's day, or a cosy retreat on a cold winter's night. Complete with brand new state-of-the-art projection system.
Plans are tweaked and finalised, and ground broken - construction on the large extension at the rear of the building begins.
New technology 3D systems are installed in Cinemas 1 and 2 in August, and Pina 3D becomes the first 3D film to screen at the cinema since the 1940's.
On the 23rd of December Cinema Seven opens with a screening of The Women on the 6th Floor. Equipped with 70 comfy high-backed seats, high ceilings and regal red decor - and of course latest technology digital sound and projection, including 3D, C7 is fast becoming a new favourite for regulars.
Level one of our new extension opens in January, a spacious cafe area with full bar, outdoor balcony and handsome views to boot.
On the 5th of April, Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan officially opens the State Cinema Bookstore, along with the new multiple-level Cafe, including a mezzanine floor and rooftop.
The Summer evening of the 28th of December sees the inaugural public screening of the State Rooftop Cinema and Bar. The first purpose-built permanent outdoor cinema in Hobart, the Rooftop comes complete with (faux) lawn, plants, deck and directors chairs and stunning 360 degree views of the city, river and mountain.
As the State approaches its 100th birthday, plans are made for some very special celebrations. On October 2nd, a gala evening is held for VIPs, friends and State family to commemorate this momentus occasion. A plaque was unveiled by His Excellency the Honourable Peter Underwood AC, Governor of Tasmania, and a wonderful evening of fine cinema, food and wine was enjoyed by all in attendance.
A book chronicling the complete history of the State Cinema was launched on Sunday 6th October. Written by Bill Clyde with picture research and design by Gillian Ward, this lovely volume contains the many quirky stories and images collected over 100 years of history at 375 Elizabeth St.
Those with a sharp eye may have noted - our screens are sneakily getting bigger… Screen sizes are updated to maximise presentation in Cinemas Two, Three, Five and Six.
A new basement addition, Cinema Eight opens its doors. With spread-out leather lounges and original foundation walls Cinema Eight has a unique character all its own.
Did you see our Cafe grow? Building works take place from late 2015, in early 2016 sprouting the Jarrah Room extension on our main level cafe and balcony, while on the upper level our multi-use space becomes big enough to transform in to the unique Screening Room.
Mid-January we open the doors on Cinema Eleven just in time for our biggest-ever opening film, the Tasmanian true-story Lion. This is just stage one of a planned major extension that will see us reach our teens (yes that's Cinema Twelve and Thirteen on the way) and extend capacity on two of our old favourites in the future - to be continued!
Our beloved Bookstore moves from it's original Soundy Building 373 Elizabeth Street location to the newly decked out, two-storey 377.
Cinema 2 closes for good, as it is knocked through and opened up into Cinema 1, expanding the State's main auditorium back to its former glory with a refurbishment and now 207 seats.
Work begins on 373 as it is transformed into the new State Bar, focusing on local spirits and wines. This opens before the end of the year.