Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rivoli Theatre, New Farm

Movie theatres, once the main entertainment venues in Brisbane, have been decimated by videos and internet movies. It is not a new phenomenon - cinema has waxed and waned over decades. Take the picture theatre in this photo for example. It is the former Rivoli Theatre building, now a real estate office and mini-shopping centre.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

This venue was originally New Farm's first open air cinema, known as Earl's Court Theatre, and it opened in August 1911. According to Brisbane City Council's heritage register, the theatre boasted "'the attractions of Glorious Fresh Air wafted from the River reaches of New Farm’, with a program of ‘New Pictures, Illustrated Songs, Refined Vaudeville and a Full Brass Band'".

During the depression years patronage dropped off. To survive the business needed to reinvent itself, becoming a skating rink in 1928 (below, top) and then a cabaret and dance hall in 1932 (below, bottom).
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC-CD20-5238803)

(Photo: trove.nla.gov.au; Brisbane Courier 18 April 1932)  

It later reverted to a cinema, then a dry cleaner and in recent years a tyre retailer and now a shopping centre.

The building exterior still stands on Brunswick St, protected by BCC heritage legislation.

Click here for a Google Map.



  1. I think it was such a shame that we lost most of our suburban theatres. Children who grew up during and after the war will remember the importance of Saturday arvo pictures without the parents! And Saturday night for the parents, whether they had heaps of money or not. In fact it seems that people valued going to the pictures more in bad times than good times.

    The Rivoli Theatre building looks small, but I bet it was once much loved.

  2. We had 4 cinemas in Grafton, like the Rivoli we had an open air cinema called the Garden Theatre with lattice walls and deck chairs. A few years ago the last cinema left, The Saraton, had a million dollar overhaul. It was built in the 30's and is now one of Australia's largest cinemas, it holds about 1000 people.
    Next time I am in Brunswick St I will checkout the Rivoli building.
    I was in Brisbane in January and couldn't believe the Regent all closed down. Then I read that they want to pull it down. That would be a terrible crime, they should never have been allowed to alter the original theatre in the 1st place all those years ago.

  3. Hels: It isn't that small really. Must be a perspective issue. There are a number of shops there now, together with a car park.

    Mark: Thanks for your comment. The loss of most of the Regent is a tragedy. When Anna Bligh was the premier, she said that the Regent would be preserved. Almost within days she was giving permission for the site to be redeveloped. We seem to have learned very little about heritage buildings since the bad old Jo days.

  4. I love this building and look out for it when ever I pass. I do like how its been given a new lease on life. I like how IGA have turned this into a shopping complex, they did the same to my local bowling alley at Greenslopes. I'd really like you to do its story too. You can still find images of how it looked on google maps.
    Thanks :)


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