Theatres/Venues 2a: Sydney

Sydney CBD……. p.1
Inner West…… p.2
Northern Suburbs…… p.3
Eastern & South-Eastern Suburbs…… p.4


Sydney CBD


Click here for a
1903 map of the Sydney CDB and its environs.


 ACADEMY OF MUSIC [1]: See Guild Hall

ACADEMY OF MUSIC [2]: See Scandinavian Music Hall



aka Grand Opera House / Tivoli Theatre [3]

(1911-1966) Corner of Castlereagh and Campbell streets.

Adelphi, Grand Op H, Tivoli [FVS - Tivoli, 111]The Adelphi was opened by George Marlow on 5 May 1911 as a melodrama house. In 1914 it came under the control of the Fullers (aka Brennan-Fuller), although Marlow retained an interest in the theatre up until his death in 1939. After extensive renovations they reopened the theatre as the Grand Opera House in August 1916. Later sub-let by Hugh J. Ward and Alan Wilkie, it was renamed the Tivoli in 1932 by lessee Con-Paul Theatres, and remained the Tivoli circuit’s Sydney stronghold until closed down in 1966.

Please note:  See Garrick Theatre [below] for details relating to Sydney’s first Tivoli. See also Tivoli Theatre [2] entry.
Image source: Frank Van Straten. Tivoli (2003), 111.



aka Alhambra Theatre / The Melba

(1885-ca.1920s) Corner of George and Campbell Streets (Haymarket district).

Opened as the Haymarket Academy in 1884, Frank Smith bought the building in 1885 and converted it into the Alhambra Music Hall. After he was forced out in 1892 by the economic depression, the theatre was leased such entrepreneurs as Harry Rickards (1893), St John and Wilson (1898/99) and for most of the 1900s and 1910s by the Pugliese family. The Alhambra was sold in 1921 and briefly operated as a cinema (The Melba) before becoming a storehouse for Mick Simmons.


BIJOU PICTURE PALACE: See Princess Theatre


CLAY’S STANDARD THEATRE: See Royal Standard Theatre

EMPIRE THEATRE:  See Royal Standard Theatre

FULLERS’ THEATRE: See National Amphitheatre


GAIETY THEATRE (Oxford Street)

aka Emu Theatre / The Trudamite

(1918-ca. 1930s)  17 Oxford Street (near Hyde Park).

Sadler-Kerr-Gaiety 3 Jan 1919]The Gaiety Theatre was once a drapery store before being converted into the Empire Picture Theatre in the early 1910s. Later known as the Emu and Trudamite, it became the Gaiety Theatre in 1918 under the management of vaudeville entrepreneur Harry Sadler and bookmaker Andy Kerr. Following Sadler’s death in 1919 Kerr brought in Harry Clay to run the entertainment. Clay eventually took over the operations and it remained one of his company’s key theatres well into the late 1920s.

Sources: Australian Variety: 3 Jan. 1917, n. pag • Australian Variety 15 Mar. 1918, n. pag. •  Djubal, Clay “Harry Clay and Clay’s Vaudeville Company – 1865-1930 (1998) • Theatre Magazine Dec. 1918, 32.


GAIETY THEATRE: See also Guild Hall




aka Tivoli Theatre [1]

(1890-1899) Built on the site formerly occupied by the Olympic Theatre, Royal Marionette Theatre, Scandinavian Hall [below], Victoria Hall, and Academy of Music, the Garrick Theatre opened on 22 December 1890. In early 1893 Harry Rickards took up the lease for his vaudeville operations, renaming it the Tivoli. The first Rickards’ entertainment, billed as the Tivoli Minstrel and Specialty Company, was presented at the theatre on 18 February. Over the next seven years the venue played host to vaudeville stars from all over the world, as well as many high-profile Australian-based entertainers. The building (except for its facade) was destroyed by fire in the early morning of 12 September 1899.

1: Notable Australian artists to play the first Tivoli Theatre included: Pope and Sayles, Will Whitburn, Fanning and Devoe, and Delohery, Craydon and Holland. Owen Conduit was the Tivoli’s music director between 1894 and 1899.
2: Also largely destroyed in the 1899 fire was the adjacent Tivoli Hotel (owned by Rickards). Several other nearby building were heavily damaged by smoke and water, too.

Image source: National Library of Australia.



aka People’s Popular Concerts / Golden Gate Athletic Club

Golden Gate Gardens - Syd [NAPAP 4 Mar 1905, 6](1891-1905) 525 George Street (Brickfield Hill).

Established in December 1904 by emerging entrepreneur George H. Jones, the Golden Gate Gardens operated as a People’s Popular Concerts entertainment in a roofless premises on the former site of the old Golden Gate Athletic Club. The club, which had opened in March 1891, was well-known for boxing matches, as well as occasional variety entertainments. The new shows, under Jones’ management, were presented 6 nights a week, and comprised blackface minstrelsy, an American Bioscope (also used for illustrated songs), farces and dances. Jones continued operating the concerts there until early May 1905 (after which advertising ceases). By October that same year the site had been turned into the Golden Gate Running Grounds, offering officially registered events for both professional and novice sprinters.

Image source: The Newsletter 4 Mar. 1905, 6.


GRAND OPERA HOUSE: See Adelphi Theatre



aka Academy Of Music [1] / Gaiety Theatre / Olympic Club / Gaiety Athletic Club

(1875-1912) Castlereagh Street, adjacent to St George’s Church (between Bathurst and Park streets)

Originally a Catholic Guild Hall, the building was converted into the Academy of Music in 1879, but after six weeks of limited commercial success it reverted back to its original name and use. The auditorium was subsequently and expanded to allow 800 seats, and opened on Boxing Day 1880 as the Gaiety Theatre. By the end of the decade, however, its popularity had again decreased, and in 1891 lessee L. Foley and the newly-formed Olympic Club converted it into a sporting stadium. After the Olympic venture folded in the late-1890s, it was briefly used as a dance academy before becoming the Gaiety Athletic Club in August 1900. Vaudeville entrepreneur Bert Howard was closely associated with the Club over the next six years. The dilapidated building was eventually condemned in 1912 and closed as both a sporting and entertainment venue for good.

1. The venue was briefly renamed the Gaiety between August 1892 and February 1893 when Dan Tracey leased it for his Vaudeville, Minstrel and Specialty Company. During the Gaiety Athletic Club years it was also often referred to as simply the Gaiety (or “old Gaiety”). A number of secondary sources, possibly citing Ross Thorne’s 1979 Theatre Australia article incorrectly record that the Gaiety was abandoned as an entertainment venue in the 1890s. See for example: “Sydney’s Lost Theatres” at Dictionary of Sydney (sighted 24/08/2022).
2. Various forms of popular and “classical” entertainment were presented at the Club between 1900 and 1906, either as stand-alone engagements or as feature entertainment on a sporting (primarily boxing) programme. Singer Wally Edwards was prominent during the early days as producer of concerts (twice weekly, including Sunday night “classical” concerts).
3. Between September 1902 and December 1906 emerging vaudeville entrepreneur Bert Howard handled much of the entertainment with his Australian Entertainers. Other performers, including local amateurs were often engaged, and in 1905 Howard introduced film screenings. The Howardscope was the primary entertainment in 1906. Howard was also associated with the Gaiety Athletic Club and the New South Wales fight game through his management of several Sydney boxers.
4. The entertainments on offer at the Athletic Club also included benefit programmes – staged on behalf of both sporting identities and variety artists, as well as occasional charity and fund-raising events.
5. In August 1912 the building’s ownership was transferred from the A.H.C. Guild to another Catholic society, the Catholic Club, Land and Building Co. After extensive renovations it became the Catholic Club.
Image source: National Library of Australia.



aka Wirth’s Hippodrome / Capital Theatre

(1909-1928) Corner of George and Campbell streets.

Hippodrome - Sydney 1915 [CofSA]The Hippodrome had formerly been occupied by the Sydney hay and cattle markets, and later the Belmore Markets. From 1900 onwards it had also been increasingly used for entertainments (including Cole’s Bohemian Dramatic Co). Wirth’s Circus opened for a season there in 1909 and took a 21 years lease. The council later erected a permanent building using materials from the old markets. It opened in 1916. Later used by various variety companies (including Clay’s Bridge Theatre Ltd) the Hippodrome was converted into the Capital Theatre in 1928.

Image: Hippodrome, 1915. Source: City of Sydney Archives.






aka Sydney Music Hall

(1895-1896) 610 George Street (between Bathurst and Liverpool streets).

Built by John Lawler and opened on 2 November 1895, Lawler’s Music Hall was situated above shops in Lawler’s Building. The opening night bill included W. Horace Bent, Sam Rowley and Gus Franks. An ornately decorated hall the venue was Sydney’s largest music hall seating 1,000 people in an auditorium nearly one hundred feet long and forty feet wide. Considered to be at the wrong end of town it did not last beyond the end of 1896 and was up for auction in June 1897.


LITTLE THEATRE: See Royal Standard Theatre

MAYFAIR THEATRE: See National Amphitheatre



aka Fullers’ Theatre / Roxy Theatre / Mayfair Theatre

(1906-1980) Castlereagh Street.

In 1906 James Brennan took over the lease of the National Sporting Club and converted it into a 5,000 seat vaudeville theatre. The “Nash” became part of the Fullers’ vaudeville circuit in 1912, but was renamed Fullers’ Theatre in 1919 following extensive alterations and a significant reduction in seating. The venue was converted it to a cinema and renamed the Roxy in 1930. Later known as The Mayfair it was bought by Hoyts in the mid-1950s. The cinema ceased operations in 1980 and four years later was demolished.



aka Royal Marionette Theatre / Royal Albert Theatre / Albert Dancing Salon

(1851-ca. 1855) Castlereagh Street (south-west side, between Market and King streets).

In September 1851 J.S. Noble, director and proprietor of the travelling Olympic Circus organised with publican Peter Hook to set up an equestrian and gymnastics enclosure at the rear of the Painters Arms. The venue opened on the 22nd. In May 1852 the site was converted to a theatre, and as such operated for some two years, offering a variety of entertainments. It was became known as the Royal Marionette Theatre (during that company’s 1853 season) and as the Royal Albert Hall in 1854. Then owner Mr Astley, also used the site to auction horses. By the end of the year it had been converted into the Albert Dancing Salon.

1: The venue’s address was given as 273 Castlereagh Street in 1854. By the 1880s it was being advertised as 109 (or 111) Castlereagh Street. The Tivoli, which occupied the same, and several adjacent sites, is recorded as being 79-83 Castlereagh Street.
2: The Scandinavian Music Hall began operating from the same site in 1866, as did the Garrick Theatre between 1890 and 1893 (see the entries for these theatre below).
3: This Olympic Circus should not be confused with Lyceum Theatre, York Street, which was also known briefly as the Olympic Circus (1856-1857).


OLYMPIC CLUB: See also Guild Hall



aka Kelly and Leon’s Opera House / Imperial Opera House

(1879-1900) Corner of King and York streets.

Sydney Opera House - 1879 [Downes, 49]Built for American minstrels Edwin Kelly and Francis Leon, the 900 seat theatre was opened on Boxing Night 1879. Especially designed for variety and comic opera performances it was located on the first floor of a warehouse on the corner of King and York Streets (later the site of the Grace Brother’s building). The theatre underwent several renovations during its lifetime, one of the most significant occurring in 1892 when George Forbes re-opened it as the Imperial Opera House. The building was finally condemned in 1900.

Image source: Peter Downes. The Pollards (2002), 49.


PLAYHOUSE THEATRE: See Royal Standard Theatre



aka Bijou Picture Palace

(1911-ca. late-1920s) George Street (opposite Central Station).

Princess Theatre 1 - ClayThe Bijou Picture Palace was opened as the Princess Theatre in 1911 by West’s Pictures. Vaudeville entrepreneur J.C. Bain leased it from 1911 until 1914, the same year that it came under the control of Fullers’ Theatres. Two years later the theatre hosted the Stiffy and Mo‘s debut season. Between 1918 and 1926 the Princess became Harry Clay‘s city headquarters. Its demise occurred when the Marcus Clarke Company acquired the building in order to expand its George Street department store.





aka Empire / Clay’s Standard / Little Theatre / The Playhouse

(1886-1923). Castlereagh Street.

Built for the Royal Order of Foresters, the Royal Standard was a 1000-seat theatre. Its first lessee, Frank Smith, opened with a season of drama by Alfred Dampier’s company, and over the next four decades it hosted numerous amateur and “legitimate” theatricals (including Alfred Hill‘s 1917 comic opera The Raja of Shivapore) as well as vaudeville shows. During its lifetime the theatre was known variously as the Empire (1901-02), Clay’s Standard (1908-13), the Little Theatre (1913-16) and the Playhouse (1917-23). It was demolished in 1923.



Royal Victoria - Syd [NS, 10](1838-1880) Pitt Street (between King and Market Streets).

Built by Joseph Wyatt, the 1,900 seat Royal Victoria opened on 26 March 1838 with a production of Othello. For many years Sydney’s largest and most important theatrical venue, it hosted opera, comic opera, dramas, burlesques, pantomimes, minstrelsy, circus and other amusements until destroyed by fire in 1880. Among the best known lessees/managers associated with the theatre were Andrew Torning, Joseph Raynor, Samuel Coleville, Ralph Tolano, Richard Younge, George Coppin, John Bennett, and William S. Lyster. Variety companies to play there included the Backus Minstrels, the San Francisco Minstrels, Christy’s Minstrels and Harry Rickards‘ Star Comique Co.

Image source: Nellie Stewart. My Life’s Story (1923), 10.


ROXY THEATRE: See National Amphitheatre

SPENCER’S ROYAL POLYTECHNIC: See Industry: Misc 1 (Amusements section)



aka Victoria Hall / Academy of Music [2]

(1866-1890) Castlereagh Street (south-west side between Market and King streets).

scandinavian-victoria-hall-sydney-1882-ss-25-aug-1912-5W.T. Johnson opened his Scandinavian Music Hall on 21 July 1866, with London comic singer Harry Winfield as headliner. The venue quickly became popular for staging burlesque, minstrelsy, comedies, and in later years melodrama. Following the destruction of the Victoria Theatre in Pitt Street (1880), the Scandinavian Hall’s management enlarged the venue and reopened it as the Victoria Hall on 1 September 1881. It was renamed the Academy of Music in 1882, with R.B. Lewis’s Mastodon Minstrels opening the new venue on 23 September. The Academy served as the Sydney home for Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels (1884-1888) before being condemned and abandoned. It was demolished in 1890 and replaced by the Garrick Theatre.

1: The same site had served as a venue for equestrian, dramatic and variety entertainments under different names between 1851 and ca. 1855 (see Olympic Circus [1]). Interestingly, the Bulletin newspaper was first published out of the Scandinavian Hall in 1880. Sydney’s first Tivoli Theatre (aka Garrick Theatre) also occupied the same site.
2: Most secondary sources, including the Sun (Sydney) 25 Aug. 1912, Valentine Day (1917), Leanne Richards (HAT Archive), and the Architecture Sydney website identify 1868 as the year the Scandinavian Hall opened. However, at that time it was merely re-opening after renovations. The names Scandinavian Music Hall and Scandinavian Hall were used interchangeably in both advertising and newspaper articles between 1869 and 1873. From 1874 the building was mostly known as the Scandinavian Hall.
3: The building was situated next door to a long-running hotel, known variously as the Painter’s Arms, Columbia Hotel and Victoria Hotel etc, and directly opposite the St James School. Scandinavian Lane (which no longer exists) was also nearby. It is unclear if the lane was located to the southern side of the building or at the rear of the theatre, however. See for example “Supposed Garroting CaseFreeman’s Journal 23 May 1874, 1.
Image: Victoria Hall, 1882. Source: Sun (Sydney) 25 Aug. 1912, 5.


SYDNEY MUSIC HALL: See Lawler’s Music Hall



Tivoli Th 1 - Syd [NLA](1900-1929) 79-83 Castlereagh Street.

Harry Rickards rebuilt his Tivoli Theatre after fire destroyed the first building in the early morning of 12 September 1899. Undeterred by the disaster, the entrepreneur negotiated a temporary lease of the Palace Theatre, and open there with his company the night after. The new Tivoli, fronted by the surviving facade of the original Garrick Theatre, opened on 12 May 1900, exactly eight months later. It remained the Tivoli circuit’s Sydney stronghold during the Hugh D. McIntosh (1912-1921), Harry G. Musgrove (1921-1923) and J.C. Williamson’s (1924-1929) eras. Although the Firm finally purchased the building in 1928 it closed as a theatre the following year – in part due to fire regulation breaches as well as the impact of the Great Depression.

1: After closing as a vaudeville venue the building operated as a mini-golf course before it was eventually demolished.
2: See Adelphi Theatre entry for details relating to Sydney’s third Tivoli Theatre.
Image source: National Library of Australia.


TIVOLI THEATRE [3]: See Adelphi Theatre

VICTORIA HALL: See Scandinavian Music Hall




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Published on April 9, 2011 at 12:33 am  Comments Off on Theatres/Venues 2a: Sydney