Theatres/Venues 3a: Brisbane



aka Albion Hall Pictures / Empire / Capital Theatre

(1888-ca. 1968) 344 Sandgate Road (corner of Birkbeck Street)

The Albion Public Hall opened on 9 May 1888 with a fancy dress ball, and over the next seven decades served an important role in the cultural life of local residents, as well as those from neighbouring suburbs. The hall was used for public lectures, meetings, concerts, moving picture exhibitions, live theatricals (including drama, minstrelsy and vaudeville), a dance hall, and as a training facility for local dance schools. The first variety company to play the hall was the Ohio Minstrels (a local amateur troupe) in September 1888, while the Star Electric Photoplay Company became the first film exhibitor to show moving pictures there (April. 1911). Although it was eventually converted into a permanent cinema from ca. 1918 the hall continued to be used for other purposes when required.

1. The building was designed by Brisbane architect Victor Emmanuel Carandini
2. The Albion Public Hall was popular with local minstrels during the late 1800s and early-1900s. Known Other local troupes included: The Bourbon Minstrels, and the Albion Christy Minstrels.
2: The Star Electric Photoplay Company was later known as Kirwin’s Electic Pictures. At this time the venue was also known as Albion Hall Pictures.
3. The building functioning as a permanent picture theatre from 1918 (known as the Empire Picture Theatre). It became the Capitol Theatre in 1934, and continued to operate under that name until ca. 1968.
4. The building was given a total redevelopment in 2014 and has since become home to a number of food and beverage outlets, along with health and beauty service providers.
1909. Image source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland



(ca 1923-1949) Corner of Racecourse Road and Kent Road (directly opposite Windermere Rd).

In 1923 Mrs J. Williams acquired the site on which an Arcadia Theatre had been operating since at least 1915 and rebuilt it as a 3,000 seat horseshoe-shaped picture house. From 1929 to 1931 the venue was operated by an as-yet unidentified proprietor. After its purchase by Lyric Theatres Ltd in 1931 the Arcadia was renovated and given a sound projector. Ascot Theatres Pty Ltd took over the cinema in 1935 and maintained ownership until 1949. A few years later it was demolished to make way for a third cinema – the Ascot (1953-1969). Although primarily a picture theatre, the Arcadia nevertheless presented live entertainments at various times. These included vaudeville, between-films acts, jazz bands, pantomimes, theatrical productions and community singing radio broadcasts.

1. The Courier Mail records in early-1953 that the first Arcadia Theatre was established in 1912 (“Theatre Night for Red Cross.” 14 Jan. 1953, 5). See Elite Picture Gardens [below] for further details.
2. Mrs J. Williams was a former vaudevillian who worked professionally as Eva Lee between ca. 1897 and 1916. From around 1907 she presented an act billed as Eva Lee and her Two Piccaninnies.”
3. Among the biggest names to work the Arcadia stage were D.B. O’Connor, The Gilberts, Grace Quine, and Jenny Howard.
4. A supermarket and chemist shop now stand on the site.
Image source: Telegraph (Brisbane) 16 July 1935, 21.


ASCOT THEATRE: After Ascot’s second Arcadia Theatre closed in 1949 the building lay vacant for several years and was then demolished. A new cinema, the Ascot, opened on 22 January 1953 and operated until 1969 under the ownership of Savoy Pictures. The final film screened at the Ascot was reportedly It’s a Mad Mad World. There was no connection between the Arcadia and Ascot theatres apart from being located on the same corner of Racecourse and Kent roads. A supermarket and chemist shop now stand on the site.



aka Windsor Picture Palace / Crystal Palace Dansant / Crystal Theatre

(1920-1999) Lutwyche Road (near the corner of Le Geyt Street, 1920-1964; then Le Geyt Street, 1964-1999)

Like most suburban cinemas around Australia during the early-twentieth century, the Crystal Palace was not always just a picture house. It was used for balls, public dances, public meetings, community singing, variety entertainment, and private functions. During the 1920s and 1930s the theatre was popular with local dance clubs, schools and regularly served as an electoral polling station. Among the known variety acts to appear there were The Dixie Kids, Marshall Palmer (singer), Victor the Great (magician), Dorello (juggler), Princess Mahelona (South Sea beauty). The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe was also staged there in 1929. The venue, which had its name changed from Windsor Picture Palace to Crystal Palace in 1927, appears to have operated exclusively as a cinema from 1940 onwards. It closed down in 1999 and was demolished the following year.

1: Between February and October 1938 the venue was also known for one night each week as the Crystal Palace Dansant. In addition to dancing, these evenings invariably included novelty vaudeville acts and singing.
2: The Crystal Theatre’s location was changed in 1964 when the proprietors shift the building’s entrance from busy Lutwyche Road to Le Geyt Street – just around the corner.
Image: View from Lutwyche Road; Source: Windsor and Districts Historical Society.



aka Arcadia Theatre [1]

(ca. 1912-1922) Corner of Racecourse Road and Kent Road (directly opposite Windermere Road).

Very little is known about this venue due to the fact newspaper advertising was rarely ever used, and hence it received little additional coverage. The Courier Mail records in 1953 that the first Arcadia Theatre was established in 1912, but no supporting evidence has yet been found. The earliest confirmed record found to date is a 1915 article in the Queensland Figaro which reports on a Belgian fundraiser held at the Elite Picture Gardens courtesy of the manager Mr George Hunt. Three advertisements placed in the Telegraph and Courier Mail newspaper in 1921 and 1922 identify it as either the Arcadia Picture Theatre or Arcadia Gardens Theatre. As with most cinemas operating in this era the venue very likely included live entertainment at some stage – when occasionally or on a regular basis.

  • See also: Arcadia Theatre [2] [above]
1: “Theatre Night for Red Cross.” Courier Mail (Brisbane) 14 Jan. 1953, 5
2: “Gossip From Women’s Clubland.Queensland Figaro (Brisbane) 17 Apr. 1915, 14-15. The address for the Elite Picture Theatre in this article is incorrectly given as Racecourse Road, Hamilton instead of Racecourse Road, Ascot. This same mistake has also been identified on a number of occasions in relation to the second Arcadia Theatre.



aka Elite Pictures / Elite Picture Pavilion

(1913- 1923) Dixon Street (next to Wooloowin Railway Station).

Although established in a largely residential area, Wooloowin’s first picture house was ideally situated next to the local railway station and a short distance from the nearby tramline. It operated as an open-air venue, and hence closed down during the winter months. Although few details regarding the engagement of variety performers have been located to date, due in large part to its limited advertising and subsequent newspaper coverage, there is evidence available to suggest that this occurred at various times, and possibly on a more regular basis. The Elite was also used for benefits and patriotic concerts, which often comprised films, live performers and music – invariably performed by the house band (or “orchestra”). Wooloowin Amusements Ltd demolished the building in 1923 and erected a new picture house its place.

  • More details (research notes)
  • See also: Royal Picture Theatre (Wooloowin) [below]
1: William H. Healy is believed to have built, owned and operated the Elite Picture Gardens for most, if not all, of its 10 years of existence.
2: No recognised professional entertainers have yet been linked to the picture house.



aka Tramway Band Stand / Old Pierrot Ground / Hamilton Continentals / Tivoli Gardens [2] / Tivoli Lyric and Continentals

(ca. 1901-1913) Hamilton Reach riverbank grasslands adjoining the Hamilton Training Wall, Kiosk and the intersection of Hamilton, Eagle Farm and Racecourse roads (diagonally opposite the Hamilton Hotel).

This riverbank area had been used by the Tramway Band from the early 1900s before a stage was eventually built for performances and public meetings. The first professional company to play the stand was Harry Primrose’s Pierrots over the 1906/1907 summer. Later companies included Wyn Leslie’s Pierrots (1907/08) and the Hamilton Continentals (1910/1911). In early 1911 Bella Sutherland took over its lease and reopened it on 30  September as the Tivoli Gardens [2]. The Imperial Electric Pictures (Oct.) Aubrey Morley’s Tivoli and Lyric Continentals (Nov.), and Albert Bennett’s Tivoli Continentals (Dec. 1911 – ca. Mar. 1912) appeared under Sutherland’s lesseeship. By the summer of 1912 competition from her newly-built Tivoli Gardens [3] and the Elite Picture Gardens (both in Racecourse Road) led to band Stand’s demise as a venue for professional entertainers.

1: The first concert identified with the area (prior to a stage being erected) was on 28 March 1901 when Messrs A. Whitlam, T. Boast and H.T. Daniels, assisted by the Tramway Band, gave an open-air concert. Bandmaster Burns was in charge (Brisbane Courier 28 Mar.1901, 2).
2: For further information regarding the Hamilton Continentals, Tivoli and Lyric Continentals, and Tivol Continentals, see the AVTA’s “Amusements” page (in Industry Misc: 1). Scroll down to “Continentals.”
3: Among the best known performers to appear at the Hamilton Band Stand (during the Tivoli Gardens era) were Mark Truscott (illustrated singer), the Marsden Trio, Bessie and Eilleen Phillips (later known as the Phillips Sisters), and Harry Clifford (film lecturer).



aka Royal Pictures

(1923-1933 ) Dixon Street (next to Wooloowin Railway Station).

Built by Wooloowin Amusements Ltd on the site of the former Elite Picture Gardens, the Royal Picture Theatre is believed to have opened for business in late-October or early November 1923. Little information regarding live entertainment has been located to date. However, the proprietors reportedly designed the venue with concerts in mind. There were also special provisions for dances, skating and similar entertainments, along with dressing rooms. Seating capacity was said to be 1,400. Although the Royal initially attracted audiences due to its close proximity to Wooloowin railway station and the nearby Lutwyche Road tram line, competition from an increasing number of nearby cinemas (notably in Albion, Lutwyche, Clayfield, Kedron Park, Kalinga, and Hamilton), saw the Royal eventually struggle. The situation was not helped by the Great Depression, and it closed sometime in late-1932 or early-1933.

  • More details  (research notes)
  • See also: Elite Picture Gardens (Wooloowin) [above]
1: Two former theatrical identities from the Capricornia region of Queensland, Bob Raine and A.E. Carroll, reportedly took over the lease of the venue in late 1930. It is not clear how long they managed it.
Image source: Brisbane Courier 9 June 1923, 10



aka Kalinga Picture Palace / Kalinga Theatre

(ca. 1920 – early 1960s). Lodge Street (Dawson Street intersection)

An open-air picture theatre operated in Kalinga from at least September 1920. The earliest reference found to date is in an electoral advertisement published on 4 October that year. The venue was known as the Kalinga Picture Palace (aka Kalinga Pictures) until late-1925 or early 1926. It was known as the Star Theatre until the late 1940d and thereafter as the Kalinga Theatre. During its lifetime the building was often used by local community groups and schools for various events, with this made possible because films were not always screened every night of the week. The extent to which live entertainment was presented is currently unknown due very limited programme advertising in the metropolitan newspapers. The building, which reportedly seated between 400 and 500 people, was destroyed by fire in the early-1960s and replaced by a service station.

Image: Star Theatre, 1937. Source: Windsor and Districts Historical Society.


TIVOLI GARDENS [1] (Hamilton)

aka Tivoli Gardens & Theatre Under Canvas / Tivoli Theatre / Tivoli

(1907) Location 1. Hamilton Road, opposite Toombul Wharf (and adjacent to the Hamilton Town Council Chambers in Cooksley Street); Location 2. Edward Street (near the Mary Street intersection).

The first Tivoli Gardens was a canvas venue erected on four acres of land at the Breakfast Creek-end of Hamilton Road (now Sir Kingsford Smith Drive). Its proprietor, former actress, entertainer and entrepreneur Bella Sutherland opened the Tivoli on 30 March 1907 with Brisbane’s Mayor and Mayoress in attendance. The entertainment was provided by a 20-member vaudeville troupe, headlined by Ward Lear. Two weeks later (15 Apr.). Sutherland relocated the tent to a vacant block of land near the city’s Botanic Gardens. It is identified as being next to the Metropolitan Hotel in Edward Street. She then transported the venue back to its Hamilton Road site on 23 April. Typical of open-air venues the Tivoli closed for the winter months but did not reopen again and was instead put up for sale in early 1908.

1. Although the Tivoli was officially located within Hamilton, its close proximity to the border with Breakfast Creek. saw it occasionally referred to as being in that suburb. The venue’s address also sometimes included “Southdean,” which was the name Sutherland gave to her home. When she later moved to Racecourse Road the new house was also known as “Southdean.”
2. The exact reasons for the venture’s failure are not yet known. There is some evidence to suggest that public transport was less than conducive for patrons living outside the area. Although the Tivoli was situated beside a tram stop, there may not have been enough services or room onboard for large audiences. A writer for the Truth newspaper (Brisbane edition) suggested, for example, that management needed to make better tram arrangements (“In Bohemia.” 7 Apr. 1907, 12).


TIVOLI GARDENS [2] (Hamilton): See Hamilton Band Stand


TIVOLI GARDENS [3] (Hamilton)

aka Tivoli Theatre / Tivoli Picture Theatre

(1911-ca. 1921) Racecourse Road (corner of Allen Street).

On Boxing Night 1911, some nine months after closing her second Tivoli Gardens (at the Hamilton Band Stand), Bella Sutherland opened a new 1,500 seat venue on her property in Racecourse Road (situated on the other side of the Eagle Farm Road and opposite the Hamilton Hotel). Although designed as an open-air theatre, the facade, stage area and dressing rooms were constructed of timber. Canvas roofing was used in times of rain. The third Tivoli was similarly not a full time operation as it closed over the winter and opened only for three nights a week during the warmer months. Following Sutherland’s death in 1918 the venue was run for several years by her husband Prof. George Gibson (aka G. Washington) and former variety artist Eva Lee (aka Eva Williams).


Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies. For information concerning copyright issues see “Copyright” attachment in the AVTA “About” page.

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Published on April 16, 2011 at 8:03 am  Comments Off on Theatres/Venues 3a: Brisbane