Theatres/Venues 4a: Adelaide

Adelaide……. p.1
Port Adelaide…….. p.2




(1879-1884) Rundle Street.

Opened on 2 June 1879 with Baker and Farron’s production of Conrad and Lizette, the Academy of Music was used for a wide range of entertainments and social activities during its brief lifetime, including exhibitions, panoramas, benefits, lectures, plays, operas and variety shows. Among the touring troupes to play there were the Lynch Family Bellringers (1879), Lewis and Hicks’ Jubilee Singers (1980), Montague-Turner Opera Co (1883), Clark and Ryman’s Minstrels (1883) and Hudson’s Surprise Party. The venue burned to the ground on 6 January 1884 during the latter troupe’s season.



(1880-1898) Pirie Street.

Opened by Adelaide’s German Club two years after the completion of its Pirie Street clubhouse, the Albert Hall seated 650 people (stalls) and 150 (circle). Between 1880 and its acquisition by the Salvation Army in 1898, it was used by the club while also being available for hire. As such it was used for community events – including socials, meetings, lectures, sporting contests, recitals and concerts (notably by the Elgar Conservatorium and Adelaide’s Orpheus, Operatic and Liedertafel societies). Local and touring theatrical companies also appeared there, including the Mississippi Minstrels (1883), Adelaide Variety Troupe (1890), and The Permans (1895). It also hosted pantomime (including Fred Neebe’s Cinderella, 1890).

Several of Moritz Huezenroader‘s works were also debuted at the Albert Hall, including his operettas Singvogelchen, Onkel Beckers Geschichte (both 1882), Faust and Gretchen (1883), and The Windmill (1891).



(1914-1931) 288 North Terrace, Adelaide.

Austral Gardens - Adel [SLSA]In 1914 a syndicate of local businessmen, led by theatrical manager Jack Waller, formed Austral Gardens Ltd and purchased the former home of Sir Henry Ayers (1821-97). After turning the grounds into an open air theatre and adjoining Palais de Dance, while also preserving the extensive gardens, the establishment opened on 27 November 1914 with a charity gala featuring Sydney JamesRoyal Strollers. A popular venue for variety entertainments and occasional sporting contests up until the mid-1920s, the Gardens began to struggle against increasing competition and during the mid to late-1920s was largely used for community events and private functions.

Ayers’ home, now known as Ayers’ House, was later used as a Nurses’ Home by the Royal Adelaide Hospital. It currently contains two restaurants and the office of the National Trust.
Image source: State Library of South Australia


THE BIJOU: See White’s Assembly and Concert Rooms



aka Embassy Ballroom / Plaza Theatre / Paris Cinema

(1894-1966) 102a Grenfell Street (north side of Grenfell Street near Wyatt Street)

Central Hall was built by Adelaide’s German Club (Allgemeiner Deutscher Verein) in 1894, opening sometime around June/July. Over the next 20 years it was used mostly for community events – lectures, meetings, socials, concerts, university examinations, local theatricals and sporting contests etc. In 1896 it was even home to a bicycle riding school. The hall also occasionally hosted local and touring variety companies, including Harvey’s Buffalo Minstrels (1897), Pope and Sayles (1903), and The American Boys (1909).

Queen's Hall 2 [SLSA]In 1915 Charles Cawthorne took over the theatre’s lease, opening it as Queen’s Hall on 7 August. While mostly used for concerts, operas, dramas and patriotic fundraisers it also hosted occasional variety-style entertainments – including Malini (magician, 1916), The Dandies (during the winters of 1916 and 1917), Ideals of 1916, Fisk Jubilee Singers (1917), The Humouresks (1918), Dum Dum Dinkums (1918), The Entertainers (1921) and Will O’The Wisps (1921). From 1923 the hall became less popular as a theatre and by 1929 was operating as a dance hall.

A fire on 4 November 1929 destroyed part of the building and it remained unused until renovated in 1933 as the Embassy Ballroom (complete with art deco façade). After being converted into a cinema in the 1950s the venue became the Plaza, then Paris Cinema (1965) before being demolished to make way for Regent Arcade.
Image source: State Library of South Australia.


DRAMATIC HALL: See Royal Dramatic Hall

EMBASSY BALLROOM: See Central Hall / Queen’s Hall



(1909-1952) Grote Street

Empire Th - Adelaide [FVS Her Maj's Pleasure]Designed by A. Barnham Black, the Empire occupied a site 51 ft x 104 ft (15.5m x 31.7m). Vaudeville acts along with moving pictures were presented on the opening night of 10 April 1909, with this practice largely continuing until management announced the inauguration of a season of pictures beginning 4 June 1910. From then until 1948 the venue was used primarily for the purpose of screening films. Variety and concert acts were often incorporated into screenings during the 1910s and 1920s, however, while the theatre also occasionally hosted vaudeville seasons.* It continued to operate as a cinema until 1948 and was thereafter used venue for various community purposes until acquired by People Stores Ltd in 1952.

* In October 1930, for example, the Empire management presented a 16 act vaudeville bill featuring Hare and Baily (comedians), Semlo (contortionist/escapologist), The Melody Four, Dianto (ventriloquist), Merv Willshire (siffleur) and The Twinklers ballet.
Image source: Frank Van Straten. Her Majesty’s Pleasure (2013).


EMPIRE THEATRE: See also Hippodrome



aka Jubilee Exhibition Gardens / Garden Theatre

(1887-1932). North Terrace (northern end).

The Exhibition Building and grounds were opened in June 1887 and from 1892 to 1910 the Gardens were used over the summer months for regular Continentals-style entertainments. Films were introduced from 1906. English comedian Claude Dampier managed and starred with Edward Branscombes Dandies at the Gardens from 1910 to 1917, with the remainder of the decade hosting Sydney Hollister‘s English Pierrots (1917-18), the Scarlet Gaieties, and Kate Howarde‘s Possum Paddock Co (both 1919) among others. Under the lesseeship of J.C. Williamson’s (1920-29) and Bert Lennon (1930-32) the Garden Theatre featured variety companies led by Hugh Huxham, Billy Maloney, Elton Black, Humphrey Bishop, Robert Roberts and Nat Phillips.

1. The venue was known as the Jubilee Exhibition Gardens up until at least the early-1910s, although the word “Jubilee” was sometimes omitted from advertising and reviews in the years leading up to that time.
2. Mini golf (initially advertised as “midget golf”) was first  introduced to the Adelaide public in 1930 at the Exhibition Gardens).
Image: Exhibition Building (used as an alternative to the Gardens during inclement weather Ca. 1890s-early 1900s). Source: State Library of South Australia.


GARDENS THEATRE: See Exhibition Gardens

GARNER’S THEATRE /GARNER’S ROOMS: See White’s Assembly Rooms

HER MAJESTY’S THEATRE: See Tivoli Theatre [2]



aka Royal Pictures / Empire Theatre

(1906-1928 ) Grote Street.

Opened on 27 October 1906 by proprietors Lennon, Hyman, Lennon, the 1,200 seat open-air Hippodrome was initially used for both circus and vaudeville. It was remodeled in 1908 as the Royal Pictures (seating 2000 people) and again in 1909. Renamed the Empire, and with vastly-reduced seating (1,030), the venue remained viable up until the late 1920s. Declining audiences numbers then saw it used for boxing matches. In the early 1930s, after being closed for several years, the Empire became a radio broadcasting station, returning to live theatre after World War II. It closed on 1 November 1948.


HUDSON’S BIJOU THEATRE: See White’s Assembly Rooms




(1911-) Corner of King William Street and Carrington streets.

King's Th - Adel, 1911 [SLSA]Built for A.E. and F. Tolley, the 1,400 seat King’s was opened on 28 February 1911 by Edward Branscombe’s Dandies it became a popular venue for variety throughout the 1910s and was briefly used by the Adelaide Repertory Theatre Company beginning 1924. By 1927, when a fire damaged part of the building, it had been acquired by Majestic Amusements but was little used for theatricals. Later used for various entertainment purposes, including a dance hall, it was converted into offices in the 1980s.

Image: King’s Theatre, 1911. Source: State Library of South Australia


MAJESTIC THEATRE: See White’s Assembly Rooms



aka Palais de Danse

Palais Royal - 1920 [SLSA]

(1915-1967) North Terrace, adjoining the Austral Gardens.

The Palais de Danse, renamed the Palais Royal in 1920 by T.H. Eslick, hosted at least one season of variety entertainment, with this occurring over the summer of 1928/29. Billed as a cabaret but also described as a combination of vaudeville and revue, The Music Box, was headlined by comedians Alec Regan and Elton Black and produced by the venue’s managing director J.L. Herbert. The Palais was not used for regular public dancing between its completion in mid-1915 and early 1920, having been acquired by the Federal government for military purposes.

  • See also: Austral Gardens [above]
This venue should not be confused with the Palais De Danse and Elite Rink which operated in place of the Austral Gardens-based ballroom between 1915 and 1920. Also known as just the Elite Rink, and the Imperial Palais De Danse, it was situated in Pirie Street (some two blocks south of North Terrace).
Image source: State Library of South Australia


PARIS CINEMA: See Central Hall / Queen’s Hall

PLAZA THEATRE: See Central Hall / Queen’s Hall

PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE: See Tivoli Theatre [2]



(1903) Grenfell Street.

The first building known as Queen’s Hall is believed to have been formerly used as a produce/auction mart prior to being converted into an entertainment venue in January 1903. The first known lease was by the New York Wondergraph Company, which presented 24,000 of moving pictures. In March that same year the management began advertising for variety artists, but no other mention of the venue has yet been located in Adelaide newspapers after that time. The exact address in Grenfell Street is also currently unknown.



Queen's Th - Adel [SLSA](1841-1842) Corner of Gillies Arcade and Playhouse Lane.

The oldest purpose-built theatre on mainland Australia (predated only by Hobart’s Theatre, Royal), the Queen’s Theatre was built by Emanuel and Vaiben Solomon. Seating 1,000 people it opened on 11 January 1841 but struggled to attract enough patrons to make it viable and subsequently closed on 28 November the following year under the management of John Lazar. The building was briefly used for meetings, lectures and community events before being leased by the colony’s Legislative Council for use as a Magistrates Court, Supreme Court, and as offices for various colonial officials. In 1850 it was partially rebuilt and re-opened as the Royal Victoria Theatre.

  • See also Royal Victoria Theatre [below]
Although the Queen’s Theatre was mostly used for legitimate theatre, notably Shakespeare and popular contemporary English dramas and comedies, it was not uncommon for an evening’s entertainment to conclude with an afterpiece, often a low comedy farce.
Image source: Mail (Adelaide) 29 Apr. 1933, 13.



aka Dramatic Hall / Vaudeville Theatre

(1850) Leigh Street, near the Hindley Street intersection.

After inheriting Adelaide’s Black Horse Inn lease in 1849 Burra Burra publican James Hill made improvements to the site, including a hall adjacent to the hotel. In January 1850 three actors formerly engaged at the Queen’s Theatre [above], John Jacobs, John Elmer and John Gardener, arranged to lease the building and opened it on 7 February with a combined drama and vaudeville programme. Although advertised as the Royal Dramatic Hall the venue was also referred to as the Vaudeville Theatre. The venture ended in March, however, when Hill cancelled the lease, reportedly in response to the embarrassment created during their witness testimony in the law suit taken by Queen’s Theatre lessee John Lazar against South Australian Register proprietor John Stephens.

1: Having denounced John Lazar and his Queen’s Theatre as a “hot-bed of demoralization” (“A Licentious Stage” 16 January 1850, 3)., the South Australian Register was a strong supporter of Jacobs, Elmer and Gardener. The Adelaide Times took an opposite stance, however, describing the three men as “fourth or fifth-rate actors previously discarded by Lazar,” and their venue as a “paltry imitation of a theatre” and “the rendezvous of all the loose characters about town” (“Dramatic Hall” 11 Mar. 1850, 3). The article also records aspects of their exposure and humiliation during the court case, and ridicules the Register for deceiving the Adelaide public.
2: Lazar sued Stephens and the South Australian Register over the “Licentious Stage” article and sought £200 pounds in damages. Although he won verdict Lazar was awarded only one farthing by the jury. For a extensive report of the trial see “Lazar vs Stephens” (Adelaide Observer 9 Mar. 1850, Supp 1-2).


ROYAL PICTURES: See Hippodrome



(1850-1868) Corner of Gillies Arcade and Playhouse Lane

In 1850 John Lazar and George Coppin took over the lease of the former Queen’s Theatre (1841-42) giving it a major reconstruction and opening it as the Royal Victoria on 23 December. They were forced to close it down the following year, however, South Australians made a mass exodus for the Victorian goldfields. After being renovated and re-opened in 1859 it became Adelaide’s only purpose-built theatre until the arrival of the Theatre Royal in 1868 forced its closure. Variety troupes to play there included the Ohio Serenaders (1851), Rainers Ethiopian Serenaders (1855) and San Francisco Minstrels (1860). George Coppin also returned there in 1861.

  • See also: Queen’s Theatre [above]


STAR THEATRE: See White’s Assembly Rooms



(1914) Creswell Gardens, adjacent to the Adelaide Oval and River Torrens.

Conceived as a summer alternative to the Tivoli Theatre, the Tivoli Gardens opened on 17 January 1914, with a film and vaudeville show that included acrobat/comedian Du Calion, Vaude and Verne and the Celemondos Trio. The venue closed at the end of March and re-opened on 7 November with comedienne Isabella D’Armond and ragtime singer Monte Wolf as headliners. The uncertainty of bringing performers to Australia following the declaration of war saw Hugh D. McIntosh contract his operations, and he subsequently closed down the Gardens venture on 12 November.

Although McIntosh also advertised the Tivoli in Grote Street as available for lease in November 1914, he was forced to continue operating it until 1916, at which time it became Her Majesty’s Theatre.


TIVOLI THEATRE [1]: See White’s Assembly Rooms



aka Prince of Wales Theatre / Her Majesty’s Theatre

(1913-) 58 Grote Street

Tivoli 2 - Adel [FVS - Tivoli, 38]Built as the Princess Theatre for Sayer and Lennon, the 30 years lease was taken over by Hugh D. McIntosh before the building was completed. It subsequently opened as the Tivoli on 6 September 1913 (two days after the former Tivoli closed). Originally seating over 2,100 people, the theatre was used almost exclusively for variety theatre, including vaudeville, revues and musicals during the 1910s and early 1920s. Renamed the Prince of Wales (28 Aug. 1920) it was part of the Fullers‘ circuit between 1921 and 1929, although used mostly for legitimate theatre during the late-1920s. It returned to vaudeville in 1930 as the Tivoli.

The building was remodelled in 1962 and renamed Her Majesty’s, seating 1,200. Another remodelling was undertaken in 1979, at which time it reopened as the Opera Theatre. In 1988 it once again became Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Image source: Frank Van Straten. Tivoli (2003), 38.


VAUDEVILLE THEATRE: See Royal Dramatic Hall



aka Garner’s Theatre / Garner’s Rooms / Hudson’s Bijou / Bijou / Tivoli [1] / Star Theatre / Majestic Theatre

Majestic Th - Adel, 1967 [SLSA, B17605](1856-1981) King William Street.

White’s Rooms was opened in June 1856 for the use of concerts, theatricals, balls and public meetings. In 1880 Arthur Garner purchased the venue, re-opening it as Garner’s Theatre in May after extensive renovations. Over the next 100 years the theatre was known by a number of different names, including:

Garner’s Rooms (1883-1892): Seating up to 1300 people, Garner’s Rooms operated under that name for almost ten years. Under the lesseeship of many different companies and managers it  hosted minstrelsy, pantomime, drama, concerts and opera among other entertainments. It also served as a community hall, being used at various times for social events, lectures, examinations and even as an auction house.  The Adelaide Dramatic Club used the hall for its productions, too.

Hudson’s Bijou/The Bijou (1892-1900): Tommy Hudson took over the lease of Garner’s Rooms, opening it as Hudson’s Bijou on 6 August 1892. Over the next seven years the theatre was used primarily for variety theatre (including minstrelsy and pantomime). While Hudson’s own Surprise Party was most associated with it the theatre was also leased to other theatrical concerns.

Hudson's Bijou - Adel, 1892 [SLSA]

The Tivoli (1900-1913): Harry Rickards took over the lease of the building in early-1900 and after giving it a major renovation opened it as the Tivoli on 20 June with an all-star company headlined by Ludwig Amann, and also featuring Fred Davys‘ Giant Marionettes, Pope and Sayles and Adson, Craydon and Holland.* It closed as the Tivoli on 4 September 1913 under the management of M. Marcus. Adelaide’s second Tivoli Theatre (Grote Street) opened  two nights later.

* For details relating to Adson Craydon and Holland see Delohery, Craydon and Holland.

Tivoli 1 - Adel 1909 [FVS Tivoli, 21]

Star Theatre (1913-1916): Following its closure of the Tivoli [1] the theatre reopened two nights later as the Star cinema under proprietor Bud Atkinson. It screened its last film on 13 November 1915, at which time the business relocated to the Queen’s Hall in Grenfell Street.

Majestic Theatre (1916-1967): During this period the theatre operated primarily as a cinema. After several more changes of management, name and function, the building was demolished in 1981.

Images – Top: Majestic Theatre, 1967. Source: State Library of South Australia; Middle: Tivoli [1] (1909. Source Frank Van Straten. Tivoli (2003), 21; Bottom: Hudson’s Bijou, 1892. Source: State Library of South Australia


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.
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Published on April 18, 2014 at 1:36 am  Comments Off on Theatres/Venues 4a: Adelaide