aka Bijou Theatre / Avalon Theatre
(1890-1976) 52 Melville Street
Built by the Tasmanian Temperance Alliance, the Temperance Hall opened on 2 May 1890 with a public gathering and addresses by local dignitaries. Its first lessee, J. Saville Smith, secured a season by the Cogill Bros Minstrels beginning 4 June and followed it later that month with Harry Rickards. Over the next five decades the hall was used regularly for community events, lectures, theatricals, concerts, lantern shows as well as for variety entertainments. It was renamed the Bijou in 1922, used briefly as a furniture store in the mid-1920s, and eventually remodelled as the Avalon cinema in 1932.
NB: The building was acquired in 1977 by Danny Burke Electricals and has since been used for various commercial businesses including the Brunacci Avalon Markets.
Image: 1890 (possibly opening night); Source: University of Tasmania.
Hobart’s Theatre Royal sits on the oldest theatre site in Australia, having opened in 1837. Although it has been significantly remodelled several times (1856, 1890, 1911, 1987), and damaged by fire (1984), the building still retains fragments of the original theatre. The Royal has hosted all manner of entertainments, including opera, drama and musicals, film screenings, vaudeville, minstrelsy, revue, pantomime, school, sporting and public events, and religious gatherings. Its link with variety theatre dates back to at least the 1850s and continued for more than a hundred years. It was acquired by the Tasmanian government in 1949.
Image source: Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.