Theatres/Venues 5a: Hobart & Launceston

Launceston

ACADEMY OF MUSIC

aka The Plaza

(1886-1964) 79-85 George Street.

Academy of Music - Launceston [SLV]Seating over 900 patrons, the Academy of Music opened on 8 February 1886 with a season by W.J. Holloway’s dramatic troupe. Although largely used for community events, dramatic and musical society productions, and touring dramatic companies, it was also occasionally used for variety entertainment. The local Owl Club staged a minstrel show there as early as 1887. The Academy was later used the American Coloured Minstrels, Tommy Hudson, M.L. Raphael (Royal Pantomime Company), the Tivoli Musical Company, and J.C. Bain among others. It was later converted into a picture house and in 1937 remodeled as the Plaza.

  • For further details see: Anne Green. The Home of Sports and Manly Exercise: Places of Leisure in Launceston. Stories in Stone series (2006).
Image source: State Library of Victoria

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ALBERT HALL

Albert Hall - Launceston [Aust Heritage db](1890-) 45 Tamar Street (Cnr of Cimitiere and Tamar Streets).

Designed in high Victorian style, the Albert Hall opened in 1891 as the main venue for the Tasmanian Industrial Exhibition. Since then it has been used for balls, concerts, religious services, political rallies, theatrical productions, sporting events and as a disaster relief centre. Rarely used as a regular venue for popular culture entertainments, it nevertheless hosted pantomimes and served as a fall-back theatre for touring vaudeville companies. George Stephenson and Stanley McKay, for example, staged pantos there in 1914 and 1915 respectively, while the Brennan-Fuller firm used it in 1914 to test out its brand of refined vaudeville.

Image source: Australian Heritage Database.

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BIJOU THEATRE

aka Oddfellows Hall, Gaiety Theatre, Empire Theatre, Lyceum

(1879-ca. 1917) 95 St John Street.

Bijou Theatre - Launceston [SLV]After the Theatre Royal was demolished in 1878, Oddfellows Hall was erected in its place. However, by 1885 public pressure for a suitable entertainment venue saw the building converted into a theatre by lessees Thynne and Melville. It was later renamed the Gaiety under St John and Wilson (1886), the Bijou (John Saville-Smith, 1890), the Empire (John Fuller Snr, 1902) and Lyceum (George F. Todd – Todd’s Pictures, 1910). The theatre fell into disrepair in the late-1910s (being described as a “death-trap” by the Council in 1916) and by the 1920s the “Lyceum Building” was being used for commercial businesses purposes.

  • See also: Theatre Royal
Image source: State Library of Victoria.

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EMPIRE THEATRE: See Bijou Theatre

GAIETY THEATRE: See Bijou Theatre

LYCEUM: See Bijou Theatre

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MAJESTIC THEATRE

Majestic Th - Launceston [LINC Tas](1917-1969) 69 Brisbane Street.

Built by Marino Lucas in 1917 the 1200 seat The Majestic Theatre operated almost exclusively as a cinema during its lifetime. From the 1920s, however, variety acts were occasionally engaged to supplement the film programmes. The first known performer was singer Tick Atherton who in November 1921 presented “popular selections with special lighting effects.” In 1926 the management appears to have begun introducing live performers more frequently. Among those identified to date were The Frankos (Charleston dancers, 1926), Pinto (acrobat/contortionist, 1927), singers W.J. Clark and Minnie Cleaver (1927), G. Hales (ballroom dancer, 1928), and The Big Four (1929).

Neil and Don Pitt (Neil Pitt Menswear) bought the Majestic Theatre in 1970, moving their store from Charles Street to the larger building. It was subsequently converted into a shop complete with a mezzanine cafe.
Image source: LINC Tasmania.

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NATIONAL THEATRE

aka National Hall

National Theatre - Launceston [Build Launceston Project](1915-1969) Corner of Charles and Paterson streets.

The National Hall was built by Harry Goodluck and opened on 25 September 1911 with George Marlow‘s Dramatic Co. Although it later operated as a cinema, hosted local drama societies and sports events, the venue was best known as a vaudeville house. Among the big stars to appear there between 1916 and 1955 were Daisy Jerome (1916), Ada Reeve (1918), Harry Lauder (1923), Ella Shields (1933) and George Wallace (1954). Philip Lytton, Humphrey Bishop, Stanley McKay and the Fullers also sent companies there. The National was acquired by the City Council in 1954.

Image source: Build Launceston Project

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ODDFELLOWS HALL: See Bijou Theatre

THE PLAZA: See Academy of Music

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PRINCESS THEATRE

Princess Theatre - Launceston [Wriekhathaar, Wikipedia](1911-) 57 Brisbane Street.

The Princess was built by Hobart entrepreneur, Marino Lucas. It opened on 30 August 1911 as a picture house, but vaudeville supports were soon included. Cousens Spencer’s company ran it as a cinema from November 1911, as did Union Theatres when it took up the lease in 1920. Vaudeville was reintroduced as part of the entertainment package during the mid to late-1920s, before it reverted back to being a cinema. Since the City Council acquired it in 1970 the Princess has hosted opera, theatre, comedy, concerts, eisteddfod, lectures, meetings and films.

Image source: Wriekhathaar, Wikipedia.

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ROYAL AMPHITHEATRE

(1851-1852) Elizabeth Street.

After securing James Ashton’s equestrian troupe for a Launceston season, hotelier James Johnson erected an amphitheatre behind St John’s Tavern. The venue opened on 24 February with entertainment comprising horse-riding feats, acrobatics, trapeze work, clowns, dancing, music and fireworks. Following Ashton’s sudden departure in mid-April the theatre was briefly managed by one of his performers, James Hunter (opening night included a farce entitled Mr and Mrs Ashton’s Flight; Or, Who is to Pay Us). Over the following 12 months the Royal hosted a variety of local and touring entertainments, notably Richard Risley’s circus (1852).

Royal Amph - Launceston [CC 22 Feb 1851, 118]

Image Source: Cornwall Chronicle 22 Feb. (1851), 118.

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ROYAL OLYMPIC THEATRE

(1834- 1856) Northeast corner of Cameron and St John Streets.

Royal Olympic - Launceston [QVM&AG]Built by Benjamin Hyrons as part of his London Tavern, the Royal Olympic mostly hosted local theatricals, especially those staged by the local military officers, during the 1830s. By the early 1840s, the town’s increasing population saw the theatre used by touring companies and theatrical entrepreneurs like Anna Clarke (1844) and George Coppin (1845). Its popularity as a performance venue ended in the mid-1850s, however, with the arrival of three purpose-built theatres – the Lyceum and Royal Clarence (both 1856) and Theatre Royal (1857). The entire building was demolished in 1872 and the site is now occupied by the Launceston General Post Office, built in 1889.

  • For further details see: Anne Green. The Home of Sports and Manly Exercise: Places of Leisure in Launceston . Stories in Stone series (2006).
Image source: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

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THEATRE ROYAL

Theatre Royal - Launceston [L Hist Soc Feb 2010](1857-1878) 95 St John Street.

Built in 1856 as an upper level hall within the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows building, the Theatre Royal opened under that name on 1 June 1857 with a local production of Sheridan Knowles’ The Hunchback. Over the next 20 years it hosted major stars like G.V. Brooke, W.S. Lyster, Sir William and Lady Don, and variety companies such as Christy’s Minstrels (1863), Frank Weston‘s Minstrels (1870), Frank Hussey‘s Minstrels (1871), Kelly and La Feuillade’s Minstrels (1874) and the United States Minstrels (1876). The building was acquired in 1872 by the Bank of Tasmania and demolished six years later.

  • See also: Bijou Theatre
Image: Weekly Courier 19 Aug. (1905), 22. Courtesy of Launceston Historical Society.

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Published on June 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm  Comments Off on Theatres/Venues 5a: Hobart & Launceston