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AFI research collection
Reference Type Cinemarecord journal
Title The Flics at Armstrong Street
Author(s)Denzil Howson
Volume 38
Issue 4
State VIC
Country Australia
Publication Date 00-00-2002
Citation Date
Page Number 8-9
Comments This article briefly outlines the historical profile of the building known as the Hall in Armstrong Street, Middle Park. As its title suggests, the focus of the article is on the Hall’s earliest function as the Middle Park Picture Theatre (1909-1943), but it also chronologically sketches its later uses, most notably its role as the Melbourne Repertory Theatre (1944-1951) where the actor Frank Thring Jnr of the Hollywood fame started his acting career to become the artistic director of its later reincarnation as The Arrow Theatre (1951-1956). Along with a couple of fairly recent (2002) photographs of the building the article features a hand-drawn plan of the premises as well as an old portrait of the Smith family who operated the cinema in its early days.

This somewhat short article (only two pages) provides significant and valuable information for anyone researching the early history of independent cinemas in Australia. Not only does it present the information about the interior and exterior of the building, the types of projectors used and the gradual technological updates that followed, but also the people involved, and not just owners and lessees but projectionists, ushers and other people instrumental to the running of the cinema. In doing so the author contributes a valuable social and cultural dimension facilitating a greater understanding of the overall context of this cinema. The most remarkable is the profile of the Smith family who operated the cinema as a family business until 1923. The owner Alfred King Smith was the projectionist, his son Frederick the assistant projectionist, Alfred’s wife Clara was the usher and their two daughters the pianist Winifred and the violinist Constance played live music, contributing to the atmosphere and giving the audience vital emotional cues.

This brief but well researched article not only provides very accurate information about this venue from readily available original sources such as the local newspaper South Melbourne Record and Public Records Office, but also the author critically evaluates this information offering arguments often backed up by information acquired from local historians of the area and the relatives of the people involved such as Nancy Sibley of Mooroopna, the granddaughter of Alfred King Smith. At the end of the article there is a reference list, useful for further research.

Synopsis The article offers a brief but well researched historical profile of the Middle Park Picture Theatre (1909-1943) as well as the building’s posthumous life as the Melbourne Repertory Theatre (1944-1951) later to become The Arrow Theatre (1951-1956).
tags: Australian Cinema Cinema Cinema Record Independent Cinema Melbourne Repertory Theatre Melbourne Suburban Cinemas Middle Park Middle Park Hall Middle Park Picture Theatre Middle Park Theatre The Arrow Theatre 
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