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AFI research collection
Reference Type picture
Author(s)Rose Stereograph
Town Middle Park
State VIC
Country Australia
Publication Date 00-00-1920
Citation Date
Comments This photograph is the best of, what appears to be, only three available photographic records of the Middle Park Picture Theatre from the period of its operation (1909-1943). I classify it as a “photographic record” for it is not entirely a photograph of the cinema per se, but rather only features a profile of the building among other shops of the Armstrong Street commercial precinct. The photograph was taken some time in the 1920s and is part of the Rose Stereograph Co postcard collection. It provides a view from the north side of Armstrong Street featuring the prominent Middle Park Hotel in one corner with all its monumental buildings in between, all the way to its south end culminating in the Middle Park Baths (demolished in 1961).

The Middle Park Picture Theatre is somewhat obscured in this wide postcard shot of Armstrong Street, and this perhaps is to account for it not being used in any of the literature about the cinema I have encountered so far in my research. However, the State Library of Victoria provides a high-definition digitised scan (5410×3462 pixels, TIFF image) of the original glass negative where all the features of the cinema building along with the signage in the front are clearly visible. The most interesting detail revealed in this magnified view is that this currently beige Edwardian building initially had a red brick facade proportionally striped with beige painted lines every four rows of bricks, similar to a couple of other buildings in the street.

Another aspect to be noticed in this photograph is, of course, its historical context. In this photograph we not only see the initial aesthetic appeal of Armstrong Street with some of its long lost features, but also we see the locals going about their lives. The photograph portrays an archetypal suburban setting of the epoch. We see men unloading horsecarts, women walking home with shopping bags in their hands, and children playing in the street. Soon all the stores in the street will close their doors for the day and the cinema will open its doors. At the end of the day when all those daily tasks were fulfilled, we would have most likely found some of these people in the photograph watching “flicks” at their local picture theatre.

Needless to say, this well composed and aesthetically pleasing photograph of Armstrong Street is of enormous value not just for the history of Middle Park Picture Theatre, but more broadly the Australian history of the early epoch of the previous century in general.

The photograph is available for viewing online on the State Library of Victoria website (to download the high resolution image click on the “View record for this item” link, then select the “View online” tab):

Synopsis Well-composed, rare 1920s photograph of Armstrong Street featuring a profile of the Middle Park Picture Theatre from the period of its operation (1909-1943).
tags: Armstrong Street Cinema Melbourne 1920s Melbourne Repertory Theatre Melbourne Suburban Cinemas Melbourne Suburban Picture Theatres Middle Park Middle Park Picture Theatre Middle Park Theatre Picture Theatre The Arrow Theatre 
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