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The Eclipse,
               The Eclipse,

         Port Melbourne
          Port Melbourne

               The People’s Favourite
                    By Noel Kerr

            The hinges on the almost worn out
          letterbox on the front fence of number
          10 Garton Street Port Melbourne                                                        Drawing by Les Tod
          creaked as the lid was raised and a
          hand retrieved the contents. It was early  After the introductions the six piece  shareholders are promised in the
          October in 1924.                  orchestra - piano, violin, bass, drums,  Prospectus set forth in another part of
            A quick glance informed May     cornet and clarinet – played selections  the paper.’ On offer were 12,000
          Trumble that amongst the mail was a  to the delight of the audience. At  cumulative preference shares of £1
          brochure heralding the opening of a  interval, praise could be heard for the  each, and 18,000 ordinary shares of £1,
          new picture theatre, the Eclipse in  ‘American-style’ design, and the ‘lift’  a total of £30,000. The shares were
          Crockford Street. The theatre was just  that this acquisition would give to Port.   payable at 2/6 on application, 5/- on
          around the corner from where May, her  The opening of a picture theatre in  allotment and the balance in calls.
          sister Dorothy and parents Rita and Jim  1924 was a major event. The competing  Gilbert Macpherson Johnstone was
          Trumble (my grandparents) had lived  entertainments were live theatre (not  Chairman of Directors and his
          for the greater part of their lives. They  much of it in the suburbs), radio and  colleagues were James Duncan,
          had been anticipating a notice such as  dancing. The ritual of booking, often  Frederick Nomens, William Hugh
          this, having followed the gradual  for the whole family, and dressing-up  Harper and Arthur Page. Five thousand
          construction over many months.    was part of the glamour of a night out.  shares of £1 each were to be issued to
            After much deliberation that       A special dispensation for the  the promoters as fully paid up.
          evening, the whole family decided to  bayside area allowed the Eclipse to  Herewold G. Kirkpatrick, architect
          book for the opening night on 25  open of a Sunday evening, much to the  and consulting engineer submitted the
          October 1924, at 7.30 pm when an ‘all  delight of the residents of Port who  plans for approval in April 1924. The
          star feature programme would be   could take a cable tram to the front  theatre was ready six months later. His
          submitted for their approval.’ What to  door. To the locals the Eclipse was the  practical design was one of the first in
          wear was discussed for this very special  Rolls Royce of theatres, far above the  Melbourne to show that cinema
          evening when a six-piece orchestra  standard of the opposition Port and the  specifications could be fitted to a
          would ‘fit and follow each picture with  Ozone (the town hall).      ‘tapered’ site. It would be another ten
          beautiful music symbolic to the action  Plans for an Eclipse theatre were  years before other theatres on
          on the screen.’                   first made public in September 1923  asymmetric allotments would be seen
            The Trumbles joined a buzz of   when Mr. A. L. Page and other      in the suburbs.
          activity at the theatre. Ladies were  businessmen of Montague and Port  The original seating plan for the
          dressed in their finest and many of the  Melbourne placed an offer in the local  Eclipse was 1,176 in the stalls and 379
          men wore dinner suits. Some paraded  paper The Record. Their advertisement  for the circle, a total of 1,555 persons.
          in constant motion to be seen by those  urged people living in the area to take  In the publicity of the time it was usual
          who mattered.                     up shares in a new picture theatre,  to exaggerate the seating capacity
            The theatre was officially opened by  stating that ‘handsome profits for  (compare the total above with the
          the Mayor of Port Melbourne,
          Councillor P. F. Murphy.
          Sharing the stage were the
          directors of the Eclipse
          Picture Theatre Limited.
          Amongst the
          congratulations and
          plaudits was the
          announcement that
          contracts had been secured
          to show films from
          Paramount, Fox, Universal
          and United Artists.

                                As was often the case, the sketch for the Prospectus was more grandiose than the reality (top).

          14  2004 CINEMARECORD
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