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“In those days we had to show the  At A Glance
          slides for exactly ten seconds, or there
          would be trouble if we were caught out  Eclipse, Port Melbourne       Eclipsing the Competition
          by the inspectors who toured the    Cnr. Crockford & Pickles Sts.        Perhaps the choice of name
          theatres just for this purpose.”   Built for:  Eclipse Picture Theatre Ltd.  suggests an intention to put rivals in
            In the post-war baby boom, most  Directors:  G. M. Johnson (Chairman)  the shadows, or perhaps it was
          theatre managers found that they               F. Nomens and J. Walker.  inspired by the total eclipse of 1922,
          needed to find space for prams,    Lessee and                         but Port Melbourne’s Eclipse was the
                                             (later) owner: Hoyts Theatres Ltd.
          especially at matinees. In 1951 prams                                 only theatre in Australia to carry this
                                             Architect:  Herewold G. Kirkpatrick
          began to clog the foyer at the Eclipse,                               distinctive name. It was also the largest
          and management made a request to the  Opened:  25 October 1924        of the local theatres. In 1940 the
          Health Department to use the floor each  First                        comparative seating was Eclipse
                                             projectors:  Simplex
          side of the stage as a temporary pram                                 1,550 Port 1,100 and the Empire
                                             Fire in
          park. Permission was granted, but not  Projector  7 August 1929       (South Melbourne) 1000 seats.
          long after, the theatre manager was
                                             First                                 Often regarded as one of Hoyts
          taken to task when an inspector found  All-Talkie:  8 January 1930    smaller theatres, it was no baby: in
          that babies were being left in the prams       Broadway, Evelyn Brent
                                                                                1957 the Eclipse ranked 22 out of 36
          while the film was on! Management  Theatre                            for seating amongst Hoyts Suburban
          denied any knowledge of this, but said  Classification: B (Hoyts scale was A to E)  Theatres. H.G. Kirkpatrick’s design ‘on
          that they would more diligent in future.   CinemaScope:Mon. 6 Dec. 1954  the latest American model,’ was
                                             Seating:    (1924) 1,176 stalls,
            Marlene Mitchell has memories of
                                                         379 balcony,           certainly efficient: the Eclipse held 13
          all the kids stacking into the bus to get      Total 1,555            percent more people than the
          to the Eclipse for the Saturday                (1958) Total 1,263     cavernous Empress in Prahran.
          matinees. She remembers getting    Closed:     24 June 1959              Mr. Alan Windley provided the
          dressed up and feeling really great            This Angry Age,
                                                                                seating capacities (from Film Weekly).
          sitting upstairs.                              Anthony Perkins        Mr. Mel Elliott checked eclipse events
            The years rolled by and packed   Site Now:   7-Eleven Store         prior to 1924.
          houses became a memory. The
          Trumbles had long left Garton Street
          for retirement in Mt. Evelyn. A notice
          appeared on the doors at the Eclipse
          announcing that it would close on 24
          June 1959. A 35-year run of a
          community institution had come to an
          end. For those who still cared about the
          theatre, the title of the last feature was
          apt, This Angry Age with Tony Perkins,
          even if the content was forgettable.
            A garage was built on the prize
          corner site and later replaced by a 7-
          Eleven convenience store. The supply
          of food has replaced the supply of ‘soul
          food’ of entertainment.  ★

          My thanks to Kay Rowan, Marlene
          Mitchell, the late Arthur Rowan,
          Charles Hall, Jack Porritt Arthur Knox
          and the late Reg Oldham, who
          contributed the anecdotes that built this
          image of a fondly remembered
          community asset.
          I am indebted to Mr Les Tod for his
          drawing of the exterior of the theatre,
          done specifically for this story.
          Mr. Mel Elliott, Gordon Onans and
          Alan Windley provided additional
          detail.                           “It seemed a large
                                            theatre at the
          REFERENCES                        time, but now with
          Public Records office. Health     the 7-Eleven Store
          Department File 7882P1/213/1100   on it, it doesn’t
          The Record, Various issues.       seem so large” –
          The Argus, 27 Oct. 1924
                                            Kay Rowan.

          18  2004 CINEMARECORD
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