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               HSV-7 TELETHEATRE

                                  By Harold Aspinall

                                                                               near the corner of Brunswick Street, it
                                                                               was the second cinema on the site. Its
                                                                               surroundings had slipped from an
                                                                               address of note in the 1880s to just
                                                                               another down-at-heel suburb, with a
                                                                               terrible name for crime. (It has since
                                                                               enjoyed a rebirth as a lively and
                                                                               youthful place).
                                                                                  The Regent had all the signs of
                                                                               becoming an early casualty of
                                                                               television. It was, but its demise also
                                                                               turned out to be a re-birth in a
                                                                               somewhat spectacular fashion.
            Television in Australia has now  with trepidation. Hoyts alone had six
                                                                                  By 1960 HSV-7 needed more studio
          passed the 50-year mark. Opening night  city theatres and 36 others running in
                                                                               production space. Local productions
          was Sunday 4 November 1956 and in  the suburbs, some of them grand
                                                                               (mostly ‘live-to-air’) were increasing in
          Melbourne the first station to air was  edifices like the Victory St Kilda with
                                                                               number, size and scope. Senior Channel
          HSV Channel 7, the Herald-Sun     2,500 seats or Regent South Yarra and
                                                                               9 producer Norman Spencer - who was
          station. The comperes were Eric Pearce  Padua Brunswick, each with nearly
                                                                               credited with engineering the Graham
          and Danny Webb and the program line-  2,000 seats. Even the smaller theatres
                                                                               Kennedy/IMT juggernaut at 9 - made a
          up consisted of a live concert from the  held over a thousand patrons, and as I
                                                                               surprise switch to HSV to oversee
          Tivoli Theatre Bourke Street, live  remember, it didn’t matter what you
                                                                               production. The eyes of Spencer and
          programs such as I’ve Got a Secret  were running, you always filled the
                                                                               chief engineer Jim Fisher fell on the
          from the Dorcas Street studios in South  house on Friday and Saturday nights.
                                                                               empty cinema in Fitzroy. They saw it as
          Melbourne (telecast from the smaller  It was a while before television  ideal for conversion to a modern ‘state-
          Studio 2 - Studio 1 was not yet ready)  started to bite. The cost of a set was  of-the-art’ TV studio. The property was
          and various film programs including  high and a lot of the programming at  acquired by the Herald-Sun
          episode one of Robin Hood starring  the beginning was not all that   organisation and the conversion was
          Richard Greene.                   wonderful. In the early days there were  started late in 1960.
            At HSV-7 film programs were     no movies of any note screening on
                                                                                  This turned out to be no easy task.
          exclusively 16mm and were screened  television and, of course, there was no
                                                                               Perhaps the biggest problem was the
          on Bell & Howell JAN projectors, a  color. Nevertheless television was
                                                                               fact that the proscenium could not be
          machine capable of handling the   creating it’s own ‘stars’, with Bert
                                                                               removed, as the building would have
          idiosyncrasies of TV operation: lots of  Newton compering the Late Show on 7
                                                                               fallen down! This fact severely
          starting and stopping, ability to run in  and a cheeky young man named
                                                                               compromised the studio floor area,
          both directions, fast run-up speed and  Graham Kennedy hosting In Melbourne
                                                                               which could only extend full width
          more.                             Tonight (IMT) on Channel 9.
                                                                               from the proscenium back into the
            At the time I was a young assistant  The first theatre closures began in  stalls. The result was a studio which
          projectionist at the Athenaeum Collins  1959 and the early sixties brought more  required careful handling when it came
          Street, operated by Hoyts. I was  closures and some theatres reducing to  to the placement of sets and cameras.
          somewhat dismissive of television, and  three nights of operation.
                                                                                  Another problem was the poor
          thought that this little blue and white  Just on the edge of town, in the  acoustics of the building. If you cast
          picture wouldn’t amount to much. How  suburb of Fitzroy, Hoyts Regent,  your mind back, most Hoyts suburban
          wrong I was. The cinema industry at  seating 2,200, was a worthy example of  theatres sounded a bit like echo
          large viewed the coming of television  the name. Located on Johnson Street
                                                                               canyons. They were fine when full of
          18  2007 CINEMARECORD
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