Page 20 - CinemaRecord Edition 3-2003 #41
P. 20


                                   By John Holloway

            It took many years for me to    majestically curved entrance at the
          understand my affection for the Time,  corner of Whitehorse Road and Iramoo
          rather than the older Balwyn Theatre  Street. Internally, the L-shaped upper
          (now Palace’s Balwyn), also on    and lower foyer provided access to the
          Whitehorse Road, in the Melbourne  auditorium. The approach to the upper
          suburb of Balwyn.                 foyer-entrance to the rear of the raised
            As a young movie enthusiast, I had  stalls (the circle in a conventional
          no real understanding that the Time  design) - was from a smart Art-
          was part of the vast Hoyts’ circuit (even  Moderne staircase opposite the ticket
          though the magnificent vertical neon  box, a feature in itself. Building
          with the chaser lights bore witness to  magazine said of it:
          this fact) and thus, had access to all the  In the foyer the circular drop ceiling
          major cinema releases. And I still can’t  appears to be supported from the centre
          explain the pride I felt when I saw the  of the ticket box in a canopy style.  light fittings of fibrous plaster when
          display for Can-Can and the words  Lights in the base of the stem reflect up  illuminated from the bowl base appear
          ‘Thursday Next’. Such a huge film of  the curved plaster faces and ceiling.   to be glass. This feature was said to
          its time, playing at my local!       The ground floor foyer surface was  have excited much comment.
            Commiseration was all I could feel  terrazzo and an open fireplace in both  A charity premiere on Friday 13
          for the Balwyn Theatre, less than one  foyers was a prominent feature. While I  June 1941 preceded the official opening
          km. west, which appeared to exist on a  cannot recall a log-fire burning,  on Saturday 14 June which featured
          policy of out-dated MGM musicals.  photographs of the exterior clearly  spirited performances by Tyrone Powell
          (Remember, I was very young and   show a high chimney, and the Health  and Linda Darnell in The Mark Of
          naive!)                           Department file refers to a storage area  Zorro. The seating capacity of 1,176
            The Time was a beautiful example  for the wood, so they were the real  reflected a scale-back from the 1,500
          of the innovative stadium-style   thing.                             plus of the heady days, but it was still
          auditorium, now the favoured layout for  Approaching the end of the foyer,  large for the period. Outer suburban or
          a multiplex. Stadium seating had been  leading to the front (or stalls) area of  country stadium-style theatres of the
          used in the early 1920s - Hoyts   the auditorium, was a wall of glass that  time had capacities of around 800.
          Ivanhoe and Hoyts Glenhuntly were  looked out on to a flood-lit garden, or,  The third of May 1945 was the date
          examples - but the rise of ‘palace-style’  more precisely, an enclosed court-yard  of the most dramatic incident of the
          in the mid-twenties and the expectation  of exotic plants.           theatre’s life - apart from final closure -
          of big audiences to go with it, favoured  In describing the auditorium, I must  when an explosion in the gas-fired
          the traditional balcony.          apologise to the Architectural Purists,  heating system took hold. Fan-forced,
                                                                               unburned gas flowed into the ducts
            Now, at a time of more modest   and in layman terms settle for a
                                                                               under the stage. The gas ignited, flames
          expectations, stadium was back. The  description, ‘an assortment of Art-
                                                                               shooting out of the wire grilles under
          notion of a single level auditorium with  Moderne/Deco/Chocolate Box’. A
                                                                               the stage, which ignited the curtains.
          a steep rise towards the rear was hailed  magnificent blend of swirling plaster
                                                                               The ducts were of caneite, a fibre that
          as a major economic saving, both in  architraves at ceiling height above art-
                                                                               burned like paper. This was a wartime
          construction and heating, along with  deco curved patterns on the side walls
                                                                               compromise; flat iron was
          the added advantage of offering   descended to the front of the theatre,
          superior sightlines.              and in effect, disappeared behind a
            Other contemporary examples     seemingly free-standing proscenium.   The theatre was declared
          included the Maling at Canterbury, the  Large ‘flying saucer’ shaped lights  structurally unsafe. It re-opened eight
          Circle Preston and the Sun at     moulded out of the ceiling also feature  days later on 11 May with a temporary
          Yarraville. The only surviving example  in my memory. Building was again  partition erected in front of the
          (albeit altered) is the Sun at Yarraville.  complimentary:           damaged stage, and seating reduced by
          The architectural firm of Cowper,    The swirl pattern of the ceiling  400.There was no heating, but
          Murphy and Appleford was responsible  reflects different designs from different  ventilation was assured through the
          for the Circle, Sun and Time, each  angles. A wide drop cornice continues  opening for the screen. The Department
          from the late 1930s-early 1940s.  around the full auditorium to frame the  noted that ‘conditions will be hygienic,
            Externally, the Time was a fine  ceiling. On each side of the proscenium  but uncomfortably cool’. Restoration to
          example of red and cream brick Art-  fine reeded plaster becomes larger  the original plan began in earnest in
                                                                               June 1945. This time the ducts were
          Moderne simplicity, incorporating a  flutes then curved acoustic rolls. The
                                                                               brick, concrete and fibro-cement.

          20  2008 CINEMARECORD
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