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chronology of the Ritz Theatre, Randwick

Architectural Projects The Ritz Cinema, Randwick

Chronological history of the building

1936

There were six cinemas existing in Randwick Municipality built between 1916 and 1923. October 3, Randwick Estates Ltd bought the St Pauls Street site from Robert Crawford and John Taylor.

1937

January 6, architect A M Bolot, of 115 Pitt Street Sydney, produced the design for the new theatre. Nine days later, Bolot’s design and a building application were submitted to Randwick Council. Bolot’s client was Randwick Estates. The firm of C and B J Williams, of Coogee, won the building contract.

12 July – a "gala opening" was held with the second-half movie in Technicolour

The enterprise appears to have reflected confidence in economic recovery following the Depression of the 1920’s and early 1930’s, notwithstanding the existence of several cinemas in the district. The Ritz was as innovative in its planning as in its decoration. Opening of the Ritz brought the city theatre luxury and modernity to Randwick, for the first time. The largest number of cinemas existed concurrently in Randwick during the period 1939-1959.

Property leased to Macroy Theatres (Randwick) Limited until 1954.

1939

Air Conditioning upgrade

1952

Hoyts became shared leasees with Macroy Theatres

1954

Hoyts took over the lease and immediately installed a "Cinamascope" screen. Alterations were made to accommodate the wider screen. At this time the blue green brown and orange tiles concealed by the carpet were probably installed

1959

A succession of cinema closures commenced due to the extended hotel hours, the development of beer gardens and clubs, and most importantly the impact of television. The local cinema was no longer a major social focal point of the area.

1962

Hoyts relinquished the lease when the theatre was brought by the Sisters of the Brigidine Congregation. Hoyts removed all the mechanical equipment which it had previously installed. The convent leased the theatre to Pritchard and Darwon who then closed the theatre in order to re-equip it with a new screen and projector, repainting and the addition of several Corinthian Columns and neoclassical detailing and lights, toilet upgrades, new tiled area at the front door. An early external sign was left in Auditorium interior. An antennae for the use of Watts Antennae – the adjacent tenant – was installed on the building.

1963

The theatre re-opened on the basis of lease conditions which allowed the convent access during the day, on week-days, and at times.

1979

Dianne Darwon took over the lease from her brother and entered into a new lease agreement, until September 1986, with the Trustees of the Sisters of the Brigidine Congregation, owners of the property. In the words of Tony Cato, the NSW branch manager for the film distributor Hoyts Fox Columbia Tristar: "Dianne Darwon became the female pioneer who changed the whole system. She brought in midnight-to-dawn movie sessions and recession-buster $7 film tickets, which included a tub of popcorn, a cup of coke and a Mars Bar."

1980s

Maintenance work included re-roofing of the buildings at a cost of some $8,000, exterior painting and periodic cleaning of sewerage pipes and a sound upgrade of $60,000 was undertaken. The Ritz was the first Sydney Theatre to offer Dolby Stereo.

27 June – Hot dip galvanised brackets were fixed to the walls of the Ritz Theatre to enable the antenna cabling to be held clear of theatre.

1982

Randwick Ritz was identified in Randwick Municipality Users Study as only Cinema with handicapped access.

When The Man from Snowy River was released in 1982 the film distributor (then called Hoyts Distribution) refused to supply to the Ritz unless the $2 ticket was abandoned. About six months later wonders happened. Hoyts decided to have a bargain night on a Tuesday. That’s how it all started. From about that time Darwon was able to secure first releases.

1983

The Ritz was purchased for $380,000, together with adjoining property, Nos to 45-47 St. Pauls Street for $240,000, a total purchase price of $620,000. The purchasers were Jack Ziade and F & V Mezrani.

1984

10 April – Council received a development application from Janiz Constructions proposing demolition of the Ritz Cinema

10 May – letter to the Heritage Council from the Australian Theatre Historical Society noted that "the issue to be faced is the need to preserve a lesser example of these architectural styles or have none at all".

3rd July – the Heritage Council advised Randwick Council of its enactment of an Interim Conservation Order

13 July – council refunded the development application fee to Janiz Construction

1985

28 March – the Registrar of the Commissioners of Inquiry, Environment and Planning, advised Council that the Minister, pursuant to section 41 of the Act, had appointed a Commissioner to hold an inquiry into a submission, by way of objection, to the proposed Permanent Conservation Order. New fire hose reels were installed.

11 April – the present owners J & J Ziade and F & V Mezrani offered the Ritz to Randwick Council for $420 000 and to the lessee D McGee, for the same amount. Council resolved however, to decline the offer in September.

2 May – the property was inspected by the Department of Local Government and five items noted in need of urgent attention. These were the rotted ceiling joists supporting the auditorium ceiling, removal of storage in the ceiling over the auditorium, lack of physical barriers to prevent the two rear exists from the stalls seating being obstructed by vehicles and the external exit stairs which until replaced resulted in the gallery comprising the lounge and circle, with a total license capacity of 374 not being used by the public. In September Diane McGee exchanged contracts to purchase the Ritz from local real estate agent, Mr Jack Ziade. But Mr Ziade said the agreement drawn up with Mrs McGee was intended to extend until 1990 a lease she had on the property at St Pauls Street, Randwick. The minister agreed to the permanent conservation order because of the request from Mrs McGee, not on the basis of the established heritage value of the theatre. Mr Ziade said he had sold the theatre to Mrs McGee for $385 000 on the condition that he retained an option to repurchase the property for $500 000 on August 6, 1990.

November – hearing date with Heritage Commission, evidence was received from Prof. John Toom, Prof. Peter Webber and Philip Cox and Partners. The commission of inquiry ruled that a permanent conservation order was not justified.

1986

Diane McGee sold the Ritz because a new theatre complex plan for Pagewood would take away her trade.

1987

13 August – Sydney Morning Herald $1.6 million bidder identified himself Hecrest Pty Ltd but later rescinded on the contract

1988

Present exterior sign installed, the front part of the roof was replaced and the roof section over the stage was finished with Emaglad. New guttering installed. Further upgrade of the sound system. New screen installed.

1992

New Dolby Sound installed

1993

Randwick’s mayor joins the fight to save the Ritz Theatre. Rescue Randwick Ritz Committee was formed.

19 March – a Permanent Conservation Order 348 was implemented

1994

Inspection of building with Heritage Council. Report noting that building was in reasonable condition

1996

Class 4 Action in the Land & Environment Court based on:

a) failure of Council to properly notify residents;

b) failure of Council to properly advertise the development and procedures of objections; and

c) failure of Council to properly consider objection to floor space ratio and floor parking.

This has delayed the approval process and by extension the restoration of the Ritz

1996

15 February – Verbal offer by Hoyts Cinemas to manage the Ritz complex on completion. Further discussion regarding the rescinding of the current appeal.

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