Liberty Theatre screen fades away | PHOTOS

A prominent new landmark the Liberty was officially opened in Comur Street on December 14, 1939.

There was a gala opening with the movie Blockheads, starring Laurel and Hardy.

The program continued with Goodbye Mr Chips with actors Robert Donat and Greer Garson after intermission.

At intermission, patrons were invited next door to the Liberty Cafe for “...fancy drink mixtures, Peter’s ice cream creations, and, by special order, unique frozen desserts...” announced Mr Phillips.

Leading architects shape design

The theatre was designed by Crick and Furse, leading architects in theatre design and built by Mr A.F. Little, who had already built 10 cinemas in NSW.

It seated 470 patrons in the stalls and 230 in the dress circle upstairs.

Architectural authority on cinemas Ross Thorne has listed the heritage of the Liberty as category one, writing in his book Picture Palace Architecture in Australia that it is “an outstanding Art Deco Building...”.

Films had previously been shown in the Memorial Hall in Yass from the early 1920s.

In 1929, H.L. Phillips took out a 10-year lease to show films there.

However, by 1939 it seemed business was sufficiently profitable for Mr Phillips to invest £13,000 in a dedicated picture theatre.

“This is the golden age of the Cinema,” Mr Phillips said at the gala opening.

War, television impact growth

By the opening of the Liberty, Australia was at war, with Prime Minister Menzies having announced this in September 1939.

But the war was yet to greatly impact on the Australian population.

World War II had caused a delay in the delivery of specially designed carpets from Belgium by Grace Brothers as the ship had to be re-routed.

The Liberty was operated by the Phillips as a cinema until 1965 when it was purchased by Joan and Keith Tate.

They later converted part of it to a roller skating rink where skating was held two nights a week, and films on other nights. Patronage was declining with the impact of television.

The Liberty Theatre closed in 1974, with Mr Tate saying: “If I had wanted to show pictures such as Clockwork Orange and other films of a depraved nature, I could have gone on for years.”

Since then, the building has been used for an interior design business, an art gallery, a real estate office and currently for Yass Repertory Society and a craft shop.

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