Our History | Movie theatres of Yass

GOLDEN AGE: The Liberty Theatre at the time of it's opening in 1939. It shut down in 1965. Photo: courtesy Yass and District Historical Society Collection.
GOLDEN AGE: The Liberty Theatre at the time of it's opening in 1939. It shut down in 1965. Photo: courtesy Yass and District Historical Society Collection.

"Let's go to the pictures!"

It was before the first talkies that people in Yass would have been saying this.

On February 1, 1907, The Yass Courier had an advertisement for a film 'Living Samoa, Fiji and the Solomons' followed by Star Comic Pictures including 'The Vagabonds'.

Mechanics Institute where the first picture shows were shown in Yass. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Mechanics Institute where the first picture shows were shown in Yass. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

In 1912, Globe Pictures showed an Australian detective drama, 'The Black Pearl', in the Mechanics Institute.It was a silent film with sub-titles.

On July 3, 1913 The Courier reported that the Committee of the Mechanics Institute had granted applications from both Yass Pictures and Globe Pictures to use the Mechanics Institute to show films on different nights of the week.

And it seemed, on the odd occasion when a mechanical hiccup happened with this new equipment, help may have come from the other movie business in town.

Later there emerged a new entrant showing films, Star Picture Company, which also used the Mechanics Institute.

By 1914 with apparent interest growing for moving pictures, a building application for a picture theatre to be built between Oddfellows Hall and Williamson's garage was approved.

Bijou Pictures burst onto the scene with a 'triumphant opening night' on October 25, 1919 at the Mechanics Institute, which not only had films including 'Charlie Chaplin', but 'stirring music by Yass Premier Band' and a pianist.

"The hall was packed to its utmost capacity," reported The Courier.

Through the early 1920s, advertisements and reports were in the newspaper for both the Bijou Theatre and Yass Pictures next door to Williamson's garage.

Yass Pictures next to Williamsons Garage 1914. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Yass Pictures next to Williamsons Garage 1914. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

With the opening of the Memorial Hall in 1923 there was another venue for ' the pictures'. Memorial Hall Pictures run by HL Phillips screened 'The Rainbow Man', the first talking picture to be seen in Yass in 1930.

Film poster advertisements outside the Memorial Hall early 1930s. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Film poster advertisements outside the Memorial Hall early 1930s. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Memorial Hall where Memorial Hall Pictures operated with film posters displayed pre 1930. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

Memorial Hall where Memorial Hall Pictures operated with film posters displayed pre 1930. Yass & District Historical Society Collection.

But by the late 1930s, changes were afoot.

HL Phillips developed plans to open the first purpose built picture theatre in Yass.

The Liberty was officially opened with great fanfare on December 14, 1939.

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

The program included Blockheads starring Laurel and Hardy, and Goodbye Mr Chips with Greer Garson and Robert Donat.

"This is the golden age of the cinema," said Mr Phillips.

The Liberty was operated by the Phillips family as a cinema until 1965 when it was sold.

Perhaps the golden age had ended.