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Community, Local Government

Cremorne’s Hayden Orpheum protected on the State Heritage Register

North Sydney Council 2 mins read
The Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace on Military Road, Cremorne (photo: Hayden Orpheum)

5 June 2024

The Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace is now listed on the NSW State Heritage Register, following Council’s nomination and an ongoing community campaign.

North Sydney Council resolved to nominate the Orpheum for inclusion on the State Heritage Register in November 2022, and has supported the community action led by the Cremorne Conservation Group.

In her direction to list the cinema on the Register, Minister for Heritage Penny Sharpe recognised the theatre’s uniqueness as one of the last surviving examples of an art deco suburban theatre that is still used as a cinema today.

North Sydney Mayor Zoë Baker said: “Council has been working, with the Cremorne Conservation Group and community-led action groups, to have the Orpheum listed on the State Heritage Register. Along with our planning team, we have supported community efforts to reach this outcome. We are thrilled that Minister Sharpe has recognised the special cultural and social significance of the theatre, as well as the wonderful art deco building.”

While the Orpheum was identified as a local heritage item under the North Sydney Local Environment Plan 2013, the new listing provides recognition of its heritage significance for all of NSW.

Minister Sharpe cited the theatre’s importance in the cultural history of NSW; its rich art deco stylistic features; its association with renowned theatre architects, entrepreneurs and performers; its social value to the community; and its potential to yield further information about the history of 20th century cinema.

History of the cinema

Originally opened in 1935, the Orpheum was an exciting cinema destination for suburban Sydney during the moviegoing heyday. Today it is a Military Road cultural landmark, community gathering place, and a well-known example of art deco design.

The Orpheum was designed by noted theatre architect George N Kenworthy and constructed during the Golden Age of Hollywood, when cinema-going was the primary form of popular entertainment. It was a departure from most suburban cinemas of the time in both facilities and design. Lavishly decorated with art deco motifs and fitted out with modern materials and technology, it included a stage, to accommodate vaudeville as well as film, and a ballroom, a feature more aligned with city venues such as the State Theatre.

The cinema’s popularity declined after television was introduced in the 1950s, until it eventually closed in 1977. Shops and an arcade were built on the site, and the cinema itself fell into disrepair, until 1986 when Mike Walsh OBE AM bought the Orpheum for his Hayden Group of cinemas. In collaboration with theatre designer John Love, Walsh restored and remodelled the cinema with attention to the original art deco design.

Over the following decades, the Orpheum developed into a cinema complex, adding five more screens designed in keeping with the original decorative style. Today it is a popular cultural venue, hosting a variety of events including film festivals, live performances and film premieres, and a key landmark in North Sydney’s cultural landscape.


Contact details:

9936 8138
media@northsydney.nsw.gov.au

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