Heritage theatres here to stay

Despite persistent rumours surrounding the demolition of the Windsor Cinema, owner Roger Hunt says he has no plans for the building to be bulldozed.

It highlights the fact that there is an ever-decreasing number of heritage-listed theatres and cinemas across Perth.

But structures like the Windsor Cinema as well as Como’s Cygnet Cinema and Subiaco’s Regal Theatre still stand today, having been present in the Perth cultural landscape for more than 80 years.

The Regal Theatre has stood since 1938 and still hosts a bevy of local and international acts.

Regal Theatre Foundation Chairman Richard Diggins says Perth’s interest in the arts should keep theatres like the Regal alive and well.

“There is a striking development in communities across the world today which is the renewed interest in the arts,” Richard Diggins says.

“People are engaged by them, businesses are attracted by them, media is enticed by them, and educators revel in them.”

Diggins also believes the Regal is a cultural beacon which is a defining feature of Subiaco.

“The Regal Theatre is a landmark building in Subiaco and its significance is not only its built form and heritage listing, but also a focal point for the cultural life of Subiaco in particular and Perth in general.”

“The Regal really has been a jewel in Perth’s entertainment scene for 81 years, it’s a long legacy.”

While he acknowledges Australia’s sporting obsession, he believes the arts still dominates the cultural landscape in Perth.

“I understand that this is a sports mad country, but far more people attend performing arts events than go to football matches.”

Nedlands’ Windsor Cinema opened in 1937 and has acquired a loyal customer base over its long existence.

Windsor Cinema Manager Glenn Bundesen says the legacy of buildings like these can’t be replicated.

“They don’t build structures like this anymore,” he says.

“It’s a style and it’s a piece of history that isn’t going to be repeated, and if it goes, it goes forever.”

He believes a part of the Windsor’s constant allure for its guests is its Art Deco stylings.

“We try and provide a certain ambience and mood. I think the building does play into that factor as well.

“It has been here for so long because so many of our customers are older folks and they remember seeing films in the fifties and sixties.”

While large multiplexes dominate the cinema landscape in Perth today, Bundesen still prefers the old-school intimacy of the Windsor.

“I’ve worked in cinemas all over Perth and I prefer these ones to the larger multiplexes.”

Como’s Cygnet Cinema—like the Regal—has stood since 1938.

Cygnet Cinema Manager Michael Kerrison says the longevity of a cinema like the Cygnet allows parents and children to share similar memories.

“Many people come in after years of being away and tell us they came in as kids and it’s fantastic that we’ve still held on to that charm that the Cygnet has always had,” he says.

“Families get to bring their kids in and see an old theatre like they used to when they themselves were children.”

Kerrison says that Cygnet patrons often attend due the theatre’s classical structure.

“Many of our customers tell us they come to us because of our history and the atmosphere of the theatre.”