12 Mitchell Street, Bendigo
Showing films from: 1934
The Plaza, one of Bendigo’s few purpose built cinemas, opened its doors for the first time on Friday, December 28 1934 – a ceremony that was overseen by the Mayor. The Plaza became known as ‘the showplace of the north’.
The cinema’s first manager was Mr Kemp who had relocated from Tasmanian where he had managed the Avalon in Hobart, before that he had worked in the cinema business in the UK. The cinema building was designed by the architectural firm Cowper, Murphy, & Appleford, who were also responsible for building The Sun Theatre in Yarraville a few years later. The interior was quite spectacular and followed a ornate Spanish Renaissance design. The Plaza opened to a double bill: the popular musical We’re Not Dressing (1934, dir. Norman Taurog, staring Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard), and Little Miss Marker (1934, dir. Alexander Hall), staring a five year old Shirley Temple.
By the time the Plaza was built the ‘talkies’ had been around for a number of years so it was important that any new cinema be wired for sound. Talking pictures had taken off in a big way since their invention at the end of the 1920s. The Plaza knew any new cinema wanting to compete for audiences in Bendigo, which already had a number of cinemas, had to give special attention to the quality of its sound. The Plaza choose the best quality Western Electric equipment it could, and it boasted in the Advertiser that it could reproduce the fullest range of sound possible to the human ear.
In the 1950s the cinemas in Bendigo had arrangements with the various production companies, which meant that the Plaza screened films by Universal, UA and Paramount, the Lyric screened RKO, Fox and BEF films and the Princess screened films by MGM and Warner Bros.
The Plaza entertained the people of Bendigo for over 40 years. The final screening, Fists Of Fury (1972, dir. Lo Wei, also known as The Chinese Connection) took place on Saturday December 20, 1975, staring Bruce Lee in his second major martial arts film. Today elements of the cinema are still visible in the gymnasium that inhabits the former auditorium, the foyer is in retail use as a clothing store.[sliderplus plazabendigo]
Archive images thanks to State Library Victoria.
Photographer: Lyle Fowler. 1939