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.

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Archive images thanks to State Library Victoria.
Photographer: Lyle Fowler. 1939

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5 Responses to Plaza

  1. yep when i arived here in melbourne whith my dad the first cinema iwent to was the PARK in albert park in 1951 eversince im into the old cinemas we had 200 in the metro here and only one the astor has just survived thanks to the drive ins in 1954 the art decos closed one after the other, ok to any one who loves the olde films we have the hub multicutural 506 eilizabeth st op the vic market on sundays 2.30p to around 5pmish free entry its run by volunteers who will make you welcome for more info call 0459 398 358

  2. while digging out an old water logged cellar i came across an emulation lithograph advertising the Bendigo Plaza theater.

    “Happy Birthday from the Bendigo Plaza Theater ”
    “and all members of the Plaza Theater Popeye club”
    “are having a birthday party for you this Saturday this.”
    “our gift to you will furnish ???tary admission for”
    “that day.”

  3. As a lad I used to go there to see the beautiful Rosemary Margan whos husband Ken was the manager. Rosemary was a champion water skier and TV personality in later years. The usher was known as Plaza Jack and he loved kicking us young bucks out. Oh for the good old days.

  4. I was at the Plaza for the very last screening . My recollection of the movies shown was that there were 2 Bruce Lee movies that night . Fists of Fury and The Chinese Connection …. also known as The Big Boss. It was a wonderful venue and I have many happy memories from that time

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