Mitchell Street, Bendigo
Also known as: Princess’ Theatre
Films shown from 1900
The Royal Princess was probably Bendigo’s first permanent picture house. Before films started to be shown at the Princess’ Theatre (built in 1874) it was more commonly known as a venue for live performance. However it was not long before the Princess’ Theatre started to introduce ‘animated pictures’, as film was often called in its early days, into the theatre programme.
One such programme hit the Bendigo Advertiser headlines in 1900. Under the heading of ‘War by Biograph’, the reporter was immensely impressed by capability of the ‘biograph’ to record ‘magnificent scenes’ and ‘stirring pictures’ that would leave nothing to the imagination about the desperation of war. The Advertiser ended by congratulating the Princess’ Theatre management on the success of the biograph.
By 1910 the Royal Princess was regularly showing films. As cinema technology progressed the Royal Princess kept up too. Sound equipment was installed and the first ‘talkie’ was screened on Easter Sunday, 1930, it was The Desert Song (1929, dir. Roy Del Ruth with John Boles and Myrna Loy). The film was advertised as a ‘Warner Brothers Vitaphone Singing Picture’. The Vitaphone was an early development in sound film that used separate phonographic records that would be synched to play with the projected film.
In 1936 the Royal Princess was redesigned following the popular art-deco style that was common for cinemas of the time. It had seating for approximately 1800 people. By the end of the 1930s the Royal Princess, determined to keep up with the cinemas of Melbourne and Sydney, introduced a regular programme of ‘continental films’, which were accompanied by English subtitles.
Was the Royal Princess a victim of television, like so many cinemas? Perhaps so, given that Bendigo got its own local TV station in 1961. The cinema closed in May 1963 a month after the ABC TV station opened, and the final film that was screen at the Royal Princess was The Guns of Navarone (1961, dir. J Lee Thompson, starring Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn).
Archive images thanks to Harold Paynting Collection, State Library of Victoria.
Photographer: Commercial Photographic Co. 1936 ca.