The Strand

The Strand

The Strand
Commercial Road, Yarram
Showing films from: 1914

The Strand Theatre was the first cinema to be opened in Yarram. It was built by Mr & Mrs Thompson, who later went on to build the Regent Theatre. Like the Regent Theatre, it was Mrs Margaret Adelia Thompson, best known as ‘MA Thompson’, who was the main force behind the development. Mrs Thompson is remembered as a colourful and entrepreneurial character – so it is little surprise she was quick to get into the film business.

The Strand opened in September 1914, situated on Commercial Road at the junction with James Street (opposite the Federal Coffee Palace). It was ‘built largely of local bricks, brought by horse and dray from the brickyards of Mr William Wigg, a few hundred yards on the Yarram side of railway s-bend. They cost £2 /13/- for a thousand…’ It was later discovered that some of the bricks were also ‘Hoffman bricks from Melbourne.[1]

The interior of the building was whitewashed and ‘decorated with murals by the late Mr Joseph Brosche. Although not a commercial painter, Mr Brosche had wide renown for this kind of work and there was great demand for his services… He never used a copy and his landscape pictures were all painted from memory.’ Wisteria and flamingos were painted on the proscenium walls, however, these may have been done by someone other than Brosche.[2]

Mr George Holland, a travelling picture showman, conducted the first film screenings at the Strand. In June 1921 ‘F. Dennis McGauran and his mother took over the lease of the hall to run the ‘Globe Pictures’. The opening was celebrated in great style with the films Blind Youth [1920, dir. Al Green] and Flapper [1920. Dir. Alan Crosland].’[3] Later ‘Mr. Ernie Cochrane leased the hall and ran pictures for several years during which time he had his own orchestra-himself at the piano (and older residents will tell you what a wonderful musician he was, making up all the music to fit the theme and mood of the film as it unrolled), a Mr. Quinn with the cornet, and Bill Pensom, a clerk at the post office on the fiddle.’[4]

In the late 1920s the management of the Strand changed again, including going back into the hands of the Thompsons for a while, who replaced some of the equipment and added a kitchen and supper room to the building. Around this time film screenings were taking place twice on a Saturday as well as a mid-week show. Films shown included For the Term of his Natural Life, a 1927 Australian film directed by Norman Dawn, the film is said to be the most expensive Australian silent film ever made. Once the more impressive Regent Theatre had opened down the road in 1930, the screenings at the Strand only last for about two more years, now under the ownership/ management of Mr George Davis. Over the years the building was known by a number of different names, including Strand Hall, Thompson’s Hall and Globe Pictures.

Mrs Thompson re-purchased the building in the 1940s but by then it was mainly used as a venue for dances, skating and balls. Following her death the building was sold and by the early 1960s it had been demolished to make way for Shay’s Service Centre. This later became a BP Service Station, which stands on the spot today.

[1] ‘Obituary, The Strand in affectionate memory’, Yarram News. 1963.
[2] Many thanks to Lily Hibberd for sharing her invaluable research on the history of cinema in Yarram and the notes from the memory days she conducted as part of The Cinemas Project.
[3] From these Beginning: History of the Shire of Alberton, John Adams, 1990, Alberton Shire Council.
[4] Yarram News. 1963.

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One Response to The Strand

  1. When I was young, late 1950s we used to have phys ed (or whatever it was called) evenings in the strand, with various bits of gym equipment. I hated being flattened by a medicine ball, a ridiculously heavy ball. “British bulldog” was also a way to get flattened. Basically, you stood in the middle of the room and a whole lot of boys ran at you to get to the other side of the room. Stupid and violent. As a kid wearing glasses, it was dangerous. I also remember parallel bars. It would have been on Friday nights, and afterwards we’d all get a pie, except the catholic boys who got fish and chips.

    I was taken by our over the road neighbour, Mr Rundle, again in the 50s to a Western concert there. There were rope twirling tricks and shooting things out of people’s mouths, country and western music, and the first “dirty” joke I ever heard (which I still remember). “How do you catch a polar bear? You cut a hole in the ice and strew peas around it. When the bear comes down for a pea, you kick him in the ice-hole”. Ha ha!

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