Town Hall Pictures

Town Hall Pictures

Town Hall Pictures
Also known: Town Hall Talkies

Commercial Road, Morwell
Showing films from 1936

After the Mechanics Hall burnt down in January 1935 it was decided that a new hall would be built on a block of land at the corner of Commercial Road and Hazelwood Road, known as ‘O’Rourke’s Corner’. This building became Morwell’s Town Hall and Municipal Chambers. Since the Mechanics Hall had been destroyed, Morwell hadn’t had a venue for film screenings, so the opening of the Town Hall and its planned film screenings were eagerly awaited.

The Town Hall was purpose built to screen films, with a seating capacity of 500 spread out between the ground floor and the dress circle. The Morwell Advertiser reported on the opening of the Hall, describing the building in detail:

Special attention has been given to the design of the Hall in scientific acoustic treatment and artificial lighting, while the provision of a large Bio Room and Cinematograph facilities allow its use as a modern Picture Theatre. … The general design of the interior of the Hall tends to lead the eye to the proscenium opening. The walls curve onto the stage… The curtaining is velour in dark red and apricot colors, and the stage is completely curtained in light harmonising color. …

The brickwork panels are left unplastered between rendered columns resting on a deep blue dado. The brickwork is finished in a light cream and the columns in buff while the tall windows in the side walls are draped with red curtains. The joinery work in the Hall and elsewhere in the building is stained and finished to a dull gloss. The ceiling is finished almost entirely with acousti board and will be left its natural color. The central ceiling feature is painted in pale gold with black supporting fines. The foyers are decorated in the primary colors – buff rubber flooring with a bright red boarder, pale blue walls and a white ceiling. The walls are left struck brickwork as in the main Hall.

The first film screening at the Town Hall took place on the 31st of October 1936. ‘Town Hall Pictures’ as it was called, was leased by Mr Verey. In his opening speech, reported in the Morwell Advertiser, he said he intended to provide an excellent film programme that would make the Town Hall Pictures the best in Gippsland. The newspaper also reported that Verey had said he intended ‘to secure the very best pictures obtainable and provide a good entertainment every night’. He also said that he was ‘not out to make a lot of money and would be content if he paid his way as the picture business was simply a hobby of his.’ While it might have started as a hobby, Verey went on to lease the cinema in Yallourn and to run the Paramount in Morwell.

The film screened on the opening night was The White Angel (1936. dir. William Dieterle, staring Kay Francis), a historical drama about Florence Nightingale who worked as a nurse during the Crimean War. Along with the film there was live entertainment on the stage from Coral Gunning who impersonated various film stars. Ushers were in attendance and soft drinks and ice cream were main available in the foyer.

A free bus services was provided on a Saturday nights running from Morwell Bridge, Yinnar and Jeeralang to bring people to the cinema. By the 1950s Town Hall Pictures had been taken over by Rex Hamilton, who soon after opened the Maya Theatre in Buckley Street. Hamilton also managed the Yallourn Theatre for a time.

The building was later used for live events and concerts. Since the 1970s the building has been home to the Latrobe Regional Gallery.

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One Response to Town Hall Pictures

  1. I can only recall seeing one film here (though I suspect I saw more) ca. 1972. It was Lawrence of Arabia, a 1960’s epic that seemed to last for days. I was about 10 and went with my mate and his parents. Middle of winter, freezing cold, despite our ‘lumber jackets’ and beanies.
    My next memory of the place was more pleasant: late 1978 the band I was in, Midnight, played there. I recall it being pretty packed but I struggled through our set to keep my drum kit from sliding away from me (the stage was pitched outward toward the audience. Fortunately nobody was injured. Next memories would be a couple of the Blue Light Discos that were held there
    ca. 1980.
    I did go to the gallery a couple of times on school excursions, and later, in the early 80’s, I’d pop my head in from time to time. It was an affordable thing to do in those dole-ratting days. The one artwork I remember vividly was a large Rosalie Gascoigne piece that hung in the stairwell. But maybe that was a little after the 80’s.
    I was all set to have a show there myself in 2000, years after I’d left town (physically at least) but it was derailed at the 11th hour – politics!
    The last time I returned there was a couple of years ago for a retrospective of works by a couple of local artists I know – Barry Brown and Irene Proebsting. It was a great show and a great venue to experience it in!

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