Held in the cultural collection at the Parramatta Heritage Centre is an entertainment program from the Roxy Spanish Theatre. This booklet lists a program of entertainment including a range of 1930s movies such as This is the Night with Cary Grant and No More Orchids with Carol Lombard. There are many other films listed on the packed program as well as boxing matches, wrestling, vaudeville and an organ recital.
The Roxy Theatre opened on 6thFebruary 1930 with a packed audience coming to watch Maurice Chevalier’s,Innocents of Paris. An interested crowd of several thousand observed the proceedings in the street opposite. The Roxy is one of the few remaining examples of the “Picture Palaces” that were built between the wars.
It is set back from the street behind an open air, arcade-lined forecourt. The main entrance is surmounted by an impressive arch and an ornate tower. The Spanish Mission style theatre is richly decorated and retains much of its original layout including stuccoed walls, arches, false balconies, a ‘Spanish’ style ceiling of panelled and painted timber and a central dome in the main auditorium. Originally the theatre had 1,923 seats and it also had a Christie theatre organ which reputedly was one of the largest and finest in New South Wales.
Both films and cinemas in this period were deliberately escapist and were strongly influenced by the United States. The decoration and fittings of these lavish cinemas provided an opulence and grandeur that was affordable for everyone. The Roxy, along with other classic cinemas in Parramatta, such as the Civic and the Astra, functioned as great entertainment venues. Some recall the Roxy as the place to go. In the 1930s, Frank Bloxham from the Parramatta Historical Society, used to come all the way from Maroubra to take his Dundas-based girlfriend to the movies at The Roxy. And, according to a report in the SMH, Frank Ashton declared that if you had a girl to impress you would take her to the Roxy. “It was a magic place. As soon as you walked through the doors you would fall in love with it. It also helped that the ushers were the prettiest girls in Sydney.”
Hoyts owned the Roxy Theatre from 1946 until 1979. Hoyts had attempted to sell the cinema in 1974 but the National Trust of Australia intervened and classified the cinema as an important example of a suburban picture palace. The National Trust made the Roxy the second cinema in NSW, after the State Theatre, to be placed on the heritage list. Rather than sell, Hoyts added three more cinemas and refurbished the arcade with new shops installed in the side wings. The Roxy Theatre is listed on Parramatta’s Local Environment Plan, the National Trust Register and the Register of the National Estate.
In 1979 Hoyts sold the Roxy to Village Cinemas and on the 27th March 2002 the Roxy Cinema closed for the last time, after 72 years as a cinema. In 2004 the Roxy was bought by the Palace Group who commenced renovations – they gutted the two lower, more recent cinemas and turned it into a nightclub. It opened as an entertainment venue in 2006 providing restaurants, bars and a cabaret/music venue. It is now known as The Roxy Hotel and Nightclub.
State Heritage Inventory, Parramatta Heritage Centre, Local Studies file http://www.sydneyarchitecture.com/WES/WES21.htm
Gadiel, Tanya, Private Member Statement, 25 June 2004 Legislative Assembly (Hansard)
Delaney, Brigid ‘Romantic Roxy dims the house lights after 72 years’, The Sydney Morning Herald, April 6-7, 2002