Kings of old up for new lease in Bega

The historic Kings Theatre in Bega, opened in 1935.

The historic Kings Theatre in Bega, opened in 1935.

The Kings Theatre building in Bega is once again in for a change.

Owner Warren Page has been conducting a furniture business in it for some years, but now is retiring and plans to lease the shop space.

The Kings stopped functioning as a cinema in the late 1980s.

Mr Page was the estate agent for the sale of the building, but he said the Bega Valley Shire Council could give no clear answer as to what the theatre could be used for, so no-one would buy it.

He raised the money to purchase the theatre himself and has been conducting a furniture store in the bottom half of the theatre, leaving the cinema gallery and the projector room untouched.

The Kings was officially opened by Bega Municipal Council Mayor Rosenthall on November 1, 1935.

It was licensed in January 1936.

Sydney architects Kaberry and Chard designed the art deco structure and Stafford Building Company constructed the theatre.

It was built on an old racing stable site next to the Hotel Bega and was a 12,000 pound extravaganza for Bega.

Its ornamentation was noted with passion by a reporter from the Bega District News:

“It compares favourably with the city theatres and can seat nearly 900 people.

“All modern conveniences have been introduced, including cooling for summer and heating for winter.

“The interior decorations have been carried out by a city firm of decorators in fine style and in brilliant lighting it presents a       most attractive scene.

“A new system of lighting gives the front of the building a most picturesque appearance and the entrance is in keeping with the all-round glamour.

“A wide and luxuriously carpeted staircase leads to the dress circle upstairs.

“The seating throughout is most comfortable and we understand that alone cost £1800.

“The wide stage permits that of a much bigger screen than we have       been accustomed to and we understand that this is the aim in modern theatres.”

A premiere of Bright Lights featured at the Kings Theatre opening and was reported to be “shown for the first time in Australia” with the leading actor Joe Brown “convulsing the audience” through the Fellini-style comedy.

Joe Bowden was the Kings’ first manager and he was succeeded by Ted Thistleton.

Kings employed 12 people to maintain operations.

They were the manager, two movie projectionists, two ticket ladies, a candy lady, two usherettes upstairs, two usherettes in the stall, and a cleaning lady.

The Kings Theatre is distinctive because it was designed by the best art deco architects of the time, Kaberry and Chard.

They designed 57 theatres in NSW and 150 Australia-wide, but only four are left, two of them are still cinemas and the Kings is one of two that no longer show films.

The Kings Community Theatre Group was formed in the late 1990s to explore the possibilities of bring cinema back to Bega.

It became defunct six years ago.

The Kings Theatre is on the Bega Valley Shire Council’s heritage list, so any changes to the building inside or out would have to be referred to the heritage consultant.

Mr Page’s business, Furniture Bega, is closing on August 16.

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