Chelsea Cinema, Marryatville

South Australia > Chelsea Cinema, Marryatville > Chelsea Cinema, Marryatville

The Chelsea Theatre is a single screen cinema in Kensington Park, a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. The front entrance faces the Marryatville suburb and is seen as being part of the Marryatville business community. It was built in the Art Deco style, completed in 1925.

Cinema History

The theatre's location, as part of a ribbon development of shops in the Marryatville centre. This arterial road location was an extension of the Kensington suburb and was built in proximity to the Marryatville Hotel, police station, post office, and former primary school and bowling club sites. It was the locus for the Coopers Brewery site (many of whom worked in Leabrook and lived in Kensington).

The Chelsea Cinema was opened on November 24, 1925 by National Cinemas. The cinema location at 275 Kensington Road has had several boom and recession periods but traditionally experiencing good patronage due to the affluent nature of the surrounding residential and (historically, a farm-based) population. Since opening it has had a chequered past and was subsequently sold in 1928 to the Ozone Theatres.

An Adelaide News advertisement (placed on May 30, 1941) states the Cinema had two sessions: an evening one at 7:50PM on weeknights and a matinee session at 2:00 PM on Wednesdays and Sundays. Reservations could also have been made by telephoning the Cinema.

The initial refurbishment in 1941 allowed the building to be freshened up with new facilities and internal structures. A function room, parents room and facilities for the hearing impaired were installed with this redevelopment. A feature of the entrance foyer included a fireplace. Upholstered chairs made up the seating arrangements. The plaster mouldings addorning the roof and walls of the cinema were added at this time.

The cinema was sold to the Hoyts Cinema Group in 1951. A cinemascope screen was added (and the smaller traditional screen removed) in 1955, allowing for a wider range of movies to be shown. The Burnside City Council bought the building in 1964 and it was leased back to the Hoyts company. in 1971, the Wallis Group took over the lease.

The Chelsea's future was then discussed at a council meeting in 1977, due to the ongoing need for restoration of the cinema. Wallis Theatres replaced the screen and reduced the seating capacity with some of the sections of the building being white ant infested. During the 1983-1984 period the last of the major renovation activities took place. The screen and projection equipment were again updated by Wallis, allowing the theatre to compete with the then fledgeling video industry. The Crying Room was developed into a galley for the confectionery bar area. Subsequently, the function room was usurped as the crying room. The cinema remains as a council owned property (from 1972) with the Wallis Cinema chain leasing the building from the council.

Opening of the cinema

The cinema opened in 1925 as the Princess Theatre.

At the time of opening, the seating capacity was 1300 persons. (The current capacity is some 580 people.)

The cinema was later renamed the Marryatville Ozone Theatre. Wallis Cinemas acquired the cinema in 1971-1972, as part of their expansion of theatres across Adelaide, saving the cinema from demolition.

It was one of the last in Adelaide to still have foot warmers (via a hot water pipe system) during the 1980s.

Heritage Listing

The theatre's future is currently in negotiations with the Wallis company ceasing operations at the end of their lease of the cinema in 2009. The Burnside Council councillors are considering its future. There are no building restrictions on the building, however since 1983 the cinema has been listed on the State Heritage Register.

Features of the Cinema

  • Red brick external walls as part of the rear of the cinema complex
  • A Dolby Digital Surround Sound system
  • A soundproofed Crying Room for parents
  • Airconditioning and heating
  • Art deco bathroom facilities
  • Shops located on either side of the cinema entrance

Configuration and capacity

The cinema is a single screen complex with space for 580 patrons. The original configuration allowed for an orchestra pit around the screen area.

There is a 'vacant' garden block to the east of the cinema owned by the council. This site also contains public toilets and a cinema carpark accessible via Uxbridge Street and May Terrace. This site is a contentious one, allowing the possibility for the cinema to be extended to a twin or multi screen theatre. The closure of the Glenelg Wallis Cinema (also a multi-screen cinema) makes this prospect less likely. With smaller sized cinemas in proximity (Norwood and Magill) the competition is strong for patronage. The site is also used for charity fundraising events on a regular basis.

Modern cinematic presentation features

The cinema has many modern features including an upgraded screen and Dolby Digital sound system.

The cinema is also capable of projecting 70mm films.

Authentic Art Deco restoration

While the cinema has modern presentation features, its appearance has been carefully restored to its 1941 Art Deco design, including:

  • Exterior and interior decoration restored to original 1941 colours and styles
  • Georgian motifs within the design work of the cinema and the associated powder room and bathroom
  • Carved emblems in the foyer area as well as a wooden and chrome ticket box
  • Original 1941 design carpeting
  • Replica 1941 Art Deco fireplace, mirror & wooden Venetians in the upstairs foyer
  • Lounge seats and column decorations within the main foyer area

Operation and programming

The cinema operates mainstream cinema programming. It has an affluent clientele base and also shows a range of Arthouse films.

Historically, the cinema is well known for its Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings (two sessions - late and midnight) during the 1980s.

See also

  • Wallis Cinemas South Australian cinema circuit
  • Movie theatre

Reference sources and external links

  • Eastern Courier Messenger Article
  • Planning SA City of Burnside local planning laws
  • Flinders University CAARP Database
  • Take Time Radio 5PBA Radio J McGowan, 2005
  • Celebrating our City 150 Years of Burnside Council


This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Chelsea Cinema, Marryatville,
which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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