About the Theatre

about the theatre
over 75 years of history…

 

contents:

– What’s in a Name?
– The First 60 Years
– The Building
– Saving the Montreal
– The Montreal Today
– The Volunteers

 

what’s in a name?

 

The name, Montreal, is an anagram of the name of local draper JJ Learmont who had the theatre designed and built in 1929 after spending many hours of research in various Sydney theatres.  

the first 60 years

 

The theatre opened to great excitement on April 2, 1930 with Mr G Laurantus licensed to show films 6 days a week and host the Annual Anzac Day service.  At first non-synchronous music system accompanied the film, soon followed by “the Talkies”.  The licence then passed to his son-in-law Mr Peter Stathis whose family continued to run the business until 1965.  After Mr Stathis’s sons came on board in 1955 a new Cinemascope screen was installed which involved adding 4 feet to the stage and purchasing red velvet curtains and valance to complete the effect.  During these early years the Montreal was also the venue for the travelling shows and home-grown variety performances.R & M Duffrus screened films from 1965 to 1984 after which lessees came and went until the theatre closed as a commercial venue in 1992.  

 

the building

 

The Montreal is an almost intact example of a 1920’s picture theatre in the style of the architects Kaberry and Chard.  It is “modernistic” in style with Art Deco elements, 862 square metres in area and built in brick by Joseph Nyson to compliment the existing draper’s store owned by JJ Learmont.The façade is imposing with rendered pilasters, overhanging false pitched roof eaves, windows with astragal bars (at the projection box level) and ornamental carriage lamps.  The roof is galvanised iron with elaborate air vents.The interior, with its dress circle balustrade that extends along side walls towards the proscenium arch as a series of “boxes”, was typical of Kaberry and Chard.  The Edwardian style wall dado, egg and dart motif frieze and cartouches and lattice work ceiling made of caneite and timber is very striking and was common in the early cinemas from 1910 to early 1920’s.  No other examples of this ceiling type are known to survive in New South Wales, in their original condition.The seats in the stalls are upholstered in blue leather on a wooden frame and supported by cast iron row ends.  The original seats in the dress circle were cloth covered.  The overall colour scheme for the first 25 years was blue, gold and white.  When it was opened the theatre was able to seat 840.  

 

saving the montreal

 

In 1995 the building was put on the market.  Faced with the likely loss of a building that had been an integral part of the town for so long, a group of concerned citizens formed a steering committee to see what could be done.  A building inspector pronounced the building in “good sound serviceable condition” but there was no equipment, sound system or heating.  It was badly in need of repainting, replumbing and rewiring.With the encouragement of the owners, the Learmont family, and a grant from the locally administered Blakeney Miller Trust Foundation a 2 year feasibility study was undertaken to decide whether the Montreal could be run by volunteers as a picture theatre and community venue.  Advice was sought, sound systems scrounged and two vintage carbon-arc projectors came from the demolished Hay Majestic.  Volunteers worked day and night to repaint and clean the Theatre.  

the montreal today

 

On April 19, 1995, 65 years after it first opened, the Montreal reopened with a variety night featuring local talent to a more than packed house (the theatre now seats 572).  In the first 6 months 10,000 patrons (equal to the shire population) came through the door.  By the end of the first year it was 25,000.  Movies are shown about once a week, sometimes more often.  The projection and sound equipment has continuously been improved thanks to the dedication of the chief projectionist David Riddell without whose expertise nothing would have been achieved.In 1998 with the support of the Blakeney Millar Trust Foundation and monies raised through the community, the theatre was able to be purchased on behalf of the community.  Donations large and small and a grant from the Ministry for the Arts allowed ongoing refurbishing including stage renovations, vibrant new curtains and a push-button retractable screen, heating and thanks to Visy Pulp and Paper, air-conditioning.  An upright grand piano proudly graces the stage.Under the banner of the Montreal Community Theatre our patrons have enjoyed a range of entertainment from Opera through Jazz and Country to Honky Tonk, Military Bands, orchestra to solo artists, amateur to international professional performers, live plays (drama to comedy), dance (ballet to tap), the latest release films, school speech nights, drug seminars, concerts to weddings, book launches and art shows.  In 2003 the Montreal was proud to host the state-wide “Flicks in Sticks” conference.The Montreal Community Theatre umbrella includes the Tumut Performing Arts Society (TPAS) and community radio station FM96.3 & FM96.4 “Sounds of the Mountains” and it is affiliated with Regional Arts NSW.  

 

the volunteers

 

18 years on, 3 of the original committee members and another 2 who joined soon after are still going strong in 2013. The current members bring different interests and capacities to the group but the one thing they have in common is a commitment to the Montreal Community Theatre.  As well as running the theatre they are cleaners and maintenance workers, light bulb changers and in charge of the stage lights, ticket box and sound equipment.  Their job is very hands on in all areas.The Committee is assisted in rostered ushering, occasional food service and working bees by people willing to support the theatre on a regular basis.  Prospective ushers are always welcome to contact the Committee as the theatre relies on continuing community involvement.  

 

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