Curtains drawn on cinematic piece of Rosebud’s history


Family affair: Paul and Lloyd Whitaker in front of the old cinema building in their family for 90 years. Picture: Yanni

RED Hill resident Paul Whitaker remembers as a small boy being taken to the original Rosebud cinema – the first cinema on the Mornington Peninsula. It had been acquired by his father Frank in 1928 with the proceeds of the first screening being donated to the widows of local fishermen who died in a storm at that time.

The Broadway Theatre was an enthralling place for an imaginative youngster, steeped in the glamour of the Hollywood film industry, with colourful posters outside advertising that night’s screenings.

Mr Whitaker was speaking in the lead-up to the auction of the old Broadway cinema corner and six retail shops on 1241 square metres which were on the market for the first time in 90 years.

Selling agents are CBRE. Tenants, including Flight Centre and Foyer Café, generate a fully leased annual return of about $250,000. The site has combined frontages of about 90 metres to Point Nepean Road, Rosebud Parade and Wannaeue Place.

That was then: A pre-war street scene with film posters outside the original foyer.

Mr Whitaker said: “The Broadway has a rich history that our family is very proud to have been part of. It started as a dance hall and cinema with a sunken orchestra pit with ornate balustrade in front of the stage.

“During the war years, buses would bring people down from Frankston for the dances. It was popular with American servicemen attracted to the local girls.

“In the 1960s it became a disco and the stage hosted many performances by John Farnham who was paid $50 for his three gigs in the Sadie days.

“Kevin Taylor ran a disco in the mid-60s with dancers Denise Drysdale and Jenny Smith. Many local bands performed at dances there, such as The Mixed Breed and the Longjohns in 1966 with Ken Ferguson.”

When the Peninsula Drive-In at Dromana opened in December 1962 Mr Whitaker said the “writing was on the wall” for cinemas and it was forced to close. The projection equipment was moved to the drive-in – still in the family – and then on again to the newly opened Leongatha drive-In.

“The cinema became Wilsons Music & Variety with Vaughan and Graham Wilson running music and toy sales,” he said. “Many locals learned to play the piano and guitar there, and Humphry B. Bear made an appearance. It was swap-card heaven for children.

“The original blue velvet curtains still hang each side of the stage. The projection room portholes are still visible, along with art deco wall decorations made from Canite.

“The cinema building became a furniture shop, currently the Rosebud Vintage Bazaar, with the foyer named Bethy’s Cafe, now The Foyer cafe, enjoying a marvellous outlook with extra wide sidewalk dining. The corner shop is the only street level shop in Rosebud with a bay view.

Fashionable ladies: A Broadway fashion show in the 1940s. Pictures: Supplied

“The Broadway was the social centre for teens at Saturday matinees. They watched Hop-a-long Cassidy movies … Movietone newsreels etc.

“Rosebud Football Club held its annual ball through the 1930s at The Broadway. Fashion parades with the local ‘lasses’ were popular … with Marie Dunk, Wendy Peebles and Barbara Ditchburn competing on stage.

“When the war finished, a ball was held in honour of returned servicemen. There was a free Christmas family movie every year.

“The dress shop on the corner was run by Mrs Luck and later by the Molineaux sisters.”

Mr Whitaker said The Broadways bouncer was involved in a few notable “rumbles” – even throwing two over-refreshed soldiers off the old Rosebud jetty (opposite Rosebud Parade).

“A well-known Rosebud identity was Mick Dunk. Everyone remembers him selling movie tickets out of the little office on the left of the foyer.

“Then there was the ‘etiquette’ of movie going, such as rolling Jaffas down the aisles and under the seats; standing to attention for God Save The Queen at the start of every movie, and sneaking in the side toilet door after jumping the back fence – only to be caught by the scruff of the neck by Mick.

“Those were the days, and still in the memory of many a local!” he said.

CBRE agent Nick Hage said the property would be “repositioned” after passing in on Saturday 26 October for $4.25 million. He said short-term leases would be consolidated to provide more security for prospective buyers.

Other cinema buildings to change hands recently include The Peninsula Cinemas at Rosebud and Sorrento sold on behalf of the Kirby family for a combined $9.37 million.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 5 November 2019


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