kythera family kythera family

Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

Showing 981 - 1000 from 1116 entries
Show: sorted by:

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Brief Summary or Abstract of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis,

Avoca Theatre, Avoca Beach.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

This is Kevin Cork's own Abstract or Summary of his unfinished work.

The importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated throughout the thesis.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.


Prior to the introduction of the concept of multiculturalism in the 1970s, migrants to Australia were expected to assimilate as quickly as possible. How this was done was left to the migrants themselves and for those who arrived before and immediately after World War II, it was not an easy road to travel. For southern Europeans this was made more difficult because of public antipathy, work restrictions and government control. Research into a particular group of Greek migrants, who arrived between 1898 and 1949, has revealed that, rather than assimilate, they integrated through their achievements, keeping the best of Greek culture which they added to what they wanted from the host country's culture.

Chapter 1 discusses the available information on Greek migration to Australia, particularly to New South Wales prior to 1950. The misconception about stereotypical Greek cafe owners is dismissed and attention is drawn to a particular group of 66 men who, for economic reasons, became motion picture exhibitors.

Chapter 2 provides generalised backgrounds of these men, telling how they came into the picture business. Included is a case study of a North Coast family.

Chapter 3 examines discrimination, firstly against the men and their families, then how they were forced to discriminate. A case study shows the difficulties of three Greeks in Bingara.

Chapter 4 provides brief overviews of each man's cinema years.

Chapter 5, "Parthenons Down Under", discusses the importance of picture-going in pre-television days and overviews the theatres built by the Greek exhibitors. A short survey of Greek landmarks in New South Wales is considered and a case argued for retention and placement on heritage lists of six theatres constructed for Greek exhibitors. Because it was rare to find more than one Greek-born exhibitor in any one country town,

Chapter 6 is a case study of an atypical country town and examines the history and contributions made by six Greeks who ran five picture shows in Walgett at various times between 1915 and 1970.

Chapter 7 is a picture gallery with lengthy captions and photographs of the men, their families, their cafes, their theatres.

Chapter 8 is an overview of the subject group's achievements and includes the contribution made by their wives. Two case studies are presented: one on Anastasia Sotiros, the other on Theo Conomos of Carinda. The question is then answered as to whether the subject group integrated or assimilated.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Achievement through integration or Assimilation? Chapt 8, [Part C: Absorption, Case Study, Conclusions.] of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D thesis.

Albury Regent, 1927.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

The first part of Chapter 8 brings together the themes of his study - focusing on a number of Kytherian families.

The importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated in Chapt 8, as in all other chapters.

Part C, of Chapter 8, Includes a section on Absorption, A Case study of Theo Conomos at Carinda, and conclusions about whether the Greeks and Kytherians Achievements were derived from Integration, or Assimilation?

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.

Achievement through integration or Assimilation? Chapt 8. [Continued from previous 2 entries, Parts A & B].


Tsounis, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, considered that Greek migrants, although absorbed economically, were not necessarily absorbed socially, politically or culturally if measured against such things as participation in social and cultural institutions in the host society, and the acquisition of positions of influence, privilege and power within those institutions. While the members of the subject group were absorbed economically, the degrees to which they were absorbed into the other three areas must be measured against each individual's life. All were motion picture exhibitors and their cinemas (especially those that doubled as ballrooms) were important in the host society's social and cultural lives. If Tsounis' point is applied, then all of the subject group participated to a high degree in the social and cultural institutions of the host society through selection of film programmes, working with dance/ball committees, and generally mixing with local people in relation to their cinemas and other interests (eg lodges, sporting groups, other commercial activities). The political aspect of Tsounis' thought could apply to those who became naturalised, who sought amongst other things the right to vote at all levels of government, and to the two men who served on their local councils.

As theatre proprietors, they achieved positions of influence within their communities. An example of the esteem in which one exhibitor was held, and which reinforces the type of influence that these men had, can be found in part of an obituary for James Simos (Roxy Theatre, Cootamundra) who died in an accident in 1938.
The late James Simos was generous and gentlemanly, and clear thinking was naturally one of his characteristics. He was one whom people were glad to be able to call a friend; and there has passed on a townsman from whom Cootamundra gained much during his sojourn...True, he was a shrewd businessman, but the writer, who was closely associated with him for years, came to realise that James Simos gave more thought to prospective programmes for his picture theatre than from the angle of financial gain. His main thought was rather, 'Would the people benefit and enjoy the programme?' And his ability in that direction was outstanding. He occupied an important position in the community life of Cootamundra in this way, guiding the destinies of a business which deeply affected the social activities of the town and district, and one which also deeply affected its status. The business wielded an influence which many do not appreciate.

His unassuming and kindly manner covered an iron will; and his loss, under tragic circumstances, will be sincerely regretted by many who were honored [sic] with his friendship.

Case study - Theo Conomos at Carinda

Kytheran-born Theodore Emanuel Conomos (Megaloconomos) was sponsored by Lambros Conomos (no relation) of Walgett and arrived in Australia at the age of 25 in 1927.
Dad and Theo were from the same village. In fact, Lambros and Dad brought quite a few fellows out from Kythera and Theo was one of them...When they couldn't get enough people to work in the shop. They'd come and work in Walgett for a couple of years and then they'd, with a little bit of money in their pockets, they'd go and find a similar business somewhere else.

After leaving Walgett in 1929, Theo spent time in Brewarrina and then Sydney before he moved to Carinda in the mid-1930s. He is believed to have been encouraged into this venture by Lambros at Walgett. His brother, Vassilios (Bill) Emanuel Conomos (whom Lambros Conomos also sponsored), joined him in Carinda where they leased a large block of land (approximately 165 feet to Shakespear Street by 132 feet to Colin Street) from Harold H Amiet from 18 May 1936. Included in the lease were a shop (facing Colin Street) (which they renamed the Carinda Cafe), a house (in Shakespear Street) and a public hall (facing Colin Street). There was also a smaller shop at the corner of the two streets.

The public hall (60 feet long by 30 feet wide, with a stage 30 feet by 12 feet) had been built by Harold Amiet in 1930. With walls of wood and iron, a wooden floor and a galvanised iron roof, it resembled many a country hall of its time. Seating was for 300 (more than the size of the village's population). By 1937 Theo and Bill Conomos' letterhead boasted that they controlled the refreshment room, the hall, the ice works and the town's electricity power supply. As well, they also installed a petrol bowser outside the refreshment room. Sometime in the late 1940s Theo upgraded the electricity plant with the help of his brother-in-law, George Rosso and, at the time, wired-up a number of privately owned buildings and provided some street lighting. All of this was done with the approval of Walgett Shire Council which was either unable or unwilling to do the same. According to local historian, Margaret Johnstone, the power was turned off at midnight and Theo controlled the supply until the middle 1960s when rural power came to the district.

A third Conomos brother, George, joined Theo and Bill for a short time in the later 1930s but did not stay in Carinda for very long. He eventually moved to Orange where he ran a fruit shop.

The public hall brought in some rental from dances and other social functions, but the Conomos brothers could see a better financial return if a regular picture show were set up. Probably guided by the success of the Walgett Conomos Bros' cinema, Theo and Bill set about turning their hall into a cinema in 1937. The conversion was relatively simple. Besides the erection of a screen on stage, and the raising of the rear portion of the auditorium floor, a 9 feet by 6 feet projection box was constructed on the left hand side of the facade and necessary wiring was installed. The evening of 12 July witnessed the opening of the Carinda Talkies. The opening programme included "Naughty Marietta" and several featurettes, including the Metrotone News. (This was the first time local people had been able to see, and hear, news items.) The cinema was variously referred to as Carinda Talkies and Megalo Theatre.
Messrs. Conomos Bros, of Carinda, intend opening the new picture theatre in Carinda Hall on Monday, 12 July, to be followed by a dance, the proceeds of which will be donated to Carinda Hospital. Dancing will commence at about 11.30p.m. and Jackson's Orchestra will provide the music. Hostesses who will assist Messrs Conomos Bros. with the dance arrangements are Mesdames G. Marskell, R. Hardy, J. Munro and Sister Cornwell.

Lambros Conomos' brother, Emmanuel (Hector), recalled Theo's practical solution to balancing his picture programmes.
I always used to balance my programmes [in Walgett] so as to bring out the show about half past ten, but very, very seldom hold the people there until eleven o'clock. See, give them a chance to get home. And, of course, being next to the cafe, give them a chance to spend a few bob on coffee and toast. Anyway, I believe Theo never used to balance his programmes. He used to get onto Fox or anything and say send me such-and-such a production or he might have 20,000 feet of film there...there was 11 minutes per 1000 feet, if I remember rightly - sound film. So Theo thought...this is no good staying up to after midnight so, once or twice, he discarded a reel. Someone asked Theo, 'Theo,' he said, 'that had a funny sort of a finish.' Theo said, 'Yes, I couldn't understand it myself.'

On 15 January 1940 the property being leased to the two brothers was transferred into their names. Another block of land, measuring the same as the first, but on the eastern side of the unnamed lane and fronting Shakespear and Wilga Streets, was purchased by Theo on 9 April 1945. By 1940, the firm's letterhead showed that a cordial factory had been added to their investments. A further addition in 1941 was the "Town Butchery" in Shakespear Street. On their letterhead of 1947, the cordial factory had been deleted.
Support for charities by Conomos Bros was commonplace. The year 1941 was typical. In January, a special film screening, followed by a dance, was held in aid of the local branch of the Red Cross Society. "Messrs T. and B. Conomos are to be complimented on their generosity in donating the proceeds of the entertainment to such a worthy cause." In February, Theo "convened a meeting to decide whether some function should be held" to raise money for a country-wide fund-raising activity in aid of the Greek Red Cross. The meeting was large and enthusiastic and it was decided to hold a Sports and Novelty Events Day on 28 February, with a ball in the evening at the theatre. Such was the success of the day that Carinda contributed £150 to the charity. Three months later, the brothers donated the proceeds from their Third Anniversary Pictures to the local Country Women's Association.

In 1944, Theo married Vasyliki (Bessie) Rosso, originally from Kythera. In the succeeding years, their family grew to four children. Bill, on the other hand, never married. Preferring to return to Greece where he might spend his later years, he transferred his half share in the enterprises to Theo on 8 May 1950 and returned to Kythera where he later passed away.

Having seen the village cut off by floods in the early 1950s, Theo and the Carinda Progress Association pushed for the construction of an aerodrome. In 1952 land was acquired and, in 1953, the first commercial flights into Carinda commenced. Theo returned to Greece in the early 1950s for an extended holiday and left George Rosso in-charge of the hall, and other brothers-in-law, Peter and John Rosso in-charge of the cafe. He made another trip to Greece in 1956, having arranged for the hall's facade to be remodelled in his absence. This included bringing the entire front into line with the existing ticket box and installing an awning. The result was that the hall blended with the adjacent Megalo Cafe.

In 1961, desirous of better educational facilities for his children and hoping to take life a little easier, Theo and his family moved into Dubbo. Although he left his brothers-in-law to run the cafe, Theo returned to Carinda each Saturday to show the pictures. As television started to impact on the cinema industry, Carinda suffered. In 1966, the theatre was screening once each week, but by 1967 it was screening once a month. The following year, no pictures were shown, although the hall was used for other social functions. Theo was 66 years old by then and it was not worth travelling back and forth to keep the show going. In 1970 pictures were tried again, but an official report stated only "6 times per year". A letter on the T & B Conomos letterhead, in May 1971 stated that "...owing to lack of patrons, we have decided to close down the Megalo Theatre for a period of at least three years."

On 16 July 1971, the shop-residence-hall block was transferred to Theo's nephew, Emanuel Peter Conomos who retained the hall's licence but indicated that he did not intend to screen pictures. In a letter dated 3 July 1972, that used the letterhead of T & B Conomos but which was crossed out and replaced by E P Conomos, the new owner stated that he no longer required the cinema licence. Below the T & B Conomos name was "Established 1935". Thus, in the stroke of a pen, the firm of T & B Conomos, providores of essential commodities, services and entertainment to Carinda for some many years, ceased to be associated with the village.

Theo passed away on 29 August 1987 in Dubbo and his wife now resides in Brisbane. The Megalo Cafe and Theatre changed hands several years ago and the cafe is now a general store-cum-milk bar called "Megalo Store". The hall, having been used for a time by Emanuel Conomos to store kangaroo skins, has become the Post Office. The shop at the corner of Shakespear and Colin Streets, run for some years by the Rosso brothers as a grocery shop, is empty. The cordial factory and ice works disappeared a long time ago, the butchery was disposed of, electricity is supplied by a public instrumentality, and the petrol pump became obsolete when a small service station was built further along the main street. What then of the Conomos name?

When a book on Carinda was launched in 1984, the authors wrote, "In paying tribute to Theo, the thought occurs of what would have happened to the village of Carinda without the forceful drive of this fine man." If it were not for this solitary book, the Conomos name would probably be forgotten and the story would be lost of how two Greek immigrant brothers accepted the challenge of moving to an outback village in the mid-1930s, grasped opportunities as they arose, and integrated into the local community. Along the way, they provided goods and services for the local populace that no-one else was prepared to provide. As their brother-in-law commented, there was nothing much to do in Carinda on Saturday nights and Theo and Bill gave everyone the impetus to get dressed up and go out, as singles, doubles or as families. Obviously, if families came to the village to the pictures, then it meant more meals at the cafe, more confectionery sold, and more petrol sold from the bowser. It was, in fact, a highly satisfactory, two-way contribution. The locals got what they wanted; the two brothers achieved economic independence and were accepted by the community. In itself, a story of successful integration.

Achievement through Integration, or Assimilation?

Was it a case, then, of achievement occasioned by integration, or did the members of the subject group assimilate? Referring to the "fuller terminology" given by Price earlier in this chapter, it is interesting to apply the terms (written below in italics) to the known facts about the subjects.

1. "Absorption - to denote the incorporation of immigrants into the economic life of a country."
The group was absorbed into the economic life of the country through its business connections. This covered a wide range of commercial activities in which they were involved and succeeded. Current though has it that up to 80 per cent of small businesses fail in their first year and, if a small business passes its second year of operation, then it can be considered a success. If one were to apply this current criterion for determining the success of small businesses then, with few exceptions (eg Alfred Crones, Walgett 1915-16, and Sam Coroneo, Tamworth Strand 1928-29), the subject group members were successful small businessmen.

2. "Accommodation - to denote a condition where the immigrant and native stock tolerate each other to the extent that they together in the same country."
Commercial necessity brought about toleration in the years before World War II, although there were the few overt situations when tempers flared (eg in 1915). Toleration came with time and was different from situation to situation. As discussed in an earlier chapter, sometimes there was an undercurrent of discrimination that affected only the Greeks' children, which must have originated with the British-Australian adults for it to be picked-up by their offspring.

3. "Integration - to denote the process whereby two or more ethnic groups adapt themselves so well that they can accept and value each other's contribution to their common political and social life."
For a time, it was a one-way adaption: the Greeks adapted; the British-Australians maintained the status quo. According to Price, the southern Europeans adapted quickly to the legal system and its conventions. One Greek solicitor (C Don Service and Co, Anglicised name), who was established by the 1930s, acted on behalf of several of the subject group members. As time passed, Greeks and British-Australians came to accept the contributions each group made to the communities in which they lived and worked. For example, the Greek theatre builders relied on Australian architects and builders, while the communities accepted what the Greeks built for them. This can be seen in the opening night remarks (see Chapter 5) and the obituaries published in newspapers at the time of death of some of the exhibitors.

4. "Acculturation - to denote the intermixture of languages, dress, diet, sport and other cultural characteristics of two or more different peoples."
The Greeks learned English, followed the Australian way of dressing, learned how to cook Australian meals in their cafes, and served Australian confectionery in their cinemas, learned how to play or follow Australian sports, Anglicised their names, and were expected to pick up other Australian cultural characteristics. It was not until the late 1950s that Australians generally started to take an interest in Greek cooking and other cultural items (eg Merlina Mercouri, writer, director and star of "Never on Sunday" with its memorable theme tune by Manos Hadjidakis).

A 1994 Bureau of Immigration and Population Research document, Community Profiles. 1991 Census. Greece Born, stated that Greek immigrants generally maintained "a strong pride in their religious and cultural heritage and consider it their responsibility to effectively transfer a commitment towards the maintenance of a Greek identity to succeeding generations." This is reinforced by means of involving themselves in a network of social relationships and mutual obligations with family, kin and regional community. This is evident among the remaining members of the subject group who are proud of their Greek heritage and all that it entails.

5. "Amalgamation - to denote the intermarriage of different physical strains and the consequent blending of biological characteristics."
While this could have been one of the most important parts of assimilation for the subject group, it was limited to five marriages only - N Laurantus, G Laurantus, J Simos, L Spellson, J Kouvelis. It could be assumed that the subject group members preferred to retain their ties with their Greek culture, (and some may have believed that they might return to Greece some day), but it may also have been to do with their own perceived status within the communities in which they lived and worked.

The subject group does not satisfy the above five aspects that relate to assimilation. So, where does that place them? Did they assimilate or not? Perhaps what transpired was that the two cultures moved closer together over a period of time and ultimately brought the subject group members to the point where they saw themselves as Greek-Australians. Price suggested that Greek migrants to Australia did this and the research undertaken for this thesis supports his view.
What appears to be part of the more general process of social and economic assimilation is really part of the more general process whereby both Britishers and Europeans have, willy nilly, moved closer to each other under the compulsion of a novel but common environment. This aspect of assimilation frequently receives less attention than it deserves.

In the case of the members of the subject group who lived and worked in country towns, the latter would have provided the "novel but common environment". Long distances from other towns, connected often by unsealed roads or lengthy train journeys, the inhabitants of the towns and surrounding areas were left to themselves for physical and emotional support. The Greeks of the subject group had to adapt to the towns in which they lived and worked. From the interviews undertaken for the thesis, it became clear that all of the subject group members attempted to adapt, including Margetis who lived and worked in Sydney and its suburbs. It was essential for economic reasons that the cafe and cinema Greeks conformed "substantially to the patterns of the majority. Distinction in language, and even in dress, could mark them off as non-conformists and, therefore, in the minds of Australians, as unassimilated," thereby placing greater stress on them within their British-Australian communities. (The situation was to be very different for the bulk of the post-war Greek migrants who tended to move into clusters in Redfern, Surry Hills and Marrickville where the enclaves themselves offered refuge and support in language, diet, entertainment and religion.)

The concept of duality, as Price describes it, is "cultural pluralism, where various ethnic groups are integrated into a polity but maintain their separate ethnic cultures indefinitely." It becomes a case of achievement through integration rather than assimilation and this has been the case for the members of the subject group. Although the members of the subject group retained many things "Greek" (eg Greek language for home or with friends, Greek religious customs including naming of children; some foods), they acquired a lot of Australian ideas and manners. Holidays to Greece, keeping in contact with Greek relatives by letter or telephone both here and abroad, and socialising when possible with other Greeks, has ensured that, for many, they did not lose their Hellenic heritage. Through their business and social activities, they made important contributions to ordinary, everyday British-Australia. Their children, who were born, educated and work in Australia (many in professional areas), have retained certain "Greek" attributes and are reluctant to forego the duality established by their parents. Some have married Australian-born Greek descendents because they considered it was what their parents wanted. During the course of interviews, a few confided that they hoped their own children would do the same, although it was considered to be less important than in their generation. Price noted that it "generally takes three generations before full amalgamation, acculturation. and assimilation takes place", but in the case of many of the grandchildren of the subject group, they still retain Hellenic elements (eg the ability to converse with grandparents in Greek, retention of Greek Orthodox religion, and appreciation of certain Greek customs and cuisine). On his last point, Price may need to think in terms of a fourth generation although, as the world shrinks with current trends towards globalisation, shorter travelling times between countries, and the Internet, that generation may declare itself to be "citizens of Earth" and gather customs and mores from wherever it wants and whenever it wants, thereby expanding the concept of duality which typified the members of the subject group.

But what of the physical legacy of the subject group? The Burra Charter (1992) makes the following claim:
Communities come to value places which are the settings for important events, or which become symbols of identity and aspiration. Many churches and public buildings are important in this way. They are not just neutral venues for social events, they are important as the symbols and reminders of the events.
The cafes and picture theatres built for Greek immigrants were symbols of identity and aspiration. They were symbols of their achievements. We owe it to future generations to record the history of all immigrant groups to this shore. Considering that the Greeks are the third largest migrant group, then there should be a wealth of material about them. This is not the case. For those of the subject group, their physical legacy has been progressively eroded away through thoughtlessness, apathy, sheer bloody-mindedness and allowing the almighty dollar to take control. "The shape of a city is not static and the needs of the future have to be met as much as the past respected." Future generations, no matter what cultural heritage they possess, may learn a lot about aspiration and achievement from studying the integration of selected migrant groups within Australia. Perhaps such studies could also be used as role-models for future first generation arrivals, encouraging them to become involved in their communities which, in turn, will help make Australia a more culturally-enriched land.

It would be unrealistic to pretend that people from one culture can adopt the culture of another nation and not retain aspects of their former culture. Rather, the general process, as Price states, of moving closer together over a long period of time is supported by the findings of the research for this thesis. Greek migrants to Australia, rather than having assimilated, have created a dual nationality for themselves, viz Greek-Australian. Price states that "This aspect of assimilation frequently receives less attention than it deserves" This thesis records, in detail for the first time, a particular group of Greek men and acknowledges their contributions to the heritage of this state. Our Australian culture has been enriched because of these pre-television motion picture exhibitors and their "Parthenons Down Under".

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Achievement through integration or Assimilation? Chapt 8, [Part B : Wives: Their contribution.] of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D thesis.

Manildra Amusu, Theatre.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

The first part of Chapter 8 brings together the themes of his study - focusing on a number of Kytherian families.

The importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated in Chapt 8, as in all other chapters.

Part B, of Chapter 8, concentrates on the contribution of Cinema proprietors WIVES in the history of Cinema in New South Wales, with an extended study of Anastasia Sotiros.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.


[Part B: Continued from previous entry.]

Wives: Their contribution

Although this chapter has discussed the Greek men who became cinema exhibitors, there is another aspect in the lives of many of them that deserves to be recognised, ie their wives. It is known that 15 of the men concerned were not married at the time of their cinema involvement and the history of others is such that it is impossible to ascertain their wives' involvement. However, it is known that at least 19 wives did assist their husbands in various ways with regards to their cinema enterprises and, for some, this often meant assisting in the refreshment rooms as well. While the assistance they gave to their husbands can never be measured, it was certainly valuable. Besides the physical assistance, the wife provided companionship and was able to step-in to help at short notice when others might not have been available. In some instances, wives and children later moved to Sydney (for the sake of their children's education), leaving their husbands to continue with the family business/es. The following paragraphs provide a record of the involvement of the wives of the men in the subject group.

Georgia Tzortzopoulos was married to Andrew Comino in 1935, after arriving in Australia the year before. Helen Comino married Andrew Megalokonomos (aka Conomos) in 1937. Both women were born on Kythera. The two women assisted at their husbands' cafe and picture show in Wee Waa. When the latter's husband passed away and Georgina moved to Sydney in 1959, Helen and Andrew Comino continued to run the businesses. The cinema business was sold around 1962 and the cafe was sold in 1966.

While on Kythera in 1938, endeavouring to persuade his brother Jim to return to Australia, Emmanuel Conomos met and married Elly Kyriakoula Haros. (The two families were old friends.) Returning to Walgett that same year, Elly worked at the refreshment room and at the brothers' Luxury Theatre. When obtaining staff became difficult during World War II, Elly found that she was more in demand than before. Living in a town that experienced dust storms, Elly recalled that it was not uncommon to have to wipe all the seats prior to a screening so as to rid them of dust. Seeking better educational opportunities for their three children, she moved to Sydney in 1961. Her husband's business interests kept him in Walgett until 1973, although the family used to return during school holidays.

Vasilike Giannotis came to Australia with her family from Kythera in 1928, at the age of 7. From 1942, after her marriage to Theo Conomos, she worked at her husband's refreshment room and at their Megalo Theatre where she either sold tickets or ushered. Between times, she looked after the family's house, helped to raise their four children and managed to find time to belong to the local branch of the CWA.

Born c1915 in Karavas, Kythera, Anastasia Diacopoulos migrated to Australia at the age of 11. She was working for her brothers at their Tourist Cafe in Gosford when Alex Coroneo met her and they married in 1935. The only business that the family operated at the time was the Civic Theatre at Scone. Although she preferred to be, as her son described her, "a homebody", she worked at the cinema when needed. The family moved to Sydney in 1947 after selling the theatre business to Theo Coroneo (Alex's nephew).

Born in Pitsiniathes, Kythera, Anna Mavromati had only been in Australia for a few years when Theo Coroneo was introduced to her at a dance in Sydney. They married in 1953. Anna assisted at Theo's Scone theatre and, when her husband had a stroke in the mid-1960s, she took over the complete running of it until his condition allowed him to return to work. One of the fond memories of those days was the flowers that adorned the vestibules of the theatre, many coming from Anna's own gardens. In 1970 the family moved to Sydney, seeking better educational opportunities for the family.

When a friend suggested that he go to Melbourne to meet a "nice girl", George Hatsatouris did so and, in October 1941, he married Anna Paltoglou. Both families had known each other on Kastellorizo. (Anna's brother, Bill managed Hatsatouris Bros' West Kempsey Roxy Theatre in the mid-late 1940s.) Settling in Taree, Anna helped George at his Civic Theatre, usually as ticket seller, until the theatre was leased-out in 1971. Typical of many country cinemas, the theatre telephone could be switched through to the manager's residence for phone bookings (an important part of pre-television cinema days). Angelo Hatsatouris (eldest of their four children) recalled that, as children growing-up, they were never allowed to make long telephone calls as the phone had to be kept free for patrons wishing to make bookings.

Peter Hlentzos' wife, Theodora, was in charge of the kitchen at their White Rose Cafe in Cooma. It is believed that she helped her husband at either the Victor or, later, the Capitol theatre, but this has not been confirmed.

Born in Sydney, the only daughter of George Angelides (of Puritan Chocolates' fame), Anastasia, met Chris James at a picnic. Chris had come to Sydney to be best man at a wedding. In October 1937, the two were married and Chris took his new bride back to Cobar where he and his brother ran the Occidental Cafe. Anastasia worked in the cafe and recalled that, during those late 1930s and early 1940s, they had a staff of 18 and seating for over 100 diners. Chris' brother left the partnership around 1939 and this placed extra pressure on Chris and Anastasia. The first of their two children arrived in 1940, the second in 1946. That same year, tired of the hard work and with no relatives to assist, Chris moved into the cinema business and sold the cafe. Anastasia worked as cashier at the Regent and helped out in other capacities. At one time, she and Chris, with the aid of a hand-mixer, concreted the floor of the open air cinema situated behind the Regent. Busy only at nights at the Regent, she opened a children's wear shop, saying that there was nowhere else in the town to buy such things. The venture succeeded and she expanded the business to include frocks. Daughter Maria helped with ushering at the Regent, then in the ticket box. In 1962, Anastasia moved to Sydney with her children. From about 1963 to 1966, Maria returned to Cobar where she managed the Regent so that her father could supervise his Palais Theatre at Nyngan.

Sophia Laurantus arrived in Australia from Karvounades, Kythera in 1931. With no English skills, she was shunted between her brothers and sisters: Nicholas and Clare Laurantus at Narrandera, Mary and Paul Cato at Wallendbeen, Con and Despina Bylos at West Wyalong, and George and Vera Laurantus at Junee. In July 1932 she married Jim Johnson (Demetrios Ioannides) and moved to Gundagai where Nicholas Laurantus had secured a lease on the relatively new Gundagai Theatre. Jim and Sophia ran it for the next 33 years. With only the cinema for income, the Johnsons found things very difficult financially. Although a projectionist was employed, Sophia sold tickets, Jim acted as usher upstairs, glued posters around town, and oversaw the running of the business. They both did the cleaning.
'We had to watch every penny,' Sophia said later. 'I used to garden so we wouldn't have to buy vegetables. We had plenty of fruit trees, so fruit was no problem either. I knitted and sewed my own clothes...' Sometimes a small boy would appear at Sophia's back door, two skinned rabbits dangling from his finger. 'How about some rabbits, Mrs Johnson? Only sixpence the pair.' It was cheap enough and Sophia handed over the money. More often than not, the boy would reappear at the ticket box that night, pushing across to her the sixpence she had given him to pay for a seat in the cinema.
It was not until 1955 that they purchased a car. Prior to that they could not afford one. Their only child, Arthur, came to Sydney for high school and, later, university but he helped out when he was home on holidays. In 1965 the business was sold and the family moved to Sydney.

Con Kalligeris knew the girl that he would later marry from the days when they both lived on Kythera. In 1948, Helen Andronikos flew out to Australia (the trip taking 9 days from Athens) and stayed with her sister at Corowa. In 1951 she met up with Con and they were married the following year. Boggabri was a thriving town in the early 1950s. In 1952 the two brothers and Anthony Hassab purchased the town's two cinemas (one enclosed, the other open air). Helen and Anthony's wife and daughters worked at the theatres from time to time as usherettes, helping to keep costs to a minimum. The theatre business was sold in 1968 and Con and Helen moved to Sydney that same year.

Jack Kouvelis was one who married an Australian girl. He met Emily Blanche Cummins at Junee where he had a baker's shop and they married on 18 February 1914. In 1918, they moved to Young where Jack had a bakery. When Jack moved into film exhibition, it was not unusual for his wife to help out, especially at their Strand Theatre (opened 1923). As Jack become more prominent in cinema circles, and acquired more cinemas, Blanche was able to give up her involvement completely and concentrate on her family. Her assistance in those early years was valuable as it helped her husband to start what became J K Capitol Theatres Pty Ltd.

Coming to Sydney from Athens in 1950, Thalia Fatseas worked in her uncle's shop in Park Street. In 1957 she married Peter Louran and moved to his home in far north-west Goodooga. According to Thalia, the place was either very hot (with hordes of mosquitos) or very cold and the dust storms were legendary. The town was very small, the only entertainment being the occasional dance at the local hall or pictures at her husband's De-Luxe Open Air Theatre. In time, she took over the cashier's job at the theatre and worked there for a number of years. Around 1961, Thalia moved to Sydney just prior to the birth of her second child. A few years later, her husband retired to Sydney.

When the Hatsatouris family started the Empire Theatre in Port Macquarie, their daughter Helen used to play the piano for the silent pictures. As well, she worked as a cashier at their Monterey Cafe. In July 1938 she married Philip Lucas who had been working for the family and who had been learning about picture theatres. When George and Peter Hatsatouris acquired the Civic Theatre at Walcha, Philip and Helen moved there in order to run the theatre for them. Eventually, they acquired it themselves. Both worked hard to make it a success and their five children helped in various ways. By the early 1970s, it was uneconomical to continue. In 1972, after 32 years of service to the town, they closed their theatre and moved to Sydney to be with their family.

In 1925, Bretos Margetis married Theodora Lianos. A year earlier, he had acquired two cinemas in the outer Sydney suburb of Fairfield. While Bretos looked after his restaurant in George Street, Sydney, Theodora used to travel to Fairfield to supervise the running of the cinemas. This lasted until 1928 when Margetis left cinema exhibition.

At the time of their cinema involvement (ie the early 1930s), only two of Kempsey's Mottee brothers had wives - Jim and Peter. With the other two brothers, they were all involved in the operation of their two cafes and theatre interests. With the relinquishing of their cinema interests in 1935, the families concentrated on the cafes and the confectionery concessions at the Mayfair Theatre. Peter's wife, Irini (nee Simos) had to take on extra responsibility after her husband passed away in 1942. However, besides raising five children, she found time to join the CWA, Rotary and the Quota Club. In the late 1940s, she moved to Sydney where her son, Con, was working.

At the Warialda Memorial Hall, Alex Poulos' wife and two teenage sons helped run the pictures. During those years (1939 to 1945), his son, Jim, learnt how to use the projectors and his other son helped with ordering films and managing the theatre.

Marika Coroneo married Peter Sourry in Greece in 1913 and came to Australia in 1914. Her lack of English did not prevent her from helping in her husband's Armidale refreshment room. Then, in 1921, when he and Alex Coroneo took over the Arcadia Theatre at Armidale, Marika worked in the ticket office until Peter went into semi-retirement at Glen Innes in the mid-1930s. When the family moved to Tenterfield in 1939, where Peter took over the Lyric Theatre, Marika went back into the ticket box. At that same venue, their eldest son, Charles, became involved, projecting, sign writing and helping with cleaning. In 1946 the Sourrys joined Alex Coroneo to take over the Kings Theatre at Rose Bay North (Sydney suburb), which they operated until its closure in 1958. Charles Sourry worked there as the projectionist until he sought a career change in 1948.

In 1921, at the Holy Trinity Church in Sydney's Surry Hills, Peter Stathis married Stamatina Hlenzos (aka Bylos) who was born in Potamos, Kythera. She was 28 and he was 30. They moved to Canowindra where they worked together in The Garden of Roses Cafe, and where their four children were born. When Nicholas Laurantus managed to obtain the lease of the newly-built Montreal Theatre at Tumut, he asked Peter and Stamatina (his sister-in-law) to run it for him. Although Stamatina did not work at the theatre, their two sons (Peter and George) became involved. After they married, both of their wives worked at the theatre, selling tickets and ushering. In 1952 the sons purchased their father's share of the business and operated the theatre until 1965.
For many of the Greek exhibitors, their wives and, in some cases, their children, were important helpers in their business enterprises and this kept costs to a minimum. Besides the physical assistance offered, these women supported their husbands in situations far-removed from the lifestyles most Australian women experience in the 1990s. What made it all the more difficult for them was the isolation (physical and linguistic). Only a few Greek cinema exhibitors married Australian women , the majority married Greek-born women. The latter had always to be mindful of the fact that they were seen as foreigners, and they had to be conscious of the image they projected and watch their behaviour. One person, commenting on the work of his Greek-born mother and father, said that they reflected the Australian stereotype of the "little battlers", struggling to survive in a difficult situation.

In order to ensure that their children were given the educational advantages that many country towns could not offer, a number of wives moved to Sydney, (eg Mrs E Conomos, Walgett, Mrs T Louran, Goodooga, Mrs A James, Cobar, Mrs A Coroneo, Scone) leaving their husbands behind to carry-on with their businesses. This could be compared to their emigration from Greece many years earlier when they left their families (their main support), only now it was their husbands. The contribution made by these women in support of their husbands is no less important than that made by the many British-Australian women throughout the years. It has been recorded here to show that these women were no different.

Case Study: Anastasia Sotiros.

Anastasia Demopoulous was born in Bergoubitsa in the Peloponnese in 1905. She was the second of four children and, when her mother became ill, Anastasia left primary school and stayed at home to help the family. Tradition had it that when a girl married, the bride's father provided a dowry, furniture and land. This happened for the eldest of the three Demopoulous sisters when she married in the late 1920s, but there was no money left for the two younger ones and the economic situation was worsening with the onset of the Great Depression. Anastasia thought about becoming a nun. Then a cousin in the United States of America showed a marital interest but Anastasia was unable to enter that country owing to its prevailing immigration restrictions. In 1929, Theo Sotiros (who had a cafe in Narrandera) returned to Greece to attend to his deceased father's estate. While there, a marriage was arranged between Anastasia and Theo's younger brother, Andrew (whom Anastasia had met some years before at a wedding). Andrew was in Narrandera, working with his two brothers, Theo and Angelo, in their White Rose and Majestic Cafes. Theo put Anastasia on board the Orient liner Orama and she travelled to Australia alone. At the time, she was unable to speak English.

Although it was planned for her to be met in Sydney, Andrew and his Best Man (Angelo Roufogalis) and Angelo Sotiros and his wife met the ship in Melbourne when it arrived on 26 August 1929. Three days later, Anastasia was married to Andrew in a Greek Orthodox Church. The honeymoon was the overland trip Narrandera. Prior to Theo's return to Greece, he had arranged a sale of the Majestic Cafe to Andrew, which he and Anastasia now ran. Things did not work out satisfactorily between the three brothers and, following an unpleasant law suit between the brothers, Andrew left Narrandera and went to Melbourne for a time. Anastasia remained in Narrandera, where her first child was born in 1932. During her stay at Narrandera, Anastasia met Nicholas Laurantus' wife, Clare, who befriended her.

When the opportunity arose for Andrew to assist Leo Spellson with the Star Theatre at Lake Cargelligo in 1933, he and Anastasia moved there and a lease was taken on the property in Anastasia's name. The Star was a semi-open air, dirt-floored, galvanised iron building which possessed no creature comforts. It was situated in Foster Street, near Reef Street. Times were tough. "And one night, we had two children and two adults. You know, 1933." At first, the lived in a small rented house close to the cemetery. Rent was ten shillings per week. Leo, having boarded at a local hotel, shared the house with them to help minimise costs. "Mr Nielson, we used to let him free in the pictures, and he was coming down bringing me a full box of vegetables. And I was doing the vegetables with onions, no meat, no fish." The galvanised shed cinema was the beginning of the Sotiros' association with the town's entertainment for the next 31 years.

Under the partnership, Andrew ran the Star on Saturdays while Leo Spellson drove Anastasia to Ungarie (119km south-east of Lake Cargelligo) where she supervised the pictures in a hall there (a projectionist was employed) and Leo returned to Tullibigeal (c40km from the Lake) where he ran pictures. This arrangement continued until sometime prior to Leo's marriage in early 1937, after which he moved away to run a refreshment room in Quandialla with his wife.

In 1937 the Star burnt down. "And somebody come and said 'Look!' he said. 'Something happened to the theatre.'...And we went there and we saw the smoke...My husband said, 'We're destroyed. What are we going to do?'" Anastasia went back to stay with relatives in Narrandera while Andrew stayed at Lake Cargelligo where, according to Anastasia, he persuaded a friend, local Greek cafe proprietor, Theo Cassim (Cassimatis), to built a new cinema closer to the main shopping part of the town. This was done and Andrew rented it from him for the next 27 years. With its flat stalls floor, the Civic Theatre was not only home to motion pictures, it was also the scene of many balls and dances. Anastasia worked in the ticket box, ushered when necessary and helped supervise the audience. When Andrew went to Sydney for film buying and other associated business, Anastasia managed the theatre. In time, her daughters (second one born in 1940) helped with ushering, selling tickets and cleaning. Such was the importance of going to the pictures in pre-television days that, Anastasia recalled how people used to book their tickets in advance rather than run the risk of missing out. Farmers from further out of town would telephone, but locals would call in at the theatre, or
They come to me one night. Mrs Fyfe. And I was planning to garden, to plant something. And I was dig [sic] the garden and...she found me there and she said, 'Mrs Sotiros, you, always I see you in the ticket box. Look what you're doing now. I want seven seats in [row] number C.'
They all had their favourite seats and knew their numbers and rows.

The business was doing well and, with her home and garden in nearby Canada Street and her two daughters to look after, it seemed that she had everything she could need. Yet, there was something missing which she mentioned during the course of the interview with her in 1996. It related to her thirst for knowledge, but old customs were hard to break.
He [Andrew] was an old-fashioned man...So, when he died, believe it or not, I never knew except to write my name. It was interesting to learn the English language, but he said 'What do you want? You look after the house, and your family, cooking, washing, and garden, everything...'
But, after Andrew passed away in 1978, Anastasia (then aged 73) went to Brookvale Technical College and learnt to read and write English. This opened up new realms for her and she became an avid reader, which she remains.

In 1962, Anastasia and Andrew took their first trip back to Greece and stayed for about six months. By this time, however, their two daughters had settled in Sydney and, in 1964, feeling the need to be closer to them, Andrew and Anastasia reluctantly sold the cinema business and their nearby house and moved to Sydney.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Achievement through Integration, or Assimilation? Chapter 8 [Part A] of KEVIN CORKs Ph.D Thesis.

Montreal Theatre, Tumut, Recently refurbished.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

The first part of Chapter 8 brings together the themes of his study - focusing on a number of Kytherian families.

The importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated in Chapt 8, as in all other chapters.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.


"What appears to be part of the more general process of social and economic assimilation is really part of the more general process whereby both Britishers and Europeans have, willy nilly, moved closer to each other under the compulsion of a novel but common environment. This aspect of assimilation frequently receives less attention than it deserves."

Achievement and assimilation are two different things. Achievement suggests the completion or accomplishment of something, such as the opening of a new building or the point in one's life where one is able to live adequately without having to be employed full time. Assimilation means the absorption of something (or someone) into a system where the new thing becomes like that into which it is being absorbed, such as a stream joins a river and becomes indistinguishable from it. Price, in Southern Europeans in Australia discusses the process of assimilation, explaining that social scientists prefer to use the words "absorption", "accommodation", "integration", "acculturation" and "amalgamation" to denote the various stages of incorporation of immigrants into the economic life of a country, toleration by the host country, adaptation to the host country, intermixing of languages, dress, diet, sport and other cultural characteristics, and, lastly, intermarrying with the host population. He further explained,
The term 'assimilation' may, however, be used to cover not only all these processes - from the immigrant's very first attempt to adjust himself to his new land onwards - but also a stage beyond any of them: a final stage when the immigrant stock not only becomes indistinguishable from native stock in terms of culture and physique but feels itself, and is felt by others, to be quite indistinguishable.

Price's thought about a migrant becoming "indistinguishable in terms of culture and physique" as the culmination of the process of assimilation is open to debate if one thinks in terms of first generation migrants, for example the subject group of this thesis. Can migrants of this generation assimilate? While they may be able to adopt much of the prevailing culture of the host country, old cultural habits cannot be easily removed. Nor can they change their physique.

Tsounis, writing about Greek communities in Australia, claims that being absorbed economically does not mean that a migrant has been absorbed/assimilated socially, politically or culturally if he is measured against such things as participation in social and cultural institutions in the host society, and the acquisition of positions or influence, privilege and power within those institutions. Tsounis suggests that
The steps and stages of assimilation Greeks attained were those necessary for their livelihood and general interests in a new society and nation: the adoption of new social behaviour modes and life styles and new working, food and drinking habits; learning new skills, learning English and forgetting some of their own language; accepting and obeying their new nation's laws and acquiring citizenship rights; recognising and accepting the function of the various institutions; even marrying into British-Australian families...But these rather outward forms of behaviour...were not reliable signs or true indications of assimilation. Apart from varying individuals, time and place, the adoption of Australian ways of life did not mean that Greeks were also abandoning much of their essential 'Greekness', their Hellenicity. The tendency, given the dual social and cultural situations in which they lived and had to contend with, was to adopt and often practice dual social behaviour patterns and cultural mores.

Prior to the push for multiculturalism in 1970s, the Australian attitude towards immigrants was that they should become assimilated, shedding their previous cultures as a snake sheds its skin. The culture acquired by the immigrant in his/her home land cannot disappear at will, and the background of each influences the type of settlement achieved by the migrant in his/her new country. The subject group's peasant background encouraged them to seek economic independence through hard work. It also saw them seek a higher level of education for their children so that the second generation might live better. In years gone by, many British-Australians believed that immigrants came from a cultural vacuum and it was seen as desirable to fill this void as quickly as possible. Even the government took this view. One example is a 1948 Immigration Department brochure for new arrivals which advised that "the day when Australians stop looking at you because your manners and speech are different, you will know you have been accepted as one of the community." Little, of course, was done to effect a smooth transition and it was left up to the immigrants themselves to assimilate. The oft-prodding of locals with racist quips and slurs was seen as a friendly way of reminding the immigrants to hurry up about the matter. The writer's father recalled an Australian-run fruit shop in Leichhardt many years before World War II which sported a painted sign on its window "Shop Here Before The Day Goes". A friendly reminder to chasten tardy housewives before night fell? Not really. There was a fruit shop nearby operated by a southern European.

Michaelides, in her biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus, possibly Australia's most celebrated Greek immigrant, quoted Laurantus who said that there were only two ways to achieve success in Australia. "...first, by mixing with the British-Australians and learning to speak English at the same level, and second, by acquiring property, moving up out of the 'yes-sir, no-sir' of the restaurant-shop world into activities with more status..." Laurantus does not speak of assimilation, but achievement. When one reads the biography, it is clear that he practised what he preached. He became involved in civic affairs because it was "in keeping with his philosophy of taking part in town life". When it came to naturalisation, he waited only three years and became an Australian citizen in 1911. Whether or not it was a calculated act or not, both Nicholas and George married Australian-born women rather than find Greek-born women. This, in itself, was the ultimate act of "mixing with the British-Australians". Laurantus' whole idea of how to succeed was, basically, a matter of common sense: mix and do well; don't mix and fail. It has already been shown that the men who are the subject of this thesis had little or no English language when they arrived in Australia, and had little or no money. Laurantus' thoughts about mixing and learning to speak English are cogent, especially if the newcomers were to make a success of their lives in this country. Through mixing with Australians and working hard in their businesses, they managed to improve their status and break the cycle that they and their forebears had endured in Greece.

The purpose of this chapter is to show how the members of the subject group endeavoured to become involved in the Australian way-of-life. They never reached the point where they became "indistinguishable", as Price says. It is more likely that, deep down, they adopted the "dual" behavioural pattern propounded by Tsounis. This is borne out, to some extent, by the answers given by members of the subject group (or their children) to the interview question "How do you see yourself/did he see himself: Greek?, Australian? or Greek-Australian?". While it was not possible to ascertain the feelings of 10 of the men, out of the 56 remaining, 52 of them saw or had seen themselves as Greek-Australians. Only two stated that they felt themselves more Australian than Greek. While they presented themselves as Australians to the communities in which they lived, they retained their Greek language (in part or in whole), certain Greek customs and traditions, and an affinity with their place of birth. They embodied the best of both identities - to take and use what Australia had to offer, and to retain desirable pieces from their Greek past. Perhaps some or all of these pieces had their origins in their peasant background but, as the years passed by and they became more economically independent (which they probably would not have been able to achieve if they had stayed in Greece), they were able to adapt those pieces to suit their new status in Australia and "wear" them as pseudo symbols of their ethnicity. Certainly those of the second generation seem, from speaking with them at interviews, easier with their Greek heritage since the move in the 1970s to multiculturalism within Australia. It is less of a stigma for them now to have Greek-born parents than it was for them growing up in country areas in the 1940s and 1950s. Perhaps it is also a sign that Australians in general are growing up.


One positive way to show that migrants meant to adopt Australia as their home was through naturalisation. This conferred on them all the rights of a British citizen which included property ownership advantages and voting in government elections, especially local ones that might have a bearing on their business interests. Information about naturalisation of members of the subject group is not easy to obtain from family members owing to the passing of time and loss of knowledge. The official repository for naturalisation, the Australian Archives, has certain access restrictions. It was possible to gather naturalisation information for 29 of the Greek exhibitors which covered the period from 1905 to 1959. The earliest of the Greek exhibitors to become naturalised was Peter Sourry (24 October 1905), just six years after his arrival in Australia. The next was Nicholas Laurantus (8 August 1911), only three years after his arrival.

Table 1: Naturalisation Information
1905 Sourry, Peter Cosmas - 24.10.1905
1911 Lourantos / Laurantos, Nicholas - 8.8.1911
1914 Calligeros, Peter - 1914
1919 Katsoolis, James - 19.8.1919
1920 Lymberides, Panayiotis - 23.3.1920
1921 Bylos, Constantine - 8.1.1921
1921 Kouvelis, Peter - 8.1.1921 - (revoked 12.7.1933)
1921 Coroneo, Alexander Andrew - 3.9.1921
1921 Paspalas, Archie - 13.6.1921
1923 Kouvelis, Jack - 15.8.1923
1924 Conomos, Lambros George - 26.5.1924
1926 Conomos, Emmanuel George - 27.7.1926
1926 Mottee, Dimitrios (Demearius?) - 12.10.1926
1926 Notaras, Ioannis Lambrinos - 14.1.1926
1926 Mottee, George Constantine - 12.8.1926
1927 Feros, Panayiotis John - 9.7.1927
1929 Mottee, Emanuel Constantine - 13.3.1929
1930 Comino, Theo - 12.2.1930
1930 Fatseas, Emanuel - 23.10.1930
1930 Andronicos, Janis - 28.7.1930
1931 Lourantos / Laurantus, George - 9.1.1931
1931 Hatsatouris, Peter Evangelos - 27.6.1931
1931 Hatsatouris, George Evangelos - 27.6.1931
1933 Coroneos, Theodore Mena - 14.2.1933
1942 Roufogalis, Angelo - 21.2.1942
1943 Lucas, Philip - 7.10.1943
1947 Kalligeris, Con - 10.2.1947
1959 Koovousis, Bill - 18.8.1959
1959 Koovousis, Arthur - 18.8.1959
Total in Group: 29.

The 29 can be considered to form a representative sample and certain conclusions may be drawn from the material. The ages when they were naturalised ranged from 21 to 58 years. The average age was 27.5 years. If Janis Andronicos (58), who was the exception rather than the norm because he was 40 years old when he arrived, were omitted from the tabulation, then the average age at for naturalisation was 27. When one considers the number of years they had been in Australia prior to naturalisation (the number of years being between 3 and 21, the average being 11.6), the result shows a positive regard towards becoming citizens. Using information that is available on 52 of our subjects (see Appendix 1), the average age at the time of arrival in Australia was 18 years. Thus, our "average" young Greek arrived at 18 and was naturalised at the age of 27. Allowing for an establishment period, time to gain enough finance to start a business, and time to consolidate, then the time seems reasonable. It may well indicate that many of these men quickly lost their desire to make their money and return to Greece, preferring to make Australia their home where many had spent their childhood and/or teenage years. Where naturalisation records are unavailable, Electoral Rolls provide another source of information. While they list those who are eligible to vote, they show that naturalised Greek-Australians were widely scattered in the days before World War II.

Community Activities

Having acquired sufficient finance, either from guarantors or from saving, and enough English to get them started, our subjects moved into their own businesses in various parts of the state. As has been noted in an earlier chapter, all but four of the men were known to have had some sort of refreshment room background before moving into motion picture exhibition. Even after they had become cinema exhibitors, over half of them continued (for varying lengths of time) to operate refreshment rooms concurrently with their cinema interests. Success depended on how they dealt with their customers and got along in the town. As one former exhibitor remarked, "In life, you've got to mix..." Although they may have been looked upon as foreigners by many (even after they were naturalised), they endeavoured to "learn their part". Working in refreshment rooms and cinemas brought them into close contact with many people, thereby facilitating the process of integration. Their desire to achieve was the driving force that kept them going.

Using material supplied from the interviews with members of the subject group and/or family members, it has been possible to formulate a list of activities in which Greek cinema exhibitors engaged within their towns. The list, by no means definitive, is diverse and is indicative of a desire to participate in the communities in which they lived. Six categories were identified: lodges and service clubs; sport; utilisation of cinemas for other purposes; war service, effort and recognition; religious bi-partisanship; miscellaneous. (See Appendix 6 for specific names.)

In the first category identified, 12 men mentioned that they were members of lodges or service clubs. P Calligeros, L Conomos, P Louran, G Mottee and A Pizimolas/Peters were members of Masonic Lodges in their respective towns. E Conomos belonged to the Independent Order of Oddfellows, and proudly stated in his 94th year that he was still a member. A Pizimolas/Peters, J Johnson, G Laurantus, P Hatsatouris, J Conomos and A Sotiros were members of Rotary, the last five being foundation members of their local groups. In the days before World War II, being a Mason meant that immigrants mixed with locals from a variety of backgrounds and gave them a certain acceptance within their community. It also meant that, should they move or holiday, they had a way of being recognised as part of, and being accepted within, a world-wide organisation. As members of the Rotary Club, the six men listed above were accepted within their communities by a wide variety of business people. Belonging to such organisations was one way that an immigrant could assimilate and gain acceptance.

With regards to the second category, 18 men mentioned Sport. Nine played lawn bowls, an activity that, for some, they joined as they became older and better-established. The wife of a non-bowler stated that her husband presented a perpetual trophy in the form of a shield to his town's bowling club. She also said that when her husband had a refreshment room, he always sent a box or two of oranges to the local football ground on match days as a gesture of goodwill. Two engaged in shooting for pleasure; one of the two was a keen boxer as well. Billiards and snooker featured strongly in the life of another. Serving as honorary secretary for the town's football club for a number of years preceding World War II was how one man endeavoured to become involved in his town's sporting life. Another was the patron of his local football club. The final contribution to the category of Sport was made by one man who became a licensed bookmaker and worked at two country race tracks. This, undoubtedly, would have brought him into contact with many people. The writer has been sworn to secrecy on naming the men involved in the following adjunct to sport, but it can be stated that three of the cinema exhibitors were reputed to be 'SP bookies'. It was said of one that he used his cinema office on Saturday afternoons to handle the bets. Such was country life forty-plus years ago!

Quite a number of country theatres were multi-purpose buildings and were used for dances. This was an important adjunct to the social life of various towns. In this third category, a number of exhibitors leased local halls on a regular basis and they had to make allowance for other bookings (eg concerts, dances) that occurred on non-picture nights. However, a number of purpose-built cinemas were constructed with flat floors (either part or whole). These included Bingara Roxy, Boggabri Royal, Carinda Megalo, Cobar Regent, Condobolin Central, Cowra Centennial Hall, Gundagai Theatre, Junee Atheneum, Lake Cargelligo Civic, Lockhart Rio, Merriwa Astros, Narrandera Globe (2nd)/Plaza, Nyngan Palais, Port Macquarie Civic and Empire, Wagga Wagga Plaza, Walcha Civic, Walgett Luxury. In many of these towns, there were no large venues suitable for dances until more recent years (eg Cobar, Lake Cargelligo, Walcha, Walgett).

Not all interviewees stated that cinemas associated with them were used for dances. However, if the following is an indication, it is reasonable to assume that more were similarly used. J and N Andronicos of East Moree, P and C Kalligeris at Boggabri, Conomos Bros of Walgett, T and B Conomos of Carinda, Hatsatouris Bros of Port Macquarie; P Lucas of Walcha, G Psaltis et al at Bingara, and A Sotiros of Lake Cargelligo regularly opened their cinemas to public functions including balls and dances. In country towns of yesteryear, balls were held during the cooler months as fund-raisers for local hospitals, local major churches (those that permitted dancing), sporting bodies and other worthwhile organisations. The chairs would be moved from the flat-floored stalls and the auditorium decorated. Often, there was a supper room with a separate kitchen attached to the rear of the building. In this area, tables were set for refreshments. In some cases, such as the Luxury Theatre at Walgett, dancers made their way up the street to the School of Arts for supper.

In 1935, on the occasion of the celebratory ball for the "Back to Narrandera Week", in which Nicholas Laurantus was involved, it was reported that 400 people danced at his Plaza Theatre the music of two orchestras while supper was served in two separate sittings at the adjacent Criterion Hall. Tall bunches of palm leaves decorated the hall which was set with tables and chairs for 350 guests. The first supper menu was a lavish selection of savouries, cold meats, salads, trifles, jellies, charlotte russe, fruit, cakes and nuts, while the second supper which was served at 1.30a.m. consisted of hot sausage rolls, tea and coffee.

Recalling the days when their theatre was used for balls, Anastasia Sotiros, the wife of the exhibitor at the Lake Cargelligo Civic, said, "If you could see the supper room in the back. The beautiful cooking. Cakes. Chickens. The most delicious meals you could have there. And trifles with plenty of brandy..."

At Bingara's Roxy theatre, G Psaltis, E Aroney and P Feros (the exhibitors) held a Grand Movie Ball in May 1936. For the residents of this small, north-western town, entertainment such as this added interest to their lives. On an earlier occasion, the Roxy's exhibitors decided not to screen on their regular Wednesday night because of a ball at a local hall and they did not want to be seen to be taking people away from such a worthy cause. It should be noted that the opposition exhibitor in town screened on the night of the Movie Ball, although he claimed it was a "Soldiers' Benefit" night.

In the early years of the war, Philip Lucas leased the Walcha Theatre which was used for dances.
In the late 1940s, Hatsatouris Bros renovated and converted the Empire and the Oxley Theatres into comfortable dance halls, available to the Port Macquarie community for social events.

It was when several of the towns built new community halls that the cinemas lost their place as dancing venues. (For example, Lucas' Civic Theatre at Walcha had been the venue for balls from the time of its construction. When a new Memorial Hall was erected, the balls were transferred there, "...which was a financial blow to the theatre.") Someone else commented that it was not only new halls that ended the era: "The balls stopped in the 1960s - too expensive."

It is worth mentioning at this point that three of the exhibitors were musicians. Two played for dances, the third played in his local brass band. At Walgett, Emmanuel Conomos learnt the saxophone in the 1920s and joined a small dance band. A photograph in his possession shows Conomos Bros' projectionist playing piano, a drummer, Emmanuel on sax, and a Chinese man playing banjo. Multiculturalism in the early 1930s in Walgett! George Laurantus was a talented violinist and played for silent films and dances, and in an orchestra that accompanied Dame Nellie Melba when she appeared at Cootamundra during one of her many farewell tours. The third, George Mottee played the cornet in the Kempsey Silver Band for a number of years. Each of these musicians would have given pleasure to many people when they shared their musical talents, thereby assisting acceptance into the communities in which they lived.

By donating their cinemas gratis to local schools for speech nights and concerts, many exhibitors forged closer ties with their communities. At Walgett, this was a regular occurrence until the 1950s when the local School of Arts was extensively rebuilt and this latter venue was used instead of the theatre. In Scone, exhibitor Theo Coroneo provided the Dux awards for both primary and secondary departments of the local state schools for many years. It was not unusual for exhibitors to donate the proceeds from the opening night of their theatres to local charities, quite often the hospital. Examples of this included Archie Paspalas at Walgett in 1919, Sam Coroneo at Tamworth in 1928, Conomos Bros at Walgett in 1937, T and B Conomos at Carinda in 1937. In the case of J Kouvelis at Tamworth in 1927, a large donation was made to both the hospital and local ambulance. Mottee Bros, when they opened their new cafe in Kempsey in 1925, donated the opening night's takings to the hospital. When they opened their Rendezvous Theatre in 1928, the money went towards the erection of an iron railing around the War Memorial in East Kempsey. In 1941, T and B Conomos donated the proceeds of a special screening to the local Country Women's Association.

The fourth category involved exhibitors in war service, effort and recognition. In World War II John Tzannes (of Boorowa) enlisted in the RAAF, Jack Kouvelis' son John enlisted in the AIF, as did George Stathis. His father, Peter held special fund-raising rallies in his Tumut cinema and helped the war effort in other ways. A Certificate of Appreciation was awarded to him after the war by the Commonwealth Government and it hung in the theatre foyer for many years. At Carinda, Theo and Bill Conomos assisted with the organisation of a special fund-raising day for the Greek Red Cross Society on 28 February 1941 and raised £198 ($396). At Walgett, Conomos Bros' theatre was the scene of a number of fund-raising functions, including one on 1 March 1941 to raise money for Greece. Hatsatouris Bros gave gratis the regular use of their Oxley Theatre at Port Macquarie to the Voluntary Defence Corp. At Gundagai, because he had served with the Greek Army in World War I, Jim Johnson was able to join the local RSL and, for a time, was its Honorary Secretary. Many towns did not have large community venues and cinemas were donated for ANZAC Day ceremonies. Three interviewees specifically mentioned this (in relation to Wee Waa, Scone and Tumut), and it is probable that there were others who did the same. During World War II there were large military establishments at Wagga Wagga and, according to family members, Jack Kouvelis allowed free tickets to enlisted personnel.

The fifth category could be considered to be an extension of the third. In the years before the 1960s, it would be a rare country town not to have a convent whose nuns taught at local Catholic schools. Although other country exhibitors offered private screenings of selected films for the nuns whose social lives, in those days, were very restricted, several interviewees made special mention of occasional private screenings for them. Bylos at West Wyalong, Calligeris at Temora, Conomos Bros at Walgett, Sotiros at Lake Cargelligo and Tzannes at Boorowa were specifically mentioned. The screenings were private, as the nuns were not allowed to attend public screenings. Films tended to be of a pseudo-religious nature, such as "Song of Bernadette" and "Going My Way". At one cinema, a box of chocolates was placed on each of the seats to be occupied before the nuns arrived. The interviewee mentioned that the screenings took place "...when Dad was at bowls and nobody knew about it." "Dad", of course, would have arranged it all but, so as not to compromise the sisters in any way, the only person present was the projectionist in his projection box. At Lake Cargelligo, one of the exhibitor's daughters sat in the auditorium in order to monitor the picture's sound levels. It should be recorded that the exhibitors mentioned were not adherents of the Catholic faith. One cafe owner, prior to becoming a cinema exhibitor, supplied (gratis) fish and chips each Friday to the local convent. These special treats must have endeared these men to the nuns.

The final category is one containing a number of miscellaneous activities in which some of the Greek exhibitors participated. These, nonetheless, were twofold in motive: to assist others, and to foster acceptance into the community. The first was the running of charity screenings. The idea behind these was not new to picture theatres. In "live" theatre history, benefit performances were not unknown. Cinema exhibitors merely carried on the tradition. When a local charity needed assistance, the local exhibitor would be approached. Benefit screenings were noted in relation to P Calligeros at Temora, G Laurantus at Liverpool, A Pizimolas/Peters at Mullumbimby, and N Spellson at Bogan Gate. The latter provided these special screenings for charities such as the Yarrabandai Popular Girl candidate for the District Popular Girl Competition (1927). At Bingara, the Greek exhibitors at the Roxy were competing against racist advertisements from the opposition exhibitor but still managed to offer a Euchre and Dance Party to "wind-up the Football Season", a dance in aid of the local Boy Scouts and a special benefit programme for the Hospital.

In his retirement, Jack Kouvelis (having left cinema exhibition in 1946) worked hard for the Hellenic Club in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, serving as President from 1955 to 1959. During that time, he was prominent in instigating the purchase of larger premises in Elizabeth Street, into which the club moved in 1959. In the area of civic service, two exhibitors were involved. As a Councillor, Theo Conomos worked with the local Progress Association to gain a small airport for his town of Carinda in 1952-53 and represented Carinda on Walgett Shire Council 1954 - 1955. In 1948, Peter Hatsatouris was successful in arranging for a Cinesound Newsreel to include a section on Port Macquarie. While dealing primarily with the history of the town, its sole purpose was to promote holidays to the area. The same man served on the Port Macquarie Municipal Council for 18 years, including one term as Deputy Mayor, undertaking many of the onerous duties associated with local government.

Because a substantial part of "The Shiralee" had been made in the Scone area during 1957, the town's Civic Theatre was chosen for its premiere. So successful was it that exhibitor Theo Coroneo was able to hand-over £3000 ($6000) (the night's takings) to the local swimming pool fund. Anthony Pizimolas/Peters at Mullumbimby applied for and became a Justice of the Peace. In 1952 he received a certificate from the Royal Shipwreck Relief and Humane Society of NSW for rescuing a child in the Brunswick River at Mullumbimby. Finally in this category, Mrs E Conomos (of Walgett) recalled that they were forever donating to some cause or another but, she noted, "They used to come and collect from the theatre, from the cafe and the wine saloon." (Conomos Bros owned the three businesses which were adjacent to each other in Fox Street.) In 1970, the last screening at Conomos Bros' Luxury Theatre was a special one with the proceeds being donated to the local hospital. "Of course they had a big house," recalled Mrs Conomos.

One man tried to lessen the burden of home-sickness for fellow migrants by showing Greek-dialogue films in the early-mid 1950s. Theo Coroneo at Scone screened them on Sunday nights for the many Greek-born workers at the nearby Glenbawn Dam construction site. It ceased when film supplies became unprocurable.

It would be pointless to suggest that the men mentioned in the preceding paragraphs were exceptional or rare. Exhibitors in general gave a lot of themselves when it came to the towns in which they lived and operated. Because the cinema was a focal point of a town, it would have been very difficult for the cinema manager to ignore, too often, requests for assistance. The involvement at a personal level of these Greek men is recorded above to show that they wanted to be part of their communities and to be accepted by them. Unfortunately, too many of them have long since passed away and family members have trouble trying to recall those "extra miles" that their fathers traversed. In other cases, there are no relatives or close friends to recall what these men did.

Besides personal involvement within their towns, some of the Greek exhibitors became important businessmen. As they became more successful in the food trade, they looked around for other business opportunities. Because of their other business interests, a number of them assisted with the commercial development of the towns in which they lived. In some cases, there is more to write about than for others, but that does not mean the contributions of the latter were less than those of the former.

Of the Greek exhibitors, 62 of them gained refreshment room experience sometime after their arrival in Australia. From the time they took on cinema exhibition, at least 26 left cafes behind. Many of the others remained with refreshment rooms as an adjunct to their cinemas, providing food before, during and after the pictures. A number of the subject group members were desirous of moving commercially beyond their cafe, or cafe/cinema ventures. One of the questions asked at interviews with these men or their family members was in relation to other business activities within the towns in which their cinemas were situated.

At East Moree, father and son Andronicos utilised their cinema on non-picture nights for roller skating. On their large block of land in Alice Street, they had their East Moree Cafe and picture theatres (enclosed and open air). The remainder of their block of land allowed them to build a butcher's shop and a post office, as well as leaving a substantial vacant allotment which, in later years, was used for extra shops. Remembering that Mr J Andronicos had started with a leasehold shop across the road in Alice Street around 1912, at the time of his death in 1936, he and his son had made a worthwhile contribution to the commercial development of East Moree.

At Temora, Peter Calligeros left cafes behind when he became a cinema exhibitor. In the early 1920s, he leased the Crown cinema before building his substantial, 1000+ seat Strand Theatre in the main street in 1927. As well as his Strand, he acquired several shops in the same street.

At Wee Waa, Andrew Comino and Andrew Megalokonomos (fondly referred to in town as "Little Andy" and "Big Andy" but trading as Comino Bros) had the White Rose Cafe (and petrol pump facilities). They rebuilt the cafe as the Olympia Cafe after a fire in the 1930s. As well, they operated a cordial factory for a time and had a large woodyard. From 1911 when "Little Andy" arrived in Wee Waa to work in his Uncle's refreshment room, to the time he closed the cinema in the early 1960s ("Big Andy" had passed away in 1959), the two families had served the town in excess of 55 years.

Lambros Conomos commenced refreshment room work at Walgett in December 1917 and, for the next 55 years, the Conomos family was an important part of the town's commercial life. The refreshment room moved to larger premises on the opposite side of the street and petrol facilities were installed outside. The adjacent building was acquired to become a wine saloon. During the 1930s, Conomos Bros' cordial factory was opened, although variety was limited to lemonade and soda water. An earlier factory in the town had closed during the 1920s and left a niche which Conomos Bros filled until World War II. In the years before World War II, ice was the main means of keeping things cool (besides the 'hanging safe'). Lambros started making ice in the late 1920s for Walgett in the cordial making building in Wareena Street. The ice-making facility was disposed of around the same time that the Barwon Cafe business was sold in 1949. They still ran the wine saloon and the cinema until the 1970s.

During their time in the small village of Carinda, Theo and Bill Conomos became an integral part of its business community. They established a refreshment room in the mid-1930s, then converted the public hall into a cinema. Between the shop and hall was vacant land on which they built a service station and ice works. Later, the brothers provided electricity to a number of buildings in the village until rural power became available in the late 1960s. Close to the power station, they built some hard-sand tennis courts that were illuminated for night tennis. Brother Bill returned to Greece around 1950, leaving Theo to continue at Carinda. The latter's other commercial interests included operating a cordial factory and an ice works (for a time), the construction and leasing-out of a butcher's shop and adjacent Central Service Station, establishing a petrol depot, taking over a former billiard room-cum-hairdresser and converting it into a drapery and hardware business, and setting up a separate general store.

In Merriwa, the Nicholas brothers not only operated a cafe and the cinema, but built and ran a garage adjacent to the cafe, operated a bakery for a time, and had the ice works "down by the river".

At Goodooga, Peter Louran established his refreshment room (with its meals, fruit, vegetables, groceries, confectionery, books, magazines, smallgoods and selected agencies) in the late 1930s, then added a petrol and battery changing station. In 1941 he built his cinema and, by the late 1940s, owned the only hotel in town. Food, petrol, entertainment and beer - there was little else in the town for him to buy. Yet, he stayed until he retired in 1964, giving the people of Goodooga the benefit of his hard work. As Mrs Louran recalled, in the 1950s (just after she arrived in the town) there were, besides her husband's businesses, a post office, a school, the police station, a store owned by Chinese, and a community hall. Her husband was probably the town's largest employer, with about 10 people. He had a family looking after the 16-bedroom Telegraph Hotel, a couple of bar maids, a cook in the cafe, two young men to work in the cafe (to serve, chop wood for the stoves, clean), a cashier at the cinema and someone to help in the projection box. George Rosso helped Louran install an electric generator (purchased from Theo Conomos of Carinda) and wire-up the cinema, cafe and hotel. He recalled that, "...the day the power was turned on at the hotel and the locals had ice cold beer [prior to that it had always been lukewarm], they hoisted me up onto their shoulders in appreciation."

There were others who assisted the business life of their towns in their own small way. According to Theo Coroneo's wife, the streets of Scone and the road to Glenbawn Dam were enhanced with tree-planting through the efforts of her husband. She also recalled that he was one of the prime supporters of proposed sewerage facilities for the town. After 1954, Con Kalligeris found that his cinema operation only required part of his time so he built a shop and returned to his old trade of shoe making that he had learnt in Athens. He had been trained to make surgical shoes as well and, such was the success, that orders came from as far afield as Tamworth and Narrabri. Nicholas Laurantus built flats and houses in Narrandera, and assisted others financially, either by going guarantor or providing money. The Notaras family opened a second refreshment room in Grafton, as the town grew and business improved. The Mottee Bros in Kempsey had done likewise, but prior to the opening of their cinema in 1930. At Bingara, George Psaltis, Emanuel Aroney and Peter Feros also operated an ice works as well as their cafe and cinema. Angelo Roufogalis installed a generator for his cinema at Barellan and supplied power to his cafe and other local businesses including a general store, a hairdresser, a newsagent and a garage.

Several of the exhibitors purchased country properties outside the towns in which they lived for investment purposes. Among these were Andrew Comino (Wee Waa), Lambros Conomos (Walgett), Jim Conomos (Walgett), and Nicholas Laurantus (various places). They not only supported town businesses through provisioning, but provided both permanent and itinerant jobs for agricultural workers.

The contributions made by the Greek cinema exhibitors to the towns in which they lived and worked vary from one to another. In some places, opportunities arose that may not have been present in other places. While interviewing past exhibitors, two mentioned that "Many made the mistake of coming to Australia with the idea of making a few pounds and going back to Greece. The smart ones stayed, brought out their family, bought land, etc." Very few of the Cinema Greeks did seek to return to Greece permanently. Many took trips back to Greece, with a number of them seeking brides from there. Regardless of these trips, the majority made Australia their home which suggests that they had successfully integrated into the Australian way-of-life.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 01.10.2004

Bibliography - KEVIN CORK's Ph.D thesis.

Capital Theatre, Melbourne. View from entrance lobby towards Swanston Street, November 1998.
Photograph by Martin Powell.

A comprehensive list of sources of Kevin Cork's proposed Ph.D thesis:


a. Australian Archives:
Alien Registration Forms (c1916 to early 1920s) - SP43/3
Naturalisation Records

b. NSW State Archives:
Chief Secretary's Dept Theatres & Public Halls files -
Armidale - Capitol Theatre, Box 17/3536 File 4123.
Bingara - Regent Theatre, Box 17/3284 File 571.
Bingara - Roxy Theatre, Box 17/3384 File 2194.
Bingara - Soldiers Memorial Hall, Box 17/3239 File 90.
Boorowa - Guild Hall, Box 17/3366 File 1876.
Carinda - Public Hall, Box 17/3297 File 783.
Cobar - Masonic Hall, Box 17/3311 File 987.
Cobar - Regent Theatre, Box 10/53018 File T264.
Condobolin - Aussie Theatre, Box 10/53075 File T1275
Condobolin - Renown Theatre, Box 17/3381 File 2120.
Cootamundra - RoxyTheatre, Box 17/3596 File 4579.
Corowa - Rex Theatre, Box 17/3305 File 912.
Cowra - Theatre Cowra, Box 10/53141 File T2387
Cowra - Olympic Hall, Box 17/3301 File 859.
Cowra - Lyric Theatre, Box 10/53164 File T3116.
Glen Innes - RoxyTheatre, Box 10/53051 File T837.
Glen Innes - Grand Theatre, Box 17/3373 File 2000.
Goodooga - De-Luxe Theatre, Box 17/3236 File 34
Grafton - Saraton Theatre, Box 17/3541 File 4147.
Gundagai - Gundagai Theatre, Box 17/3284 File 575.
Haberfield - Elite Theatre, Box 10/53173 File T3476.
Hillston - Roxy Theatre, Box 17/3361 File 1813.
Inverell - Capitol Theatre, Box 10/53177 File T4235.
Junee - Broadway Theatre, Box 17/3316 File 1069.
Kempsey West - Roxy Theatre, Box 10/53120 File T2016pt
Kempsey West - Roxy Theatre, Box 10/53121 File T2016pt.
Lake Cargelligo - Civic Theatre, Box 17/3585 File 4458
Laurieton - Plaza Theatre, Box 17/3528 File 4075.
Laurieton - School of Arts, Box 17/3503 File 4678
Leeton - Roxy Gardens, Box 10/53114 File T1907
Leeton - Roxy Theatre, Box 17/3396 File 2344.
Lockhart - Rio Theatre, Box 53042 File T698.
Moree East - Regent Theatre, Box 10/53143 File T2426.
Moree - Capitol Theatre, Box 17/3296 File 758
Moree - Hoyts Gardens, Box 10/53075 File T1283.
Narrandera - Criterion Hall, Box 53022 File T377.
Narrandera - Plaza Theatre, Box 17/3344 File 1558.
Port Macquarie - Civic Theatre, Box 10/53097 File T1636.
Port Macquarie - Ritz Theatre, Box 17/3597 File 4592.
Port Macquarie - Ritz Theatre, Box 17/3546 File 4178.
Redfern - Lawson Theatre, Box 10/53171 File T3340.
Redfern - Empire Theatre, Box 17/3319 File T1109.
Scone - Civic Theatre, Box 17/3283 File 554.
Tamworth - Regent Theatre, Box 17/3360 File 1773.
Tamworth - Capitol Theatre, Box 17/3272 File 439.
Tamworth - Regent Theatre, Box 17/3579 File 4411.
Taree - Savoy Theatre, Box 10/53068 File T1166.
Taree - Civic Theatre, Box 17/3593 File 4547.
Temora - Strand Theatre, Box 10/53022 File T371.
Tenterfield - Capitol Theatre, Box 17/3584 (2) File 4452.
Tenterfield - Capitol Theatre, Box 17/3547 File 4179.
Tumut - Montreal Theatre, Box 17/3397 File 2366.
Tumut - Montreal Theatre, Box 17/3584 (2) File 4451.
Urunga - Literary Institute, Box 17/3429 File 2843.
Wagga Wagga - Plaza Theatre, Box 17/3590 (2) File 4519.
Wagga Wagga - Capitol Theatre, Box 10/53103 File T1740.
Walcha - Civic Theatre, Box 17/3357 File 1722.
Walgett - Luxury Theatre, Box 17/3398 (2) File 2385.
Walgett - School of Arts, Box 10/53084 File T1412.
Wee Waa - School of Arts, Box 10/53166 File T3134.
West Wyalong - Tivoli Palace, Box 17/3518 File 4014.
West Wyalong - Reo Gardens, Box 10/53114 File T1914.
Yenda - Regent Theatre, Box 10/53021 File T330.
Young - Strand Theatre, Box 17/2525 File 4062.

NSW Board of Fire Commissioners Theatres & Public Halls files -
Country Towns and Districts (relating to the areas where Greeks exhibited) - 20/14914-14987.

Other Items -
Corrective Services Entrance Book Vol. 5. (3/8052)
Register of Bodies Brought to the Sydney Morgue. (3/2236)
Register of Firms. (Book 23 2/8548).
Sydney Deposition Book for Sydney Quarter Sessions - from 1.1.1917. (5/2986)

c. Land Titles Office of NSW:
Certificates of Title, Purchasers' Index, Old Titles' Books - relating to theatres controlled by Greek exhibitors.

a. Corporate Files:
Hoyts Corporation Ltd - Hoyts Country Theatres Pty Ltd.

b. Writer's Personal Collection:
Radio: Randles, J., and Rappley, J. (producers), 1995. Milkbar Dreaming. ABC Radio National.
Video: Once Upon A Dream (Sydney's Capitol Theatre), 1996. Campbelltown, NSW: Australian Theatre Historical Society Inc.


a. Personal Interviews:
Mr Nicholas Andronicos 25.3.1996
Mr Harry Armstrong (re Kouvelis and Limbers) 19.10.1995
Mrs Helen Aroney 14.5.1996; 29.11.1996
Mrs Anastasia Cassim (re Lake Cargelligo) 15.3.1996
Mrs G Comino 9.4.1996
Mr Emmanual & Mrs Elly Conomos & Mr George Conomos - 10.7.1996; 17.1.1996
Mr Andrew Coroneo 13.6.1996
Mrs Anna Coroneo (Theo's wife) 4.6.1996
Mr George Hatsatouris 2.10.1994 (by Mr Angelo Hatsatouris); 2.11.1995
Mrs Marie Hill, Mrs Gloria Kouvelis, Mr John Kouvelis Jnr 23.7.1996
Mrs Anna James 21.5.1996
Mr Arthur Johnson 16.7.1996
Mrs Helen Kalligeris 23.4.1996
Mr Arthur Koovousis 26.11.1996
Mrs Thalia Louran 9.4.1996
Mr Con Lucas 9.7.1996
Mr Con Mottee 18.3.1996
Mr George Nicholas 23.11.1996
Mr George Psaltis (re G Psaltis) 22.3.1996
Mr George Rosso 30.4.1996
Mr Ian Simos 27.12.1995
Mrs Anastasia Sotiros 1.2.1996
Mr Charles Sourry 2.4.1996
Mr John Tzannes 23.4.1996
Mrs Kath Yanniotis 30.4.1996

Mr Vince Catsoulis 12.10.1996
Mr John Comonos 1.8.1996; 11.10.1996
Mrs Bessie Conomos (Theo's wife) 17.5.1996
Mr Don Conson 23.9.1996; 31.10.1996
Mr Anthony Peters 15.6.1996
Mr Jim Poulos 23.9.1996
Mrs Dorothy Press (re Spellson Bros) 9.10.1996
Mr Peter Stathis 10.7.1996; 2.8.1996

Telephone Interviews:
Mr Harry Aliferis 5.12.1996
Mr Spyro Aroney 28.6.1996
Mr Keith Brown (re Harry Logus) 1.12.1996
Mrs Thanae Constantine (re Limbers) 9.11.1995; 18.11.1996
Prof. Minas Coroneo 26.7.1997.
Mr George Cronin 23.4.1996
Mr George Feros (re P Feros) 17.10.1996.
Mr George Feros (re Tambakis) 21.10.1996
Mr Angelo Hatsatouris 6.12.1996.
Mr Peter Kalligeris 21.11.1996; 28.11.1996
Mr Emmanuel Lazarnas (re Hlentzos) 4.11.1996
Mr Arthur Roufogalis 16.4.1996; 2.4.1996
Mr Harry Sofis (re Hlentzos) 4.11.1996
Mrs Edith Spellson (Leo's wife) 31.8.1996
Mr Laurie Warne (re Hlentzos) 18.6.1996
Mr Con Zarah (re Roufogalos) 16.4.1996


a. Newspapers
Bingara Advocate
Camden Haven Courier (Laurieton)
Cessnock Eagle
Cootamundra Herald
Corowa Free Press
Cumberland Argus (Parramatta)
Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga)
Daily Guardian (Sydney)
Forbes Advocate
Hillston Spectator and Lachlan River Advertiser
Inverell Times
Junee Southern Cross
Lachlander (Condobolin)
Macleay Argus (Kempsey)
Maitland Daily Mercury
Moree Gwydir Examiner and General Advertiser
Murrumbidgee Irrigator (Leeton)
Narrandera Argus
Northern Daily Leader (Tamworth)
Nyngan Observer
Port Macquarie News
Port Macquarie News & Hastings River Advocate
Scone Advocate
Southern Cross (Junee)
Spectator (Walgett)
Sydney Morning Herald
Sun-Herald (Sydney)
Temora Independent
Wauchope Gazette
West Australian (Perth)
West Wyalong Advocate
Western Champion (Parkes)
Western Times (Bathurst)
Young Witness and Burrangong Argus

b. Periodicals
Australasian Exhibitor, Sydney.
Everyones, Sydney.
Exhibitor, Sydney.
Film Weekly Motion Picture Directory (Annual publication 1936/37 - 1971), Sydney.
Film Weekly, Sydney.
Picture Show, Sydney.


Alexakis, E. and Janiszewski, L., 1995. Images of Home, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger

Allen, B. and Montell, W.L., 1981. From Memory to History. Using Oral Sources in Local Historical Research. Nashville, Tennessee: American Assoc. for State and Local history.

Anger, K., 1986. Hollywood Babylon. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books.

Armstrong, H. 1995. Migrant Heritage Places in Australia. How to Find Your Heritage Places - A Draft Guide. Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission.

Armstrong, H., 1994. Postworld War II Migrant Heritage Places in Australia. Background Report on Identification and Conservation Issues. Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission.

Australia and the Migrant. (Papers read at the 19th Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Studies at Canberra 24 - 25 January 1953.) Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Australian ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of places of Cultural Significance (aka Burra Charter), 1992. Sydney: Australia ICOMOS Inc.

Baines, D., 1993. Emigration from Europe 1815 - 1930. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd.

Bayley, W.A., 1956. Rich Earth: History of Young and the Shire of Burrangong, New South Wales. Young: Young Municipal Council and Burrangong Shire Council.

Bertrand, I., 1978. Film Censorship in Australia. St. Lucia, Qld. Queensland University Press.

Blacktown City Needs/Issues 1997. Blacktown: Blacktown City Council.

Bohman, G., 1964. The New Compendium of Modern History, Sydney: Shakespeare Head Press.

Borrie, W.D., 1954. Italians and Germans in Australia. Melbourne: F.W.Cheshire.

Bottomley, G., 1979. After the Odyssey: A Study of Greek-Australians. St. Lucia, Qld.: Queensland University Press.
Broadcasting in Australia 1991. 4th Edition. Sydney, Sept. 1992.

Brooks, C., 1996. Understanding Immigration and the Labour Market. Canberra: Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research.

Burnley, I.H., Pryor, R.J., Rowland, D.T. (eds.), 1980. Mobility and Community Change in Australia. St. Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press.

Bury, J.B., 1959. A History of Greece. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd.

Canter, D., 1977. The Psychology of Place. London: The Architectural Press.

Christie, A., 1981. Dumb Witness. Glasgow: William Collins and Sons & Co. Ltd.

Christie, A., 1967. The Secret of Chimneys. London; Pan Books Ltd.

Collins, D., 1987. Hoolywood Down Under. Australian at the Movies: 1896 to the Present Day. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Collins, J.. 1988. Migrant Hands in a Distant Land. Australian Post-War Immigration. Leichhardt, NSW: Pluto Press.

Community Profiles. 1991 Census. Greece Born., 1994. Canberra: Bureau of Immigration and Population Research.

Cork, K., 1985. Beszant - The Story of a Showman. Seven Hills, NSW: K. J. Cork.

Darian-Smith, K and Hamilton, P, 1994. Memory & History in Twnetieth Century Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Dempsey, K., 1992. A Man's Town. Inequality Between Women and Men in Rural Australia. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Domicelj, J. and S. (eds.), 1989. A Sense of Place? Australian Heritage Commission Technical Publications Series Number 1. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Services.

Donkin, N., 1983. The Greek-Australian Experience. Stranger and Friend. Melbourne: Dove Communications.

Dugan, M.. 1992. Homeland Australia. Sydney; Harcourt Bruce Jovanovich.

Eisenstadt, S.N., 1954. The Absorption of Immigrants. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Ferry, J., 1976. A Centenary of Education. Walgett Public Schools 1876 - 1976. Tamworth, NSW: Edwards Leader Print.

Ferry, J., 1978. Walgett Before the Motor Car.Walgett: Walgett and District Historical Society.
Fitchett, T.K., 1980. The Long Haul. Ships on the England-Australia Run. London: Rigby Publishers Limited.

George, V. 1982. History of Fairfield. Fairfield, NSW: Council of the City of Fairfield.

Georgoulous, O.E., 1920. Greek Guide to Australia. Sydney: Greek Community in Sydney.

Gilchrist, H., 1992. Australians and Greeks. Vol. 1: The Early Years. Rushcutters Bay, NSW: Halstead Press.

Greenwood, G. (ed.), 1968. Australia. A Social and Political History. Sydney: Angus and Robertson Ltd.

Hayden, D., 1995. The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Henry, H.A. (ed.). Australian Bankruptcy Cases Vol 4 1931-32. Sydney: The Law Book Company of Australia Ltd.

Hopper, R.J., 1971. The Acropolis. London: Spring Books.

Horne, D., 1973. The Australian People: Biography of a Nation. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Huber, R., 1977. From Pasta to Pavlova. A Comparative Study of Italian Settlers in Sydney and Griffith. St. Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press.

Immigration and Its Impact., 1986. Sydney: NSW Dept. of Education, Multicultural Education Centre.

Immigration: Some Issues for Discussion. Discussion Paper submitted to the Economic Planning Advisory Council by Mr. Eric Mayer, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Mutual Group, Sept., 1980.

Industrial Arbitration Reports NSW. Vol. XXIII Part 6, 1925. Sydney: Govt. of NSW.

Ittelson, W.H., 1973. Environment and Cognition. New York: Seminar Press.

Johnstone, M., and Masman, K., 1983. The History of Carinda. As itwas and is now. Carinda, NSW: Johnstone and Masman.

Jupp, J., 1991. Australian Retrospectives. Immigration. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

Lack, J, and Templeton, J, 1988. Sources of Austalian Immigration History. Volume 1; 1901 - 1945. Melbourne: The History Department, The University of Melbourne.

Lack, J, and Templeton, J, 1995. Bold Experiment. A Documentary History of Australian Immigration since 1945. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Lindlof, T.R., 1995. Qualitative Communication Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Listings of Burials in Condobolin Cemetery to June 1987, Quota Club, Condobolin.

Lumley, A, 1992. Sydney's Architecture. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.

McNamara, I., 1994. Australia All Over 2. Sydney: Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Marquis-Kyle, P., and Walker, M., 1992. The Illustrated Burra Charter. Sydney: ICOMOS Inc.

Merrylees, C. and Woolcott, D. The Witcombe Heritage: a History of the Buildings of Hay.

Michaelides, J., 1987. Portrait of Uncle Nick: A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus, MBE. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

Murphy, B., 1993. The Other Australia. Experiences of Migration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

National Future for Australia's Heritage. Discussion Paper. August 1996. Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission.

New South Wales Population of Local Government Areas 1947 - 66. Sydney: Bureau of Census and Statistics.

New South Wales Statistical Register - 1911, 1921-22. Sydney The Government of NSW.

Official Year Book of New South Wales. Sydney; N.S.W. Govt. printer. Various years.

Olds, M. (eds), 1995. Australia Through Time. 127 Years of Australian History. Sydney: Mynah Books (Random House) (3rd edition).

Papageorgopoulos, A., 1981. The Greeks in Australia - A Home Away From Home. Sydney: Alpha Books.

Poiner, G., 1990. The Good Old Rule. Gender and Other Power Relationships in a Rural Community. South Melbourne: Sydney University Press in association with Oxford University Press.

Poulson, M. and Spearritt, P., 1981. Sydney. A Social and Political Atlas. Sydney: George Allen & Unwin.

Price, C.A., 1970. Greeks in Australia. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Price, C.A., 1979. Southern Europeans in Australia. Canberra: Australian National University.

Report of the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia. 1928.
Ricketson, F.H. Jnr., 1938. The Management of Motion Picture Theatres. New York: McGraw- Hill Book Co. Inc.

Sabine, J. (ed.), 1995. A Century of Australian Cinema. Melbourne: William Heinemann Australia.

Sands' Sydney Directory - various years.

Smolicz, J J, 1988. Greeks in Australia. Publisher unknown.

Stahl, C.W., 1993. Global Population Movements and Their Implications for Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Public Service.

Tanner, H. (ed.), 1981. Architects in Australia. Melbourne: Macmillan Company of Australia Ltd.

Thompson, D., 1966. Europe Since Napoleon, Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin Books Ltd.

Thompson, L., 1993. From Somewhere Else. East Roseville, NSW: Simon & Schuster Australia.

Thorne, R., 1981. Cinemas of Australia via USA. Sydney: Architecture Dept.,University of Sydney.

Thorne, R., and Cork, K., 1994. For All The Kings Men. Campbelltown, NSW: Australian Theatre Historical Society Inc.

Thorne, R., Tod, L. and Cork, K., 1996. Movie Theatre Heritage Register for New South Wales, 1896-1996. Sydney; Dept. of Architecture, University of Sydney.

UBD Street Directory. New South Wales Cities and Towns. 10th Edition, 1994. Sydney: Universal Press Pty. Ltd.

Valentine, M., 1994. The Show Starts on the Sidewalk. New Haven, USA: Yale University Press.

Vanges, P.D., 1993. Kythera: A History of the Island of Kythera and its People. Sydney South: The Kytherian Brotherhood of Australia.

Vondra, J., 1979. Hellas Australia. Melbourne: Widescope International Publishers Pty. Ltd.

Willard, M., 1968. History of White Australia Policy to 1920. New York: August M. Kelley.


Alexakis, E., and Janiszewski, L., "Sydney's neglected Hellenic heritage, 1810 - 1940: an insight" in O Kosmos, Tenth Anniversary Edition 1982 - 1992. June 1992, Marrickville, NSW.

Australian & New Zealand Journal of Sociolgy, Symposium on Ethnicity and Migration. Vol. 12 No. 2, June 1976. The Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand.

Bertram, B. "Looking Back; The Regent and The Plaza, Melbourne, Victoria 1929 - 1945" in KINO, journal of Australia Theatre Historical Society Inc., No. 50, Dec. 1994, Campbelltown, NSW.

Bottomley, G., "Ethnicity and Identity Among Greek Australians" in Symposium on Ethnicity and Migration: The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, Vol. 12 No. 2, June 1976. The Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand.

"Building of the Month; The ANZAC Memorial, Hyde Park" in Newsletter, Vol. 3 No. 3 May- June 1992, Sydney; Art Deco Society

Cantlon, G., "Greeks in Australia. A strong link to the homeland", Sun-Herald, Sydney. Undated.

"The Tatler" in Decoration and Glass, Dec. 1935, pp.10-11. Sydney.

Friedl, E. "Lagging Evaluation in Post-Peasant Society" in American Anthropoligist 66, No. 3, June 1964.

Gunn, T. "The Evolution of a Hall - The Mandolin Cinema" in KINO, journal of Australia Theatre Historical Society Inc., No. 54, Dec. 1995, Campbelltown, NSW.

Gunn, T., "Sweet treats at The Paragon" in Woman's Day, Sydney, 10.11.1986, p.122.

"History of the Greek Welfare Centre" in Greek Welfare Centre 20th Anniversary Report 1975- 1995. Sydney: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, 1995.

Howe, A., "The Australian Townscape: Greek Melbourne" in Environs, Vol 2, 4 August 1978, pp.7-10.

Hoyts Action, Vol. 1 No.12, 22.11.1946. Sydney: Hoyts Theatres Ltd.

Janiszewski, L., and Alexakis, E., "Hidden Faces of the Greek-Australia", in Skepsis, Hellenic- Australian Monthly Review, No. 17 March 1990. Melbourne, pp.48-59.

Martin, J., "The Ethnic Dimension. Papers on Ethnicity and Pluralism" in Studies in Society: 9. Edited with introduction by S. Encel. Series editor R. Wild. 1981. Sydney; George Allen and Unwin.

Monks, J., "The Greek Australians" in Australian 29-30 April 1978 Supplement 1.

Parikia, Vol 3 No 25 April 1988 pp.8-9; Vol 3 No 26 May 1988 pp.42-43.

Stephens, T., "Heavenly vision fades for last of the sundae school" in Sydney Morning Herald, 8.1.1995, p.5.
Tod, L., "The Tragedy of the Tamworth Capitol" in KINO, journal of Australia Theatre Historical Society Inc., No. 10, Dec. 1984, pp.4-7. Campbelltown, NSW.


Collins, D. Cinema and Society in Australia 1920 - 39. Ph.D. Thesis (unpublished), University of Sydney, 1975.

Cork, K., 1995. "Twenty-four Miles Around Nelungaloo." The history and importance of cinema exhibition in pre-television times to a country area in central-western New South Wales.
M.A.(Hons.) Thesis (unpublished), University of Western Sydney, Nepean, Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences.

[You can dowload this thesis at: ]

Ivanoff, G., 1993. Victorian Cinema Landscapes. M.A.(Hons.) Thesis, (unpublished) National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 01.10.2004

100 Years of Movies - a very good introduction to movie history over the past 100 years.

Kytherians have been involved in the screening of movies for almost a century.

In some research and photographs, movie posters are referreed to, or appear in the background.

A good resource which can be used to date references and photographs can prove helpful.

A web-site that provides a good brief and readable background history of movies over the past century can be found at

Categories include:

Early Cinematic Origins
Pre-1920s Film History
1902 | 1903 | 1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1919

The Pre-Talkies and Silent Era
1920s Film History
1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923 | 1924 | 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1928 | 1929

The Talkies and 'The Golden Age of Hollywood'
1930s Film History
1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939

The War and Post-War Years
1940s Film History
1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949

The Cold War and Post-Classical Era
1950s Film History
1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959

The End of the Hollywood Studio System, and the Era of Independent, Underground Cinema
1960s Film History
1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969

The Last Golden Age of American Cinema (the American "New Wave"), and the Advent of the Block-buster Film
1970s Film History
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979

Teen-Oriented Angst Films, and the Dawn of the Sequel, with More Blockbusters
1980s Film History
1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989

The Era of Mainstream Films and
Alternative or Independent Cinema; and the Rise of Computer-Generated Films; also the Decade of Remakes, Re-releases, and More Sequels
1990s Film History
1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999

The New Millenium
2000s Films
2000 | 2001 | 2002

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Case Study of Greek Involvement in Cinema Exhibition in a New South Wales Country Town, Chapter 6 [Part B] of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis.

Saraton Theatre, Grafton, 1926.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

Chapter 6 of Kevin's thesis centres on the small western town of Walgett in New South Wales, and the exploits of a number of Kytherians, including the Conomos brothers.

The importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated in Chapt 6, as in all other chapters.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.

What follows is a continuation of Chapter 6: Case Study of Greek Involvement in Cinema Exhibition in a New South Wales Country Town, from the previous entry.

It is interesting to note that in March, Mr Bizanes, Managing Editor of the Greek Tribune Newspaper, visited the town one weekend. It has not been possible to discover why the visit took place but one assumes that it related to the war which, by then, had been brought into Greece itself.

"In keeping with their policy of progress and with it their desire to give patrons the best of sound reproduction in the screening of pictures", a new sound system was installed in the Luxury in January 1941, and opened on 12 February. Lambros was reported to have said, "[it] would prove an acquisition to the theatre and a step which they [the brothers] feel will be highly appreciated by their many patrons."

A special Greek fund-raising day was organised around the country for 28 February 1941, the aim being to raise money for the Greek Red Cross in order to assist the people of Greece during the worsening days of the war. It is possible that the fund-raising's success in this state was helped because of the Greek refreshment room proprietors and others who were scattered through so many country towns. Walgett responded positively to the day and, in the evening, Conomos Bros, who had cancelled their normal Saturday night screening, donated the use of their theatre for a dance, catered for by Messrs Pappas and Co (the opposition Greek cafe in town). "Truly the whole effort reflected every credit on those responsible for its promotion and those people who generously donated and patronised the many competitions, bought buttons and helped in many ways to make the day so successful." A sum of £250 was raised from the day. Lambros also arranged for a Greek flag to be made and presented to a Clay Pigeon Shoot held at Coonamble in March where it was sold and re-sold until the sum of £16/14/- was raised. This was added to Walgett's donation.

In the late 1940s, the ice works was sold to Charlie Conomos (no relation) who moved it from Warrena Street to a small shop in Wee Waa Street. The cordial factory was part of the ice works and provided lemonade and soda water for the town in specially-labelled Conomos Bros' bottles. The cordial venture ceased just prior to World War 2. Conomos Bros had agencies for several organisations: Bolex movie cameras and projectors; Angus and Coote jewellery, Texaco petrol and oil (the petrol bowser was situated outside the Barwon Cafe), and Peters' ice cream.

In 1947, Lambros purchased an 8000-acre property outside the town and renamed it 'Kalamos', after his Kytheran home. However, he did not live permanently on the property as he started to experience some health problems. Around this time, the dress circle foyer at the Luxury Theatre was converted into a flat for him. To lessen the burden being shared by the brothers (who were now approximately 52, 49 and 42 respectively), the Barwon Cafe business (which was "open from about 7a.m. to midnight proving a boon to the general public and particularly to travellers who were assured of a meal or cool drink at any time") was sold just prior in December 1949. Not long after, a fire destroyed the cafe, wine saloon and several adjacent shops. Conomos Bros rebuilt the wine saloon and the cafe, which was leased out.

CinemaScope arrived in the middle 1950s and expense was incurred with a new, wide screen and new lens for the projectors. "Technicians had to come up to alter the projectors into those maskings. One fellow, Aub Seward, finished up with Westrex, that's Western Electric where the boys, they really knew their work. He used to tell us a lot, you know. You had to be right to a sixteenth of an inch. You had to be very accurate." Fortunately, Conomos Bros was spared the expense that many other theatres had to face - enlarging the proscenium to take the wide screen. "We left it there as it was originally."

During their long association with the town, the Conomos family's business interests continued to expand. Letterhead dating from 1936 for Conomos Bros proclaimed that they controlled the Barwon Cafe, the Popular Pictures, the Ice Works, and the Cordial Factory. Another source claims that Conomos Bros also controlled the local "Wood Yard". Lambros, in three decades from the time that he arrived in the town, and his brothers Hector and Jim, built up not only business strength in the town, but they also became prominent members of the community.

About 1950, Lambros suffered a mild stroke and sought treatment in Sydney where he met an Australian lady who would become his wife. In 1951 he married and settled in Bondi, then Vaucluse. Dogged by illness, he saw little of Walgett in the last decade of his life before passing away at the Mosman Private Hospital on 18 March 1960. The Walgett newspaper wrote:
There is no doubt that the efforts of Hector and Jim, coupled with the guiding wisdom of our friend Lambros enabled him to reach a pinnacle of success in commerce not often achieved. They became part and parcel of the town and district and their businesses tentacles stretched in many directions...

It was in the middle 1950s that the issue of the theatre's toilets started to create trouble. It was to continue for the next sixteen years. In 1956 Walgett Police complained to the Chief Secretary that the theatre toilets were being used by patrons from the adjoining Barwon Cafe and, to make matter worse, they were being used as a place where liquor was being collected by Aborigines in the area. (At the time, it was illegal for Aborigines to obtain alcohol.) The police wanted a wire gate to close off the toilets so that only theatre patrons could use them. The local health inspector also wanted separate toilets for both cafe and theatre. Various letters passed back and forth between the owners and the Chief Secretary. With Lambros' death in 1960, the theatre was transferred to his wife, Elizabeth. On Elizabeth's death, the property was transferred to Emmanuel (Hector) and his wife, Elly, Conomos in 1963. The matter of the toilets remained unresolved.

Jim managed the wine saloon and Hector oversaw the running of the theatre. According to family recollections, Hector would double one of his daughters on his pushbike to school then pedal on to the theatre where he would arrange bookings, put up advertisements, organise newspaper advertisements, make minor repairs, and deal with correspondence. For many years, a whistle was blown at 1.00pm at the local dry cleaners to signify lunchtime. With that, Hector would ride home for lunch and sometimes partake of an afternoon siesta. If there was work to be done at the theatre in the afternoon, he would return. On picture nights, Hector would be back at the theatre by 7.00pm to supervise there. On non-picture nights, he would help his brother run the wine saloon. With the rebuilding of the School of Arts as the Memorial Hall in 1951, the Luxury ceased to be used for dances/balls, they being transferred to the new, larger hall which was not encumbered by non-availability on Friday and Saturday nights.

With the sale of the Barwon Cafe business in 1949, Jim was displaced. Although he had acquired a property north-west of Walgett in 1948, (called 'East Mullane', near Cumborah), he preferred to live in town close to the brothers' business interests. He took up residence in the theatre, at first sleeping in one of the dressing rooms, then moving into Lambros' flat (the former dress circle foyer). When the town's Rotary Club received its charter in 1959, Jim was privileged to be one of its original twenty-four charter members.

With the family growing up, Elly found that she had more time for herself. She joined the Mothers' Club, the CWA, the P & C, the Red Cross and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Hospital. "It was nice to meet all the ladies" in a friendly, social atmosphere rather than through one of the businesses. Sadly, it had taken her more than a decade to reach this point in her life. In 1961, to provide better educational opportunities for their family, Elly and the three children (Helen, George and Nina) moved to Sydney. They did, however, return to Walgett for school holidays and helped Hector with the operation of the Luxury.

The Barwon Cafe and adjacent shops were burnt down, this time in December 1962. The fire started in a clothes shop several doors from the cafe. The theatre was undamaged because, "Well, the theatre was brick and, I guess, the Fire Brigade." (Hector and his family were in Sydney at the time.) The shops were rebuilt along modern lines but not, according to the family, without difficulties. First, the architect did not fulfil his duties and another had to be engaged. Secondly, it took a long time to find a lessee for the cafe which had been made smaller than the earlier one since other shops in town now provided some of the range of stock that the old Barwon had provided. The builder took over the family house in Warrena Street and Hector moved in with Jim. Eventually the house was rented to the cafe tenant.
With country television reaching the area in 1962/63, the theatre business fell away sharply. In early 1966 it was announced that Walgett was to be sewered and the local council started pressuring local businesses to comply. In order to do this at the theatre would have meant a large capital expenditure at a time when the business was in sharp decline. It was not surprising that the theatre's owners were reluctant to spend money. Compounding the economic situation, in 1966 Hector had to undergo medical attention which required his son George to run the theatre for a time. In 1968, Hector suggested to the Chief Secretary that he might be interested in building a small, open-air cinema on an adjoining block of land. This was seen as a measure to reclaim lost patronage and, at the same time, install a new toilet system. (Nothing came of either.) The following year witnessed a number of letters and inspection reports, all aimed at forcing the issue of sewerage. One report stated that "Work is considered to be IMPERATIVE." Even the local council became involved in the correspondence. The theatre still screened three times weekly (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays). Eventually, rather than spend the money, the theatre was closed - from 30 May 1970. The final advertisement stated that it was closed for "necessary renovations".

The decision to close was not taken lightly, according to the family, and it was not worth having the building lying idle. Graham Harkens, the theatre's projectionist, organised for it to be leased to the St Mary's Catholic Church Theatre Trust (for a rental of ten dollars per annum). Although the projectionist was a Catholic, Hector was not. However, he was not prepared to keep the theatre closed, which he saw was to the detriment of the town. Hence the very cheap rental for the church since it was prepared to carry out the necessary work and run it. The church built new, sewered toilets at the rear of the theatre, and access to them was created from the auditorium. The Luxury reopened on 18 August 1972 with Paint Your Wagon, but without Conomos family involvement. Interestingly, the local newspaper's article about the re-opening mentioned that "this is being run as a community scheme. It is being run basically to provide some night entertainment for the younger generation." If there was a such need in the town, then the question remains: Why had it fallen on the owner of the property to construct the new toilets, at a time of economic hardship, and not on the community which was going to benefit from having the theatre operating?

Having cut back on business interests in the town, it was possible for Jim to take a short trip home to Kythera in September 1972 to see his sister Katina. She passed away just prior to his return to Australia. While cleaning the wine saloon one morning in June 1973, Jim was taken ill. Hector recalled the day.
He used to get up before breakfast and go down to the wine shop and mop out. Those days, we never used to open before ten o'clock. So, he used to go down first and mop out....this particular morning, after I'd finished my cup of tea, I went down and found him on the floor, with the mop.

The newspaper reported: "Mr. Jim Conomos has been taken to a Sydney hospital by Air Ambulance. His many town and district acquaintances wish him a speedy recovery to good health." A month later, on 13 July, Jim passed away at Prince Alfred Hospital.
In the intervening years, he became affectionately known as the Father of the Greeks in Walgett and was always willing to help and assist them in every imaginable manner. Should a Greek require advice, the late James Conomos was unhesitatingly approached and in his quiet, knowledgeable way, Jim would endeavour to advise...His passing leaves a gap, indeed...Jim's life centred on his business interests and friends in Walgett.

With little left to keep him in Walgett, Hector moved to Sydney in December 1973 to reside permanently with his family. (A few years later, the Catholic Church purchased the theatre.) Elly commented on the way the town used to collect for charities, and how the Conomos businesses had assisted. "They used to come and collect from the theatre, from the cafe and the wine saloon." But, she added poignantly, "When we left, I don't think anybody came to say goodbye to us."

In 1975 the Chief Secretary demanded that the mezzanine lounge area which had been "furnished as living quarters should be removed". At the demand of the Chief Secretary, the flat was removed, some 25 years after its creation. Screenings at the theatre took place on Friday and Saturday nights, Saturday afternoons and Wednesday nights. But, the glamour had faded. By 1975 the main screen curtains had been removed (as a result of them not being treated with fire retardant). An inspection by the Department of Services (which took over the Chief Secretary's role of licensing theatres and public halls) on 13 June 1979 demanded that screenings be suspended owing to necessary electrical work. The theatre was destined not to reopen.

The Luxury, which had opened in a blaze of glory, went out in a blaze of glory 42 years later. In the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, 10 October, 1979, the Luxury Theatre, along with the Barwon Cafe, the Walgett Pharmacy and Azevedo's Gift Inn were gutted by fire. As well, the Wine Saloon, the Housing Commission Offices, the St Vincent de Paul shop and the Imperial Hotel were damaged.
Considering the strong north easterly wind which prevailed at the time, the fire engines, Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Coonamble, and the firemen were faced with a very difficult task, being further hampered by the huge volume of smoke.

So strong was the wind, that pieces of burnish[sic] ash were causing great concern to people living some hundreds of yards downwind from the scene of the fire. They were kept busy for some considerable time, hosing the burning pieces before they had time to ignite their dwellings.

The fire took nearly three hours to bring under control.

The last vestiges of Conomos Bros' commercial involvement in the town had been removed by the fire. Hector recalled, "The whole thing burnt down...Well, I remember, Wally rang me up. He says, 'I was one of the first ones to get down there and,' he says, 'the whole thing was alight.'"

Although it had not been operated by its Greek owners after 1970, for a time they did continue to retain ownership. Even after relinquishing title to the property in the middle 1970s, the Luxury remained a fine cinema building, of heritage value - an unacknowledged tribute to the far-sightedness of Lambros Conomos who had received such great acclamations at the time of its opening in 1937. When asked if they thought the Luxury was too good for Walgett, each of the Conomos family present at a 1995 interview spoke.
George, Hector's son: " would probably have to say that the Luxury Theatre in Walgett was probably, I was going to say over-capitalised, but that may not be it. But, it was more a Sydney suburban theatre than a small town country theatre."
Elly: "It stood out in the town. It stood out."
Hector: "Nothing is too good if it is going to bring in any income. See, that's where you put your money. You say, 'Now I'm going to build this and make it a paying proposition.' It's not too good for Walgett or North Sydney or Coonabarabran."

The Conomos family's connections with Walgett stretch back to 1917 when Lambros arrived to work in Comino and Panaretto's cafe. The Barwon Cafe, the Popular Pictures at the School of Arts, the Luxury Theatre and the Wine Saloon were all important meeting places. During part of its lifetime, the Luxury Theatre was the scene of many dances and balls, in aid of one charity or another. In their time, the cordial factory, wood yard, ice works and the various agencies operated by the brothers provided Walgett with important necessities. The Conomos family worked hard and prospered. Their physical achievements provided the town with amenities that were needed and hastened their integration into the community. The town came to accept them as they became involved in more and more things. Realistically, it was of mutual benefit - the town gained from what the brothers offered, and the brothers gained acceptance. How did they do it? "Their motto was Service. They certainly gave it and all credit to them for the way they have progressed."

Physical evidence of the Conomos presence in Walgett is negligible and is the same for the other Greeks who brought moving pictures to this outback town. There has been no public recognition or acknowledgment of the names Crones, Paspal, Peters or Conomos and for the contributions they made to the town's culinary, social or business history. Only two short history books have been written that relate specifically to Walgett, neither of which mentions the Greeks. A letter to the local historical society in 1994 elicited a short piece on Smith's open air cinema, as recalled many years later by a nephew of the exhibitor. It is so vague as to be of little value to the historian. Letters from the writer in early 1996 to the local newspaper, the local historical society and the Senior Citizens Day Care Centre asking for recollections about the Greek people who ran cafes and cinemas in the town met with no replies. Either the Greeks have been forgotten or an incredible apathy hangs over the town. A sad legacy for a small group of migrants who did so much for the town.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Case Study of Greek Involvement in Cinema Exhibition in a New South Wales Country Town, Chapter 6 [Part A] of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis.

Tumut Memorial Theatre.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D. Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

Chapter 6 of Kevin's thesis centres on the small western town of Walgett in New South Wales, and the exploits of a number of Kytherians, including bthe Conomos brothers.

The the importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated in Chapt 6, as in all other chapters.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.

Chapter 6: Case Study of Greek Involvement in Cinema Exhibition in a New South Wales Country Town.

"Their motto was Service."

The history of permanent cinema exhibition in the town of Walgett, situated 685km north-west of Sydney, is atypical for New South Wales. During the period 1915 to 1979 (the years when permanent motion picture exhibition commenced and ended in the town), people of Greek origin owned and/or operated its five picture theatres for most of the time. Four of the operations were run by men who also operated local cafes in conjunction with the cinemas. To add interest to the tale, the whereabouts of the first, the earliest purpose-built cinema in the town, have been lost in time and the three later ones were destroyed by fire. While little is known about the first three Greek exhibitors, it is known that two of them commenced their working lives in the town as refreshment room proprietors. If it had not been for the untimely destruction of their premises and their subsequent departures, they may have become as important in the commercial life of the town as the three Conomos brothers who were to be the last Greek exhibitors in Walgett.

The three Conomos brothers, Lambros, Emmanuel, Dimitrios, spent a collective 137 years in Walgett. During that time, they built a small commercial empire that provided the town with a number of goods and services, and they did it well. Whenever they achieved something noteworthy (such as the opening of new premises), the local newspaper spoke highly of them, commending them for their foresight, their ingenuity and their faith in the town. Through their business dealings and community involvement, Conomos Bros became an integral part of the commercial life of Walgett. This, in turn, fostered their integration into the community.

Before the Greeks

Situated 685km north-west of Sydney, Walgett is a railhead and stock centre near the junction of the Barwon and Namoi Rivers. The town owes its name to John Campbell who first settled in the area in 1838, calling his property "Walgett". It is the hub of a vast pastoral area that stretches to the Queensland border. Summer days can be extremely hot, and winter evenings can be freezing. In 1851, the Post Office was established and from then the township grew. For many years, was serviced by paddle steamers. The famous Cobb and Co commenced a coach service to the town in 1877. It was not until November 1908 that the railway reached the town, connecting it with Burren Junction to the east. It is probably because of this late railway development that, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, travelling entertainment troupes only paid infrequent visits to Walgett. This was not the case for those towns that had railway services which alleviated the so-called 'tyranny of distance'.

Like all country towns in this state, motion pictures first arrived with travelling show men - that nomadic breed of men who travelled from town to town, setting up, screening, then dismantling their equipment and moving on to another location. For Walgett, until the railway finally reached it in 1908, travelling picture show men had to bring their show on the stage coach.

The rather nondescript School of Arts, situated in Fox Street, was the centre for indoor entertainments. While it was licensed from 1909, the hall was already in existence by the late nineteenth century. However, it was not the first venue in which moving pictures were shown. What was termed, the Old Hall, corner of Fox Street ("opposite the Commercial Bank") and Euroka Street, witnessed "A Grand Cinematograph Entertainment" on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th July 1901 under the direction of Messrs Kobelt and Sharkey. Not only were the locals treated to what was, more than likely, Walgett's first moving pictures, they were also entertained by an Edison Phonograph. The films included "Life-like representations of the South African War, the Bombardment of the Taku Forts in China, Lord Kitchener in the march with his troops, Spanish Bull Fight, Cinderella and the Glass Slipper, Naval Quick-firing and Disappearing Guns, etc." And what was the response? The local newspaper reported:
Commonwealth Cinematograph - One of the best-patronised entertainments showing here during the race week was Messrs. Kobelt and Sharkey's Cinematograph, which drew crowded audiences to the Old Hall nightly, and those who attended are unanimous in their praise as to the merits of the entertainment. The Cinematograph and grammophone [sic] are of the very latest descriptions, and equal anything of the kind being shown in the Commonwealth. The proprietory [sic] richly deserved the patronage bestowed on them for supplying such an entertaining exhibition.

A charity performance, in aid of the Town Band, was given by the same exhibitors on Tuesday, 16 July. This time, however, the School of Arts was used, it having been booked for a ball on the previous occasion.

Kobelt and Sharkey passed into oblivion and Walgett settled-down to a non-cinema existence for the next seven years. In these early years of travelling exhibitors, equipment (projector, gas-making appliances, films, and any other necessary equipment) was moved either by horse or railway. Close proximity of towns meant that showmen could screen every few days and thereby make a living. Walgett, being so distant from neighbouring towns, was not a financially viable venue. Only one other travelling picture show ventured to Walgett before the arrival of the railway. This was The Romany Band and Bioscope Company, which performed and screened for three nights - 3, 5 and 7 September 1908.

Described as "A Palpable Hit!" in one advertisement, the company "...concluded their three nights season in Walgett on Saturday night, and as they were staying over Monday, they very generously gave a benefit to Walgett Hospital in the School of Arts in the evening, the proceeds of which with the subsidy, will amount to about £11."

Enter the Greeks.

It was in early 1908 that Walgett gained its first Greek-operated cafe, the type of business that was to become closely associated with picture exhibition in the town. Messrs Comino and Panaretto opened an Oyster Saloon and Refreshments shop in Fox Street, opposite the Royal Hotel. A newspaper advertisement proclaimed that the shop stocked choice fruit, confectionery, fresh fish, ham, small goods and would provide "meals at all hours". No reason has been found for Panaretto setting up business in Walgett. However, it is possible to speculate that the more-established Greeks in Sydney, who kept their eyes and ears open for potential sales of businesses and new opportunities, may have reasoned that Walgett would grow once the railway reached it.

A small number of travelling shows ventured forth along the length of track once it was opened. Fredos' Big Biograph & Musical Comedy Co, including pictures supplied by Jerdan's Ltd of Sydney was at the School of Arts on 16 and 17 August 1909. The Famous Kennedys - Orchestra, Singers, Humorists, plus The Theatregraph ("latest pictures" include "The London Zoo", "The Electric Policeman", "Three Old Maids at a Ball") was at the School of Arts from Thursday, 16 to Saturday, 18 December 1909. In December 1910, Phelan's New Huge Electric Biograph appeared at the School of Arts. On its second night of screening, it advertised "An Entirely New Programme. Last Night's triumph will be followed tonight by a trip through New Zealand and a multitude of other grand Biograph displays." Perhaps the town was too far along the track for most travellers. No-one brought pictures to town in 1911. The following year saw the first attempt (albeit short-lived) at establishing regular screenings. Jackson's Travelling Picture Show (aka Jackson's Empire Photo Plays) opened on Monday, 13 May at the School of Arts. It was almost as though the town needed some permanent form of cinema but there was no-one living there who had enough faith in the concept to start one. What came was W J Jackson (c/o the Empire Hotel, Bourke) who advertised that he would screen at Walgett on Mondays and Tuesdays, Lightning Ridge on Wednesdays, New Angledool on Thursdays, and Brewarrina on Fridays and Saturdays. While the railway moved people and goods more expediently than horse and cart, Jackson needed a motor car for easy movement between the designated towns.

Jackson's Travelling Picture Show opened to a very good house at the School of Arts on Monday night. The pictures, which were of very high character, were much enjoyed, and as Mr. Jackson intends to show in Walgett every week we can safely recommend the show.

Jackson's Picture Show travels per motor car, showing in a fresh town each night. The dynamo which is attached to the motor car is driven by the gas-engine which thus serves a double purpose. The arrangement is a very ingenious one and gives excellent results.
Advertisements for Jackson's appeared until mid-June. What became of him is unknown. In January 1913, The Elite Picture Co screened on several occasions, then it, too, disappeared. The Empire Pictures from Wee Waa screened "7000ft of excellent films" on 26 February 1914 and continued to visit regularly until April. The last comment on the matter was made in the local newspaper when it reported that the pictures "last Tuesday" had drawn "a large audience". No further references were made to it in the local newspaper. In 1915, Walgett gained its first permanent cinema which ushered in the era of Greek-Australian exhibitors in that town. It was to last, with only a few short breaks, for the better part of the next sixty years.

On Saturday, 10 April 1915 the American Electric Pictures screened for the first time at the School of Arts, under the direction of Alfred Crones (aka Angelo Coronis). Where this man had come from and how he started in motion picture exhibition is unknown. What makes him especially interesting is that he was of Greek parents, was born in USA some 25 years earlier, came to Walgett and established a permanent picture show. It is believed that he Anglicised his name to make it more acceptable to the predominantly British-Australian community of Walgett. Over the next few months, his picture show was variously referred to in the local newspaper as "American Electric Pictures", "Crones Electric Pictures", "Electric Pictures" and "Picture Co", and films were screened twice weekly, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It was reported that the pictures were "second to none" and that "first class attendances" had greeted the proprietor. By June, the newspaper still enthused about the pictures. "The American Electric Pictures are still being shown each Wednesday and Saturday nights, and big attendances denote the interest of the people in the excellent programmes submitted."

On 1 July 1915, the local newspaper reported that the Empire Pictures "are all the rage now" and that an "excellent programme for Saturday next" was to be expected. No venue was given and
screened in Walgett. No venue was stated and the last mention was made in the 15 July edition.

Buoyed by his success (and presumably having beaten the competition from the Empire Pictures), Crones constructed an open-air cinema which he named the American Picture Palace. This opened on Tuesday, 17 August 1915, but its location has been lost with time. The programme was described as being "extra fine" but, owing to a very cold night, the audience was "not as large as anticipated". By November, it was known as the Walgett Picture Palace. At its October 1915 meeting, the local council's Shire Engineer reported that a notice had been served on Crones to provide additional sanitary arrangements. Council adjourned temporarily for members to inspect the theatre's current sanitary provisions. Crones, it was reported, had agreed to the work. Crones and his theatre were last mentioned in May 1916. Nothing has been found as to when or why Crones left Walgett. It may have been something to do with his Greek nationality and the fact that all Greeks were required to register as "Aliens" in 1916 owing to the uncertainty of the King of Greece's allegiance to the Allied cause. It is possible that his nationality worked against him, especially since he would have been perceived as an important community figure in the town. Although nothing more has been discovered about his theatre, Crones re-appeared in Sydney in mid-1917.

Competition from another cinema commenced in late 1915/early 1916 in the form of Tee's Pictures. A New South Wales referendum in 1916 forced hotels to close at 6pm. This deprivation of evening socialisation may well have been a boon for cinema exhibitors, especially one like Charles Tee who had his cinema adjacent to his refreshment room. The exact opening date is not known, but it was reported in an early January local newspaper to have been "recently established". It was also noted that the "plant is a powerful one and the films exhibited have been fully up to Metropolitan standard". Tee's Pictures was situated on the eastern side of Fox Street, between Neilly and Warrena Streets. Charles Tee was not a new-comer to the area. For some years he had been the publican at the Barwon Hotel, Dangar Bridge on the Brewarrina-Goodooga Road. It was the refreshment room that attracted the man who would become the second Greek cinema exhibitor in Walgett.

Tee's Pictures became the Lyric Pictures in 1918 and was operated by A Smith, who also leased the adjacent cafe. In July 1919, Paspall and Co (Archibald Paspalas) announced that it had taken over the cafe from Phil Gilies and was undertaking "extensive alterations".

Paspalas had been born on the island of Kythera on 19 February 1898 and arrived in Sydney, aged 14, on 15 November 1912. Over the next six and a half months, he, like a number of his countrymen, travelled extensively seeking employment. Leaving Liverpool (Sydney suburb) in 1917 he became a labourer in Edmonton, Qld. After a brief return to Sydney as a cook in early 1918, he moved to Wingham, Qld as a waiter. Moving to Halifax, Qld in May 1918 where he took on a job as labourer, he then moved to firstly to Cairns and then to Babinda Qld all within the space of three months. By November 1918 he was back in Sydney working as a labourer. From all of his jobs, it is possible that he had managed to save enough money to take over a country cafe. Twenty-one year old Archie (as he now called himself) arrived in Walgett on 25 June 1919 to take over a Fox Street refreshment room which he set about renovating.

In September, the "thoroughly renovated" Olympia Cafe and Oyster Saloon opened. The same newspaper advertised "Lovers of Pictures! Paspall & Co have secured a lease of building adjoining their premises - to open first class up-to-date picture show. First night proceeds to Walgett Hospital." The premises was the former Lyric Pictures. Renamed Olympia Pictures, it opened on Saturday, 20 September. Although it screened on Monday 22 and Tuesday 23, it operated on a Saturdays-only policy after this, probably because that was all the business the town could muster. (In 1911, there were 3,200 people in the area and this had only grown to 3,276 by 1921.)

Relatively short-lived, the Olympia was destroyed by fire on Friday, 3 June 1921. The fire broke out in the kitchen of the adjacent cafe and spread quickly. The local newspaper reported: " hope of saving the refreshment room or the picture show and efforts were concentrated on saving Nicholas' bakery and residence immediately adjoining on one side, and the Royal Hotel separated by 12 feet on the other side." The coroner's inquest noted that the cause was unknown. Interestingly enough, Paspalas was naturalised on 13 June 1921. Regardless of the fire and the destruction, he was obviously determined to make Australia his home, but not necessarily in Walgett. After the fire, Paspall and Co disappeared from the scene.

Charles Tee, who owned the razed properties, rebuilt. It has not been possible to determine who took over the cafe, but the new cinema, the Victoria Theatre, was operated by Walgett Entertainment Co and reopened on Saturday, 19 November 1921. The newspaper report described it in glowing terms.
...designed to comply with local requirements, will prove a decided acquisition to the town. Its modern appointments includes powerful electric fans and proper theatre 'tip-up' seats. The company's maintenance of its past high standard exhibitions, together with the comfort offered patrons, assure the management of solid support.

It has not been possible to ascertain what the company's past high standard of exhibition was as no previous mention of the company has been found. It is known that a Mr Kemp was the manager in 1922. However, it is known who operated the cafe and cinema after 1924. In a 1927 newspaper report, Mrs Florence Smith stated that she had operated the cafe from December 1925 and the picture show from about 1924. Another piece to substantiate Mrs Smith's claim is a newspaper item in December 1924 that told of Arthur Smith providing a charity picture show in aid of the Church of England's car fund.

The new Victoria seated 300. Its dimensions were 100 feet long by 30 feet wide. It was semi-open-air, the street end having a roof. This area was stated as being 50 feet long by 30 feet wide. The screen end was open to the elements. A Fire Brigade Inspection Report of 1925 provides a more detailed description of the roofed section of the building. Its length was 60 feet, width being 32 feet; walls were constructed of weatherboard, the roofed section was covered with iron, and the floor of the covered section was wood. The operating box was situated above the entrance door and was built of weatherboard and iron. Seating was listed as 500. The report recommended that the projection box be "thoroughly fireproofed". As a consequence, the box was lined with tin.

In early 1927, Peter Peters (whose original name was Petracos) became the third of the Greek exhibitors in Walgett. He took over the business of the refreshment room and Victoria Theatre being operated by Mrs Smith. In a newspaper advertisement of 10 February, Peters announced that he would be screening from Monday, 12 February at the Victoria Theatre, which he now subtitled "The Acme of Perfection". (One week later, the fourth Greek exhibitor, Lambros Conomos, made his entry into the Walgett cinema-scene.)

Peters made attempts to tackle his opposition and to promote his theatre. Work envisaged for the Victoria was advertised in late January.
The Picture Show Premises are undergoing Renovation, and will be brought right up-to-date. Two of the Latest Biograph Machines will be installed, new and comfortable seating accommodation will be provided, and improved ventilation and fans have been decided upon. An Expert Biograph Operator has been engaged who will personally attend to all matters in connection with the screening of pictures, thus assuring patrons of faithful and efficient service.

Like Paspal and Co before him, Peters must have seen the merits of presenting a clean, tidy image.

He advertised that his refreshment room was undergoing remodelling and redecorating. In late February announcements continued to be made that his theatre was "undergoing big alterations" and advised people to watch for the "grand Renewal opening". This event took place on Monday, 7 March, the proceeds being given to the hospital.
The picture theatre has been undergoing a good deal of renovation and the work being now practically complete. Mr. Peters is making Monday night next the grand re-opening...a monster program will be presented, featuring some of the best artists in the picture world, and as an added attraction an orchestra of five musicians has been engaged and catchy and appropriate music will be supplied...A free dance will be held after the pictures...

Having lived in Walgett for seven years, Lambros Conomos had undoubtedly found time to evaluate the economic potential of the local cinemas (both the ill-fated Olympia and the newer Victoria) and their adjacent refreshment rooms where people ate before and after performances, and where refreshments were sold at interval. With his refreshment room situated at the other end of town to the Victoria, Conomos reaped little reward from it. In order to "gain a piece of the action", as modern businessmen might say, he leased the School of Arts Hall in Fox Street where he established his own picture show.
Lambros discovered this theatre - semi-open air [ie the Victoria]. It wasn't good enough for the people of Walgett. So he came down here [ie to Sydney] and he arranged with Australasian Films to supply him with films and he would show at the School of Arts. Paid them spot cash for one projector, not two projectors. Arranged with the School of Arts Committee to show pictures there.

On Monday, 14 February 1927, Lambros Georgeos Conomos, assisted by his two brothers, opened the Popular Pictures in the leased hall not far from their refreshment room.

The Conomos brothers' story is that of three teenagers who, at various times between 1913 and 1924, came to Australia and "went bush" when the opportunity to be economically independent arose. They came from the village of Kalamos, on the island of Kythera - Lambros Georgeos (born 5 April 1898), Emmanuel Georgeos (born 18 December 1901), and Dimetrios Georgeos (born 1909). Economic hardship and lack of prospects on the island had caused many young Kytheran males to emigrate in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Father, Georgeos arranged for his eldest son Lambros, then aged 15, to be sent to Australia under the care of a family acquaintance, Charles Cassimatis. On arrival in Sydney on 13 June 1913, Cassimatis found him work as a waiter at Aroney's Cafe in Alfred Street, Circular Quay. Conomos was tall for his age (noted as 5 feet 8 inches high in 1916) and this may have been to his advantage. Aroney's was a three-storey building that housed a restaurant and living quarters for the Greek men and boys who worked there, thus providing them with a microcosm of Greek culture and security. It is believed by Conomos family members that it was Lambros who shortened the family name from Megaloconomos to Conomos. Two years later, Lambros sent for his younger brother, Emmanuel who arrived in Sydney in 1914. Lambros had learnt his English as he worked but Emmanuel was permitted to attend nearby Fort Street High School near the Sydney Observatory when he was not required to work in the cafe. For his work, he received meals and board. As he recalled eighty years later, "My first job was peeling potatoes." He attended school for a short time then took up full time work at Aroney's.

"The older Greeks used to say, 'Don't stay in Sydney, son, because you're going to get mixed up with a bad lot. Gambling, and so forth. Get out in the bush if you want to make a success of life.' So, a lot of those fellows made a really successful life by going out bush."

"A lot of Greeks in the bush used to write to Sydney via the Greek club and ask if they knew of any fellows [who wanted work]. And that's how, gradually, young fellows that went out in the country made success in life...A lot of them said goodbye to their parents never knowing whether they were going to see them again." Emmanuel was 14 when he said goodbye to his parents, but he was fortunate. "I went back three times."

Peter and Arthur Calligeros (from Strapodi on Kythera) had one of the refreshment rooms in Fox Street, Walgett which they were operating under the name "Comino and Panaretto". When a position for kitchenman became available in 1917, and the information had filtered through the "Greek-vine", Lambros applied for and got the position.
A lot of country cafes found it very hard to find suitable fellows that could speak the language. That was the hardest part. Through going to Fort Street School, I could speak plainly and it was no trouble for me. They used to write from the country, they used to write to the Athenaeum Club or anybody - 'Do you know of any young fellow that wants a job out in the country, out in the bush? And they searched around.
What 19 year old Lambros was not to know at the time he set foot in this December-hot, dusty, end-of-the-line town was that he was about to enter into a commercial relationship that was to see the Conomos name involved with the town for the next five and a half decades.

Some short time afterwards, the Calligeros brothers moved to another site in Fox Street, near the Imperial Hotel where they continued to trade. When the brothers moved back to Sydney in May 1919 preparatory to returning to their homeland, Lambros formed a partnership, with fellow cafe worker Theo Cassimattis[sic], and took over the business. The partnership was short-lived and, unable to manage by himself (although he did had a few employees), Lambros sent for Emmanuel who arrived during the 1919 drought. On being introduced to locals shortly after his arrival, "One fellow asked, 'What's his name?' Lambros replied, 'It's Emmanuel.' 'Oh,' he said. 'It's too bloody hard. Call him Hector.'" And the name stuck. (The Anglicising of names was not always at the instigation of the Greeks!) How did a young Greek lad of 18 like being in the bush? "I was young and active and I had to join the football club and play football." Lambros, being older and less athletic, joined Loyal Barwon Lodge and became the Honorary Secretary.
The Conomos' refreshment room was in a corrugated iron building that comprised three spaces: the front portion, where a table service was provided for meals and where counters were placed for the sale of fruit and vegetables (some local, but most supplied from Sydney markets), confectionery and small goods; behind this area was a small living area and the kitchen complete with wood- burning stove, the wood pile for which was behind the building and one of the men had to chop sufficient for each day. In the summer months, the heat in the kitchen was extreme.

Walgett, in those days, was relatively small. "The town only had about eight hundred people...The train took twenty-four hours to get there from Sydney. There were no electric street lights and no sealed roads." However, using his slowly growing business acumen, Lambros was on the way to becoming "one of Walgett's most successful commercial men."

The third brother, Dimetrios (who Anglicised his name to Jim) was sponsored by Lambros to come to Australia in 1924, which would have made him approximately 16 years old. During the 1920s, Lambros was instrumental in arranging for other young Greeks to come to Australia by offering work in his cafe, thereby helping them on their way to a better life. These included:
"Town Topics: M. Fatseus, employed by Lambros Conomos" was admitted to hospital with a severe cut to his lower right arm, having come into contact with a broken lolly jar.

"Town Topics: Leo Cassimatas, late of Mr. L. Conomos' shop, has opened a fruit and confectionery business in Collarenebri."

"Heard in the Street
That Messrs Charlie and Theo Conomos, now in the employment of Mr. Lambros Conomos, have purchased Seymour's fruit and confectionery business in Brewarrina."

One of the sponsored men who went on to operate cinemas was Panayiotis Fratseskos Laurandos, later changed to Louran, who became an important businessman in Goodooga, north-west of Walgett.

In the year that the School of Arts Popular Pictures opened (1927), Lambros and his brothers formed a partnership and Conomos Bros was born. The local newspaper reported the new cinema's opening in glowing terms and noted the generosity of the management who donated the proceedings to the local hospital.
The School of Arts was the scene of a gay spectacle on Monday night last, the occasion being the grand opening of Mr Lambros Conomos' picture show, and as the entertainment was for the benefit of the hospital, it was not surprising to see the spacious building packed to overflowing with 'picture fans' and the public in general, all eager to witness the initial screening and at the same time to help the institution mentioned. The hall was specially decorated for the occasion with flags and bunting, and presented quite a spectacular appearance, and from the biograph machine to the screen a blue ribbon was stretched, which, when released set the machine in operation and thus the first picture came into view. Mr. A. R. Gray, on behalf of the hospital committee... complimented the proprietor on having installed such an up-to-date and costly plant... Three cheers were then given for Mr Conomos, the ribbon was released, and the machine set in operation...and seats may be booked at Mr Conomos' shop.

Having purchased new equipment and never having operated a projector, it was necessary for the older Conomos brothers to be trained. Hector recalled the situation. "The fellow came up [from Sydney], the expert, to install the machine and to try it out and everything. And everything was right. Lambros had to learn how to operate the machine. This fellow's name was Mike Connors and he was showing the eldest brother. So Lambros kept making mistakes and Connors says 'I'll make a bloody projectionist out of you, don't worry. I'll teach you how to load the film.' He was a funny man. Well, you had to learn." Rather than take himself or Hector away from other duties (with the theatre and the cafe), Lambros convinced Bill McLean, a local butcher, to become the resident projectionist. Connors, who had installed the machine, instructed McLean. Jim Conomos preferred to work in the refreshment room and declined to learn anything about the projector.

Good houses and splendid pictures appears to be the universal verdict of those who have attended Mr Lambros Conomos' picture show...During the interval each evening a plentiful supply of iced delicacies are available, such as ice cream blocks, ice cream chocolate bars, ice cream cups, etc., while at the shop...a varied assortment of delicious cordials made and bottled on the premises.
It is doubtful if any of the Conomos brothers realised that the family would still be showing pictures in Walgett fifty years later.

The School of Arts was not a large building. In a 1930 report, it was described as follows: 86 feet long by 30 feet wide; walls of timber; roof of iron; floor of wood; stage 20 feet by 30 feet, with two dressing rooms at the rear of the stage itself. Seating was for 462. It was not equipped with a projection box until Lambros Conomos arranged for one to be built behind the stage, between the two dressing rooms. A contemporary report spoke of its crudeness. "The operating box is not fire proof but patched up here and there with asbestos sheets and sheet iron. The operator is not an experienced person and has already had one fire in a picture show here while operating." As a result of this and a report by the Government Architect three weeks later, it was recommended that the pictures be closed down owing to fire danger. However, rather than deprive the town of its pictures, a temporary, one month licence was issued. Although the Secretary of the School of Arts wrote to the Chief Secretary pointing out that "...the Proprietor of the Picture Show L. Conomos has has[sic] taken every care to aviod[sic] the risk of fire..." , he was not able to alter the mind of the Chief Secretary who required that a new projection box be built. With that, L Conomos organised for the construction of a new projection box, in the same position as the old. (One of the Chief Secretary's roles was to ensure that theatres and public halls complied to certain safety standards. After Peters' Victoria Theatre conflagration in June 1927, it is understandable that the Chief Secretary was concerned about the poor quality of the School of Arts' projection box.)

In the days of silent pictures, musical accompaniment was de regle and the Popular Pictures employed pianist Harry Weber. Recalling those days, Hector said,
I don't remember what we paid Harry..[He] was in-charge of the music. See, silent picture pianists had to be really smart and know how to follow. If there was any action picture, the pianist would come on with 'Poet and Peasant' or something like that.

According to his brother, Lambros found brought up a pianist from Sydney. After Weber arrived in Walgett, he "opened his little [music] shop next to the Barwon Cafe. He taught me how to play the saxophone. He had his own little band [in Sydney] - five players. He showed me the photos. So, he says, we'll form a little band here. There was no band in Walgett."

"Town Topics: Mr. Hector Conomos has purchased a saxophone through local agency of Mr. H. Weber."

"We formed our own orchestra in later years. There was Harry Weber could play the piano, CPS played the violin." And, with Hector on sax, the band played for dances, but not for the silent pictures at the School of Arts. Recalling those days, Hector said that they played "for petrol money", preferring to donate their services gratis for the charity that was running the dances/balls. Band members changed from time to time. Hector remembered Ted Butler, the local telephone technician, playing banjo, and brothers, Bert and Harry Malcolm, as being good pianists.

The School of Arts succeeded to draw the crowds, although it only screened on several nights a week (usually Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays). Advertisements noted that seating was "comfortable" and that there was "Specially Selected Music", attributes designed to tempt the would-be locals.
We started off with one projector. It was silent pictures. Those [projector] magazines, you weren't supposed to put in them more than 2000 feet of film. Anyway, we had this fellow, Bert Malcolm. Instead of having to change every 2000 feet, he used to load up this magazine with about 5 or 6000 feet but he was very quick in breaking it...because when you send a film away, it had to be in 2000 feet special magazines.
Not everything was comfortable. Walgett is well known for its high summer temperatures and, during those months, the building "was very hot. The doors were very wide and you could open the doors and it was quite good."

Thus, by mid-1927, two Greek immigrant exhibitors were battling it out in Walgett. While Peters advertised himself as "Fruiterer and Picture Show Proprietor", Conomos advertised as "Fruiter, Confectioner and Picture Show Proprietor". It would seem from the text in newspaper advertisements that both strove to present quality programmes and thereby do good business. However, the size of Walgett was against two cinemas surviving and it was not long before the matter was settled.

Hector Conomos said that the Victoria Theatre "was at the wrong end whereas our place was right in the centre. The School of Arts was in a better position. But what happened? It [the Victoria] didn't fold up. The fire folded everything up. See, business went so bad that everything went up in smoke."

On the night of 9 June, the Victoria Theatre burnt down.
Shortly after midnight last night the firebell sounded...with people rushing in the direction of the Royal Hotel...

On arrival it was seen that Peter's picture show was well-alight. By the united efforts of the fire brigade the Royal Hotel was saved, as were the buildings on the northern side, and by expert work and a plentiful supply of water the brigade succeeded in confining the flames to the picture show, refreshment rooms, and Nicholas' baker's shop and dwelling adjoining, which buildings were totally destroyed.

In the Coroner's inquest into the fire, additional background was provided on Peter Petracos/Peters. According to his testimony, he had been a resident of Walgett since 24 December 1926 but was away at the time of the fire, on his way to Brisbane in order to raise money that was owing to Mrs Smith as part of the payment for taking over the picture hall and refreshment room. (Charles Tee owned the properties; Mrs Smith owned the businesses.) Peters claimed that the picture show was "a failure", but the refreshment room was "all right". He said that his correct name was Petracos and that he had been in Australia 16-18 years. While he had business interests in Brisbane, he had moved around since first arriving in Australia but kept mainly to refreshment room-type businesses. Herbert W Malcolm was the projectionist and he had been employed by Peters since the end of January. The judge's verdict was "Cause unknown".
The theatre was not rebuilt, a report seven years later stating that the site was "still vacant". Conomos now had a monopoly on film screenings in town. The new projection box at the School of Arts was constructed and Bill McLean was replaced by the former Victoria's projectionist Bert Malcolm. A contemporary plan provides the following details of the venue for Conomos' Popular Pictures. The hall was 29 feet wide by 65 feet long. Entry was at the side through a 6 feet by 8 feet porch with a 5 feet by 5 feet ticket office attached. In front of the hall was a 29 feet by 19 feet billiard room that fronted Fox Street, with a door to the main auditorium. On this wall of the auditorium was erected a steel picture screen. The projection box, built between the two dressing rooms at the rear of the stage, measured 10 feet by 6 feet 6 inches. One of the dressing rooms was used as a rewinding room for the films. The stage area was used as an additional seating area.

Following a small fire in his shop, Lambros organised for repairs to be done in early 1928. In September of that year, having opened an ice works that would operate during the warm months of the year, he announced that he was taking orders for ice.
Residents of the town and district are advised that Mr Lambros Comonos has commenced the manufacture of ICE for the approaching Summer Weather. Any quantity, large or small, is now available and the town delivery has commenced. Leave your orders at the shop and they will be promptly and faithfully attended to. The terms are strictly cash onv delivery. A Freezing Room is available to the public, and a small charge will be made for articles placed therein.

According to Hector, the ice works was Lambros' idea.
The conditions up there were very severe. And, first of all, we started getting ice from Newcastle...hundredweight blocks packed in sawdust. They were hard to lift. They were coming from Newcastle. So Lambros said 'That's too far away.' So, our next best was Gunnedah. Of course, much closer and owing to the climatic conditions we used to get more ice and it used to melt so much. Later on Lambros said, 'There's right at the railway station in Wee Waa, one hundred miles from Walgett, there was a joinery/timber cutter and ice works whom we knew very well...So Lambros went along and said 'You've got to supply me with ice.'...At the powerhouse [in Walgett], we had a fellow, originally it was an Englishman, old Hall, and my brother was very friendly with Hall and he told Hall, 'Why can't we start iceworks here?' And Hall says to him, 'You start off and I'll help you. I'll do all the installation of the machinery. So Lambros comes down here [Sydney] and arranges with Woods [?] and Sinclair for the whole works, oil engine, compressor and everything.

On the other hand, not everything was going smoothly with the new picture show. The School of Arts Committee, of which Lambros was a member (since he had a vested interest), complained to him that the condition of the hall's floor had deteriorated because of
the picture show traffic, and the habit of persons treading chewing gum into the floor, together with the continual movement of seating, had a very depreciating effect on the floor for dancing purposes. It was moved by Messrs Warre and Brooke - "That a supply of sawdust, specially treated with kerosene and tallow, be procured, and that Mr Conomos be instructed to have a small quantity of this spread between the seats before the commencement of each entertainment.
Some weeks later complaints were still being made and it was decided by the Committee to investigate the possibility of purchasing a floor polisher.

In 1929, with talking pictures starting to make their presence felt in Sydney but too expensive to install in Walgett at the time, Lambros Conomos was instrumental in persuading the Hall Committee to purchase a Cinephone musical instrument " supply Picture Show and dance music". The instrument was to be placed in a room (12 feet, 10 feet by 7 feet high erected above the stage.) Included in the machine were three record turntables, electric motors, amplifier and ordinary gramophone disc records. A horn/speaker was placed at the screen end of the hall. Although the Chief Secretary was concerned that there was only one means of escape from the projection box and that the room for the Cinephone was over the projection box, for some unexplained reason he granted permission for the machine to be installed. It was used to supply music for the pictures and the Hall Committee used it to provide music for dances. Whether or not the £250 purchase-price was ever recouped is unknown.

July 1929 saw the installation of a petrol bowser outside the Conomos' refreshment room. This addition to their business interests was justified as motor transport was becoming more and more popular. Only the previous year, Walgett Shire Council had decided to purchase a quantity of gravel in order "to maintain [the] streets in proper condition." The days of the dirt roads was passing. Having purchased the refreshment room property and adjoining chemist shop from C E Thomas in late 1929, Lambros modernised the premises in time for the Christmas trade. The local newspaper described the concrete footpath that extended the length of the building ("this, indeed, is a wonderful improvement"), the "huge, plate glass windows" and the heavy glass swing doors. "The interior is one large room measuring something like 45ft x 34ft...New furniture and floor covering has been installed, as well as a number of glass show cases and counters, and the surroundings certainly have the appearance of a city shop..." Between the refreshment room and the chemist shop (which was also renovated), a small shop was constructed for Bert Malcolm.
The premises are indeed something to be proud of, and we congratulate Mr. Conomos on being the owner of them. Indeed, Mr. Conomos has big interests in the town and nothing but the best will satisfy him. He has certainly spent a good deal of money in improving his property, but he now has the satisfaction of knowing that he has a business site equal to those seen in the metropolitan area, and certainly not surpassed by any found in country towns.

Later that year, Lambros returned to Kythera for a short holiday to see his parents. He left Hector in-charge of their business interests, (with Jim's assistance). With the Depression starting to take its effect, Monday night pictures were cancelled from April 1930. However, this did not stop Hector from arranging to bring the film of the exploits of the famous aviatrix, Amy Johnson to Walgett in June, thereby allowing the local people to see what they had been reading about in the city newspapers.

With the coming of talking pictures in 1928/29 to Sydney and the subsequent conversion of many theatres to the new medium, the supply of silent films dwindled to the point where it became a matter of wire-for-sound or close. Saturday, 2 July 1932 was the last time that silent pictures were screened in the town. The following Wednesday (6th), Conomos Bros presented talking pictures to the people of Walgett. The newspaper reported the opening in detail and noted that the machinery was one hundred per cent Australian. "Nobody should miss the talkies, they bring the world to Walgett, and provide for the people exactly the same class of entertainment as can be seen in the leading city and metropolitan theatres." It went on to commend the brothers, "...on the progressive step they have made, and wish them every success in their venture."

It was Jim's turn next to visit his parents and he did so in 1933. The other two brothers hoped that he might return with a wife but this was not to be. He remained on Kythera for a number of years, quite content with life and his new-found apiary interest.

In 1935, plans were made for the projection box in the School of Arts to be moved to the street end (or western end) of the hall. That same year, and unbeknown to the School of Arts' committee, Lambros Conomos set in motion plans for a new picture theatre - free of restrictions imposed by the School of Arts (the only social venue in town and one that had to be shared with other events) and something that would make a statement amongst picture showmen in the state. After all, times were changing and picture patrons needed more comfort and facilities and, if the cinemas being constructed in metropolitan areas and larger rural centres were any indication, the Walgett School of Arts was not adequate for Conomos Bros' vision of motion picture exhibition in Walgett. In August 1935, Lambros commenced purchasing land for a new theatre. The first block ran from Wee Waa Street to a lane to the north. In August 1936 he purchased a piece of land from Toohey's Ltd (who owned the hotel at the corner of Fox and Wee Waa Streets) which connected his block to Fox Street, thus giving him a 58 feet frontage to this main shopping street. The depth of his block was now 160 feet. He sold the Wee Waa Street frontage to Tooheys Ltd, thus ridding himself of surplus land.

Hector's first visit home to see his parents was in 1935. It was at Lambros' suggestion, but he also wanted Hector to persuade Jim to return to Walgett. He was concerned that their youngest brother was becoming too involved on the island and might not come back, Besides, their business enterprises required his help. "Lambros suggested that I go back. I said, 'I've been here for so long and I haven't seen any part of the world.' He said, 'Well, what do you want to do?' I said, 'I'd like to go to America by boat.' There were the Mariposa and Monterey...He says, 'By all means.'" Since they owned a picture theatre, it was easy to obtain "letters of introduction to go to Hollywood to see how pictures were made". After making his way to the east coast of America, and having thoroughly enjoyed himself, Hector was supposed to proceed by ship to Greece. At the time, Italy was at war in Ethiopia. Mussolini had "...advertised ('they used to call him The Big Mouth') to anyone crossing the Atlantic Ocean to do so at their own risk. I sent a telegram to Lambros, from New York to Walgett. 'Remain in New York owing to conditions.' He replied, 'Proceed. No danger.' Hector enjoyed his time in America. "[It] did me a lot of good because there were a lot of Greeks there, a lot of Greeks who came from the same island as me, from Kythera, and I was at home with them."

After arriving on Kythera, Hector managed to persuade Jim to return to Walgett, but stayed there himself for about three years. On one occasion, he was in the nearby village of Livadi where he met Elly, whose father employed Hector's father. They married, but not before Hector's father passed away. Then, knowing that Lambros and Jim needed his assistance, they set about returning to Australia.

In 1936, while Hector was overseas, Lambros engaged noted Sydney architect, C Bruce Dellit to design a picture theatre for Walgett. Dellit had already designed the Astros Theatre, Merriwa (1928), the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney (1929/30), the Liberty Theatre, Pitt Street, Sydney (1934), and had drawn plans for a bigger theatre, arcade and apartment block behind the earlier Liberty (1934), designed a new, Jazz-style Art Deco interior for the Australian Picture Palace (renamed Tatler Theatre), Liverpool Street, Sydney (1935) and was about to commence work on the Minerva and Paradise Theatres, Kings Cross (from 1937). Dellit, near the top of his career, supervised the work, travelled to the site to oversee construction and was present at the opening night.

"Jim used to write to me sometimes and tell me about what was going on," said Hector. Lambros was not satisfied with screening at the School of Arts and having to pay rent to someone else.
In those days, after the performance was over, people always looked forward to have a cup of tea or coffee and toast or a cool drink. So the eldest brother thought, 'There's an idea. Build a theatre next to the cafe and, when the pictures are over, they all come into the cafe.' And it worked. I remember the time [after the new theatre was built], one cook we had there, in the winter months...would come along and say 'What time the pictures be out?' I'd say, 'There's so many thousand feet of film to go through. They'll be out at half past ten.' So he'd make stacks of toast...You've got them both ways - you've got them in the theatre and, after the theatre, you've got them in the cafe.

For Walgett, the new theatre was "over the top". Nothing in town could compare. Not only was it a modern cinema, but with its flat downstairs' floor, it could also double as a ballroom when required. A report on the proposed building was completed by the Government Architect in late 1936. It was stated that the theatre was 58 feet wide by 160 feet long, the rear abutted Wee Waa Lane, it contained a stage 25 feet wide by 36 feet deep and had dressings rooms on either side of the stage. A shop, 14 feet wide by 25 feet long, occupied part of the street frontage. The projection suite was situated at the rear of the dress circle. In a later report, the Government Architect stated that seating was for 350 in the stalls, 14 rows by 25 seats in each (not fixed), while the dress circle seated 144.

"A further step in the progress of Walgett...demonstrating also as it does the unbounded faith held by Mr. Conomos in the future of this town and district." In preparation for the opening of the new theatre, the School of Arts' Popular Pictures closed after the screening on Saturday, 17 April. Last programme included Marion Davies in Hearts Divided and Hoot Gibson in The Last Outlaw.

The new Luxury Theatre opened on Monday, 19 April 1937 with Eleanor Powell in Born To Dance. A ball after the pictures, with Cavanagh's Orchestra from Moree, attended by over 300, raised £50 for the local hospital. The newspaper reported that it was "an occasion long to be remembered in Walgett. Fox Street, between the Royal Hotel and the Post Office, was just one blaze of light from the powerful lamps on the new building. The attendance and everything in general gave the show a real city atmosphere..." and promised a full report the following week.

The theatre, that evening, stood out in great majesty to receive the largest crowd that has ever attended a function in our town. The foyer closely resembled the entrance to some stately metropolitan show, and made a pleasing spectacle with ladies gowned in evening attire and gents in full evening dress moving forward to their respective seats. The ushers had a gigantic task in attending to their important duties, but everything was so well organised before this big night that not one hitch of any kind occurred to mar an evening which will long be remembered.

The Luxury Theatre was appropriately named. It was Moderne in design, and Dellit had drawn upon his Liberty Theatre in Sydney for inspiration. The facade featured stepped panels with a projecting vertical central feature panel. At night, the facade was floodlit and there was a special feature light at the top of the facade. The street-front ticket box (with an internal one adjoining) was reminiscent of the Liberty.

The front of the building is cement rendered and of futuristic design, being painted white and relieved with blue and silver. Entrance is by means of a foyer with a sun-rays floor having a gradual slope to obviate the necessity of steps. This leads to three main doors which open into the stalls. The dress circle is reached by a special concrete staircase...

On the left of the vestibule was a wide staircase that lead up to the dress circle foyer. Decoration here was limited to a feature frieze around the top of the walls, and small vertical wall bracket lights. The windows had side and pelmet curtains in horizontally striped fabric and a sheer fabric for centre drops. Scatter rugs of Modern design were arranged on the floor and there was an abundance of modern, cane furniture.

Mr. Conomos in a few appropriate words introduced his guests to the audience, each in turn congratulating the proprietors on their enterprise and wishing them all success in their business venture. Mr. Dellett[sic] in his remarks considered Walgett and district very fortunate indeed in possessing a man of the calibre of Mr. Lambros Conomos, whose one great aim was to see Walgett prosper. He had only met Mr. Conomos some few months ago and was so impressed with his desire to give Walgett a theatre of which the people might be proud, that he gave this work his special attention in order that Mr. Conomos' wish should be truly gratified...

Similarities in the internal decoration could be noticed between Dellit's Luxury and his 1935 Tatler in Liverpool Street, Sydney. In the auditorium, decoration was kept to a minimum, relying on the ceiling with its stepping down in shallow, wide steps towards the stage. "The stage will look particularly attractive with the special curtains of gold velvet and silk designed by the architect. These also embody the letters 'L.T.' worked in gold." The proscenium was surrounded by five steps on both side walls and ceiling, with a vertical set of wall lights between the third and fourth steps. Each of the steps was decorated underneath with a scallop treatment. (The decorated steps and side lighting were the same as at the Tatler.)

The painting is very artistic and is a special texture of light buff, fading away as it makes towards the ceiling. The ornamental finish is carried out in rubbed ivory and picked out in gold...The lighting is also the very latest, the lamps being concealed in ornamented parchment shades, relieved in gold, whilst in front special electrical equipment will make the theatre a blaze of beautiful colour.

The major decorative features were a Moderne patterned central motif that steps down the middle of the ceiling to the proscenium, the Moderne grille work panels that covered the side wall ventilation openings, and the half-cylinder, opalescent wall lamps situated between each panel of grille work. Although there were no ceiling lights in the auditorium proper, there was one under the gallery, plus wall brackets (again, reminiscent of the Tatler).

The importance of the opening of the new cinema and the esteem in which Conomos Bros were held was evident.
Cr. G.D. Ritchie in his opening remarks, complimented Mr. Conomos and his brothers for the wonderful interest they had taken in the town of Walgett. He felt that the erection of the 'Luxury' was the culmination of many years of useful service and industry as citizens of a town which was destined to become one of the most important in the north-western portion of this State. He doubted whether a better building could be found anywhere and knew that it would stand for many years as a monument to progress and a testimony to the enterprise of the proprietors. A very pleasing feature, said the speaker, was the fact that although Messrs Conomos Bros. had made considerable money in our town, they were still prepared to back its stability by their action in giving the people a theatre second to none...

By employing Dellit, Conomos Bros certainly managed to bring the city to the bush with their theatre.
The accomplishment of such a fine theatre originated firstly in Mr Lambros Conomos' resourcefulness, secondly in the minds of Mr. C. Bruce Dellit, the architect, and thirdly in the masterly tradesmanship displayed by Contractor W.G. Mason, of Sydney, through the medium of his foreman, Mr. J. King, and the men under his care. We compliment them one and all and for the full meaning of the word 'Luxury' one has only to view this fine structure and enjoy the comforts contained therein.

The local 'gossip' column could find only one fault with the theatre. "A crying room for babies is being installed at a new theatre in Gosford. As our office boy remarked - this is possibly the only matter overlooked by Mr. Conomos when he built the 'Luxury'."

Since there was not enough business for screening Monday to Saturday, the new Luxury Theatre had been specially designed with a flat downstairs' floor so that it could be used for dances.
We never had to fix the seats [downstairs]. Never screwed them down. Only the dress circle seats...were screwed down...We used to clear the hall, put all the chairs on the side and sometimes we'd have two bands - one on stage and one in the middle of the hall, playing. One particular dance we used to call it The Hospital [Ball]. During the war there was the Britain, France, there was also a Greek day. There was a lot of money collected there. The Catholics used to hold their ball there...

Walgett can be a very cold place in winter but that did not deter patrons. "Oh, they used to come with blankets." And from how far afield did they travel? "Depends on the production. If it was, say, a good musical, well that used to bring them in. Or a good Western." They would travel for up to "thirty miles, but no further." And, of course, in those pre-television days, the cinema used to run double features unless the main one was exceptionally long.

The shop in the theatre building was remodelled in April 1938 and became a Sports and Music shop, with a hair dressing saloon. The next month, Conomos Bros' wine saloon (adjacent to their Barwon Cafe opened for business, the premises having been "thoroughly renovated and brought into modern lines to cater for the public." That same month, Lambros called for tenders for the erection of a house in Warrena Street, that was to become the home of his brother, Hector, and his new wife when they arrived from Greece.

In August 1938, the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Wakefield, and Lady Wakefield visited Walgett during a tour and the town put on a splendid display of welcome. Among the functions that they attended was a civic reception at the Luxury, the theatre being donated for the purposes by Conomos Bros.

Hector returned to Walgett in early November 1938 with his new bride, Elly (nee-Haros). Recalling her first impressions of Walgett, she said,
If I'd known what Walgett was like I wouldn't have come. We came in 1938 - went by car the first time. A friend of ours took us up. It's so small. And Walgett was so open. There's a funny story. Going into Walgett at night time, you thought it was a big town with all the lights. You could see the lights as you drove and thought it was a big town. But when you woke up the next day, it was a small town. (The street lights made the place look larger than it was.)

Reminiscences about the Luxury by Elly help to expand information about the building. As the only photographs available are in black and white, Elly was able to cast her mind back and think of the colour schemes in the theatre. She recalled that it had creamy-fawn walls with modern, half-cylinder light fittings spaced along them. The front curtain was remembered as being a golden-brown colour. Seating downstairs was in three sections: the front stalls were of the fold down type with plain wooden backs and seats; the middle section and the rear stalls were padded brown tip-ups on battens (for easy moving). Upstairs, the 150 fixed tip-ups were of a similar brown leatherette as those downstairs. Wiping them over from time to time to get rid of the dust was one task associated with the theatre. An item of interest downstairs was a chair especially made by Hector for an Aboriginal lady, Mrs Clark, who was unable to fit into a normal-size theatre seat. Hector remembered Mrs Hickey, "and Tom [her husband] used to be a six-footer, and she was blind. 'Mr Conomos, can we sit here and listen to the music?' She couldn't see. Loved music."

The ticket window was "right on the footpath...Your ticket was handed out to you and you were on the footpath." Beside the ticket box (which was on the Barwon Cafe side of the building), were the main glass doors to the vestibule. There was provision inside the vestibule to sell tickets at busy times. On the other side of the street frontage was which brought in a weekly rental. Downstairs was segregated, with Aborigines sitting in the middle section. The town itself caused the segregation - everyone knew where everyone was supposed to sit. But, as Hector stated, it was more as a result of price than anything else. Dress circle patrons were escorted to their seats by uniformed usherettes - "Wore blue uniform, wasn't it?" On the facade of the theatre was a large neon sign which, when lit at night, was a beacon. "And the 'L' [at the top of the sign] for Luxury Theatre on top, everybody thought it was for his name, Lambros!" said Elly.

During the late 1930s and 1940s, the Conomos businesses began placing more strain on the three brothers and Elly. They had to be up in time to open the shop by 7.00 am and breakfast for the owners and patrons was of a more substantial nature than the Corn Flakes of today. Food had to be prepared daily and this meant long hours in the kitchen. While they employed a cook and other staff, at busy times it meant everyone being available to help. In the afternoon, there might be time for a brief siesta although this quieter time was also used to attend to accounts, especially with regards to their Texaco petrol agency (a bowser was outside the cafe). Dinners were served from late afternoon. On picture nights the shop was kept busy at interval and with late night suppers. It was not unusual to close around midnight. If there was a late-finishing dance at the theatre or the School of Arts, some people would front up at the cafe for breakfast about 6.00am. Sunday evenings was early closing - about 9.00pm. It is not hard to see that for Elly

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Overview of the Cinema Years, Chapter 4 of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis.

Scone Civic Theatre. Operated by Theodore and Anna Coroneo for more than 2 decades. Search under "Scone" for other entries re: Coroneo family's involvement with the Civic Theatre.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D. Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

Chapter 4 of Kevin's thesis is details the many Kytherians who were involved with Cinema's in New South Wales.

The the importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated in Chapt 4, as in all other chapters.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.

Chapter 4: Overview of the Cinema Years.

"They were but the servants of the people and they were out to give them the utmost value for their money, both in entertainment and service."

While Chapter 2 provided generalised details on the members of the subject group, this chapter provides a brief record of their years in cinema exhibition, starting when each man went into the business and ending when he left it. While the thesis looks to the early 1960s as its cut-off point for entry into cinema exhibition, a number of the subjects remained in exhibition after that time. Rather then deny these men the recording of their entire cinema exhibition lives, it was decided not to use the early 1960s as the exit point for recording purposes. The exhibition time span thus covered by the subjects of this thesis ranges from 1915 to 1984.

From the research undertaken, it was found that considerable diversity occurred in relation to the length of time each exhibitor spent in the cinema business - from one year to 49 years. A small percentage was only in the business for one year or less. Three of these men were unfortunate to have their enterprise collapse financially (E Aroney, G Psaltis and P Feros at Bingara), another was burnt out (P Peters/Petracos at Walgett) and the fourth (A Crones at Walgett) moved on for reasons unknown. At the other end of the range, George Conson spent at least 52 years with cinemas, many of them in an overseeing capacity for Riverina Theatres Pty Ltd. Others who came close to him were George and Peter Hatsatouris (45 years each) who operated a number of cinemas in several locations on the North Coast, and Emmanuel and Jim Conomos (43 years each) of the Popular Pictures (1927 - 1937) and Luxury Theatre (1937 - 1970) at Walgett. Twelve exhibitors were in the business from 30 to 38 years, while nine were in it from between 20 to 28 years. This group of 27 (20 to 49 years) comprises 41 per cent of the total group of 66. Although some Greeks who came to Australia may have intended to make their money and return to Greece, only three of the subject group did so, the other 63 made a commitment to their communities and stayed. A number of exhibitors did change venues for one reason or another. For some, this came about as a result of having to obtain a new theatre after disaster had struck (for example, Comino Bros at Wee Waa), or it was a matter of seeking to build better (for example, Conomos Bros at Walgett). With the exception of three, G Conson, J Kouvelis and N Laurantus who built their exhibition interests into cinema chains, the other 63 men tended to remain in one locality for the duration of their cinema involvement.

The earliest two exhibitors have proved the most difficult to research. By October 1917, Angelo Coronis, alias Alfred Crones (the US-born Greek), was in Sydney's Long Bay Penitentiary. On it, he stated that he was an "Operator and electrician at Picture Shows". Police records indicate that "Angelo Coronces or Alfred Crones" was charged with stealing and having stolen goods in his possession. At the time of his arrest, he had been residing at "81 Jno. Young Crescent, Sydney". This address seems not to have existed, according to contemporary Sands' directories. A newspaper report of the court proceedings stated,
Sydney Johnson and Alfred Crones were charged with stealing at Sydney, on October 30th, eleven cinematographic films, the property of the Chief Commissioner for Railways. A second count charged them with receiving...The accused were found not guilty.
With that, Crones disappeared from the cinema scene in New South Wales and it has not been possible to ascertain what happened to him. Nevertheless, his place in our state's cinema history is important for two reasons. He was the first of Greek descent to exhibit films in this state. Secondly, he was the first of Greek descent to construct a cinema in New South Wales and he did it within six years of the construction of the first purpose-built cinema in this state which was "the Bijou Picture Palace, at 833-835 George Street Railway Square, opening in 1909." Crones' 1915 open air Walgett Picture Palace was built in Walgett, a town 685km north-west of Sydney and with a population of only just over 3000. His theatre disappeared from the scene in 1916 and both he and it have been forgotten by the locals.

The second Greek exhibitor, Emanuel Fatzeus of West Maitland ran his refreshment rooms, Lyceum Hall Pictures and Rink Pictures until 1917. After this, he disappears.
Peter and Jack Kouvelis began their cinema years in 1918, in Young. In late 1918 and early 1919, Peter acquired the Lyric and Palace (respectively), and the lease of the Centennial Hall in Cowra. When, through illness, he was forced to relinquish these interests, Jack took over and installed his brother, Andrew, at Cowra. In 1922 Peter Limbers acquired the Cowra cinemas. It is believed that Peter Kouvelis returned to Greece in the 1920s and operated cinemas in Patras. Jack, however, was by no means finished with picture exhibition. He set about the acquisition and construction of cinemas in rural New South Wales. Around 1920, he took over the leaseholds of the Star and Crown theatres in Temora, which he kept until 1924 when the Star was destroyed by fire. (Not long afterwards, he disposed of the Crown to Peter Calligeris.) A year earlier, he had built the Strand in Young adjacent to his open air Imperial Pictures. In 1923, youngest brother, Harry, arrived and became an important addition to the general operation of the Kouvelis theatres. That same year, Jack leased the Lyceum at Harden, but relinquished it the following year. When the opportunity arose in 1925 to take his family on a visit to Greece, he sold the Strand to its resident manager. He repurchased it in the 1930s. In Tamworth, he become one of the directors of the company that had started to build the new Capitol theatre, guided them through the construction then leased it prior to its opening in 1927. This was the first of the Capitol Theatres for Kouvelis, who now headed J K Capitol Theatres Pty Ltd (his own cinema company). The second of the Capitols came when he leased the Theatre Royal in Armidale in July 1928, and re-named it the Capitol. At Wagga Wagga, he leased the Wonderland Theatre in 1929 and the Strand shortly afterwards, with Harry overseeing their operation. In 1930 the Theatre Inverell was leased, and renamed Capitol. The following year saw him take over a partially constructed theatre in Wagga Wagga, which he finished in 1931 and named it the Capitol. Wagga's Southern Cross Gardens became Kouvelis' Capitol Gardens in 1932 (turned into a dance palais the following year). Still in Wagga Wagga, in 1933 he purchased the fire-damaged Strand Theatre property and built the Plaza Theatre on the site. Moree was his next target, where he acquired the Lyceum in 1935 (renaming it the Capitol), and he built the Capitol Garden Theatre in 1935. By 1936, Kouvelis had acquired the Arcadia at Armidale (and kept it closed in order to stave off opposition). By the late 1930s, Tamworth was large enough to have two cinemas and Kouvelis opened the new Regent in 1938. In 1939, to protect his Moree cinemas, he leased the East Moree Theatre and open air (and closed them), renaming the enclosed one, the Regent. In 1943 he negotiated with Sydney-based cinema chain, Snider and Dean to acquire its cinemas which would have given him extra country shows (including Newcastle suburbs) and a small number of Sydney suburbans. The deal was never struck. When he disposed of his cinema interest to Hoyts in 1946, he presented that company with the following cinemas: Strand, Young; Capitol and Arcadia, Armidale; Capitol and Regent, Tamworth; Capitol and Plaza, Wagga Wagga; Capitol and Capitol Garden Theatre, Moree; Regent and open air, East Moree; Capitol, Inverell.

Having opened his cinema in Walgett in 1919, Archie Paspalas disappeared from the town after the fire which destroyed his leased refreshment room and his Olympic cinema in 1921. Nothing else has been discovered about this man.

Alex Coroneo went into a partnership with Peter Sourry in 1921 at the Arcadia at Armidale. From here it is believed that he moved on to lease the Grand and Roxy Theatres at Glen Innes in the early 1940s. He stayed for a short time before moving to Scone where he leased the Civic in 1943. In 1947 he left Scone and went into partnership again with Peter Sourry at the Kings Theatre, Rose Bay North. This lasted until the theatre closed in late 1958, an early victim of television.

Peter Sourry, besides working with Alex Coroneo at Armidale (1920s) and Rose Bay North (1947-1958), had a number of years in the 1930s when he was not involved with cinema. Other business interests allowed him to live in a semi-retired state. In 1940 the opportunity arose and he acquired the Lyric at Tenterfield and the lease on the local School of Arts. He remained inTenterfield until he moved to the Kings at Rose Bay North in 1947, where he stayed until 1958.

Peter Calligeros acquired the corrugated-iron Crown Theatre in Temora in the mid-1920s from Jack Kouvelis. Believing that the town deserved a better cinema, he set about building a more impressive one. On its completion in 1927, Calligeros closed the older show, got out of the refreshment room business and ran his new Strand for the next twenty years. During those years he made some alterations to the theatre which enhanced it further. This included extensions to the dress circle in 1935 and new amenities in 1939. In May 1947 he disposed of the Strand to a Sydney-based cinema company.

Never one to 'let the grass grow under his feet', Nicholas Laurantus took opportunities as they arose to acquire or build cinemas. If he had kept them instead of disposing of them at various times, he would have had a country circuit to rival Kouvelis. Laurantus' acquisition of the picture business at the Narrandera Globe (Public Hall) and open air in 1922 was his first venture. When the hall was razed in 1925, he built the new Globe (later renamed Plaza) the following year. He controlled this show until 1938. In 1925, he built the Criterion Hall which acted as a substitute cinema when the first Globe was destroyed, and again in 1934 when the second Globe was damaged by fire. He leased the Lyceum at Junee in 1929, prior to the construction of his new Atheneum Theatre which opened that same year. (His brother George operated this venue until 1940.) When the Montreal Theatre at Tumut was completed in 1930, Laurantus arranged to lease it from its owner and installed his sister and brother-in-law to run it. By 1931 he had acquired an open air cinema in Lockhart, and utilised the local School of Arts in cold or inclement weather. In 1935 he built the new Rio on a block adjacent to the open air. Although this was leased out during the early 1940s, Laurantus resumed control of it around 1945 before selling it in January 1947. In 1932 he acquired a lease on the new Gundagai Theatre and passed that operation over to another sister and brother-in-law. The year 1936 was a busy one. In Corowa, Laurantus built the Rex (selling it in 1938) and the Roxy at Hillston (selling it in 1937). His reasons for gathering a circuit related to better film buying opportunities. As time passed, Laurantus found newer interests in farming and those of his family who were operating his cinemas took them on in their own rights.
When the Kouvelis interests in Cowra were disposed of in 1922, Peter Limbers was on hand and acquired them. This gave him control of the Palace, the Lyric and the Centennial Hall, although he ceased to show pictures at the latter. When the opportunity arose in 1924, he acquired the Globe Theatre. In 1928, the owner of the Centennial Hall rebuilt it into a conventional two-level cinema and Limbers secured the lease. He eventually closed the other shows under his control. In the late 1930s, Limbers purchased the Theatre Cowra (as the Centennial Hall had been named) and operated it until 1948 when he sold it to a Sydney-based company and retired from cinema exhibition.

George Laurantus, Nicholas' brother, went into partnership with James Simos in 1923 and took over the Arcadia at Cootamundra. He stayed until 1929 when he moved to Junee to the Lyceum and then down the road to the new Atheneum. He stayed there until 1940, then helped his brother in his farming enterprises. Growing tired of the farm work, he moved his family to Liverpool and took over the Regal Theatre in 1947. Ten years later he sold it and went into retirement.

Partnering George Laurantus at the Arcadia at Cootamundra in 1923 was James Simos. After Laurantus went to Junee, Simos became sole proprietor. In 1935 he was an important third part of Cootamundra Theatres Ltd, a small company that included the Lawson brothers of Sydney. The new company built the Roxy at Cootamundra which opened in 1936. The Arcadia became a dance hall. In September 1938,
About 6.55pm on 15th inst. Deceased was driving a motor car in a northerly direction over the Spit bridge and crashed through the left hand of the bridge carrying the railings away and car and deceased sank in about 15 feet of water. Deceased was extracated[sic] from the car by Const. Kelly and others and artificial respiration was applied and after working for an hour and a half deceased failed to respond to the treatment. Deceased was then conveyed in ambulance to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital where life was pronounced extinct by Dr. Bray.

Contemporary newspapers reported that Simos had been holidaying in Sydney with his wife and children and that he had been "treated by a doctor in Sydney yesterday". While returning from the city to his family at Manly, the car swerved on the bridge and plunged into the water. Three theories emerged: Simos died suddenly prior to the crash; that he was killed by the crash; that he drowned. Cootamundra's newspaper commented:
Mr. Simos, who was 42, and his brother came out to Australia 24 years ago from Mytilene[sic], in the Aegian[sic] group. The brother returned home later. It is fifteen years since 'Jim', as everyone called him - he was chums with us all - settled in Cootamundra. A very fine type of man, indeed, esteemed by all who knew him, the community will miss him very much, and will feel deeply sorry for the widow and the boys who are left to mourn.

George Conson commenced his cinema years in Leeton at the Globe and adjacent open air. By 1926 he was also in partnership with a Mr Canakis, leasing the Majestic Theatre at Hay. This operation lasted for approximately one year. In 1930, Conson built the Roxy at Leeton to replace his older cinemas. The formation of Riverina Theatres Ltd in 1935 brought together a number of theatres and Conson was made Managing Director, overseeing not only his Roxy, but Henry Morel's Lyceum at Griffith and Solomon Goldberg's Rio Gardens at Griffith. Conson held a 20 per cent shareholding in the company. Riverina Theatres Ltd built the Roxy Garden Theatre at Leeton in 1935 and acquired the Regent at Yenda in 1936, operating it until 1938. By 1968, after the arrival of television in the Riverina, the circuit comprised only the Roxy at Leeton and the Lyceum at Griffith. During the course of the company's life, Conson held the position of Managing Director on many occasions, including at the time when the company was wound up in the 1970s. Commenting on Conson's role in the company, one film trade journal said that "...he is the guiding spirit." Conson was the main buyer of films for the company and kept in constant personal touch with each of the theatres in the circuit.

Andrew (Big Andy) Conomos and Andrew (Little Andy) Comino, operating as Comino Bros, ran their White Rose Cafe and operated the Star Theatre at Wee Waa (which they had acquired in 1924). Fires challenged the men's determination. The theatre burnt down in 1927 so they set up in School of Arts hall, retaining the earlier theatre's name. Fire claimed their cafe in the 1930s but they rebuilt, naming it the Olympia Cafe. Big Andy died in 1959 but Little Andy and other family members continued to run the cinema until around 1962 when he retired.

One of Greek origin who was not successful in moving into cinemas was Sam Coroneo. In 1924 he leased the Strand Theatre in Cessnock then built a new Strand Theatre several streets away in 1925. After he leased (later sold) this theatre to the town's other cinema company, he moved to Tamworth and built another theatre, the Strand, in 1928. Lack of film product and a fire in 1929 brought his cinema days to an end and he moved into a refreshment room business.

From the time that Bretos Margetis took over both the Crescent (freehold) and Butterfly (leasehold) theatres at Fairfield in 1924, he was plagued with re-financing. Margetis continued to operate his city cafe and his wife travelled to Fairfield to supervise the cinemas. It became too difficult and he leased the Crescent around 1928 to Eric Christensen and disposed of the Butterfly. Unfortunately, in 1930, the mortgagee went bankrupt and its liquidators realised the assets of the company including the mortgage held on Margetis' Fairfield cinema. He lost it in 1931, by an order of the Supreme Court of NSW, and ceased to be connected with cinemas.

Little is known about Harry Logus and his Federal Hall (aka Majestic Theatre) at Hay. Its sale to P L Brown in 1929 and the subsequent sale of his Paragon Cafe saw Logus depart from Hay. His final destination is unknown.

With the opening in 1926 of their Empire Theatre at the rear of their refreshment room in Port Macquarie, the Hatsatouris family embarked on establishing a small chain of cinemas in the northern part of this state. (The family is still in the cinema business, although only as owners not exhibitors.) The success of the Empire spurred on George and Peter (Evangelos' sons) to build the Ritz which opened in late 1937. Earlier that year they had acquired the opposition cinema in town. The Bower Theatre-cum-ballroom at Taree was taken over in 1941 and was rebuilt into a two level cinema named the Civic. At Walcha, a lease was signed in 1940 for the Civic Theatre and Helen (Peter and George's sister) and her husband, Philip Lucas, operated it. The brothers leased the Adelphi Theatre at West Kempsey in 1942, refurbished it and renamed it the Roxy. By 1947, Hatsatouris Bros had purchased it and then leased it to opposition cinema interests. They started showing films at the School of Arts at Laurieton in 1946, then built the Plaza across the road in 1959.With television on the horizon, George leased the Savoy Theatre at Taree in 1961 in order to stop competition from entering the town. In 1971 the brothers sold their two-thirds interest in the Laurieton theatre to B Longworth (who was the third partner in the business).

While Notaras Brothers in Grafton ran their new Saraton for a couple of years after it opened in 1926, it was more economically beneficial to lease it to T J Dorgan who was establishing a chain of cinemas along the North Coast. Dorgan also gained the Fitzroy in Grafton from the brothers at the same time. When the Dorgan circuit relinquished its lease in the late 1960s, the Saraton closed. It reopened after extensive refurbishment on 9 December 1982, under the control of members of the Notaras family and remains as such to this day.

After its opening in 1927, the Popular Pictures at Walgett proved successful for Lambros, Emmanuel (Hector) and Jim Conomos. Yet, sharing the local School of Arts with other functions was not fully to their liking. The result was the construction of a new, modern cinema, the Luxury, which opened in 1937. Although Lambros died in 1960, Hector and Jim continued to operate the cinema until circumstances forced it to close in 1970.

In the late 1920s, George Spellson operated the Central Theatre at Condobolin with help from his brothers, Leo and Nick. When the opportunity arose in 1927 to show pictures in Bogan Gate, the oldest brother, Nick, took on that responsibility. He boarded at a local hotel, operated the pictures on Saturday nights at the Tolhurst Hall and ran the local Excelsior Garage. In a short time he became "very much liked", and was described as "a real gentleman" and a "highly respected resident". Unfortunately, on 1 January 1928 an accident occurred that resulted in his death.
Mr. Harry McKeowen visited the garage about 9p.m. with his car for a supply of petrol. Both assisted in putting the petrol in the car, and requiring another gallon Mr. McKeowen went inside the garage and proceeded to fill the measure from a petrol tin.

The petrol splashed and ignited the lamp he had standing near by, also igniting the tin of petrol he had under his arm. With great presence of mind he tossed the blazing tin out the door also the lamp and ran to shift his car out of danger.

Mr. Spellson ran to the blazing tin (it is surmised) with the intention of shifting it further away from the garage. In kicking the burning tin apparently the petrol splashed all over him and he was soon a mass of flames.

He rushed inside and then out onto the street again, when willing hands soon arrived and extinguished the flames, but not before almost every stitch of clothing had been burnt off the unfortunate man.

First aid was administered as soon as possible and a Parkes doctor summoned. The victim was in such fearful agony that it was decided to start with the patient in the hope of meeting the doctor on the way, but unfortunately they missed one another, and no medical aid was secured till they reached Parkes. The patient was examined and placed in the District Hospital, where he passed away at 9 o'clock on Monday morning, just nine hours after the accident.

The deceased, who was 27 years of age, was unmarried. The funeral took place on Tuesday, at the Church of England cemetery, Parkes, the Rev. A. E. Weston officiating at the grave. Mr. J.T. Cock carried out the funeral arrangements.

At the Coronial Inquest, it was found that Spellson had died "due to shock and burns accidentally received whilst throwing a blazing petrol tin out of the garage." Leo Spellson took over the screening of films in Bogan Gate, although he moved them to the Picture Hall. He stayed a short time before selling the business and then travelled in country areas with a portable projector before returning to Narrandera to work for Theo Sotiros in the early 1930s. Leaving Condobolin in c1928/29, George Spellson took over a refreshment room in Ungarie (which he sold in 1930) and then had a cinema interest at Lake Cargelligo. This was taken over by Andrew Sotiros and Leo Spellson in 1933 around the time that George returned to Greece. A small circuit was formed. Sotiros ran the Star and, on Saturdays, Mrs Sotiros oversaw a screening at Ungarie while Spellson projected at Tullibigeal. When Spellson left to be married, screenings at Ungarie and Tullibigeal ceased. The Star Theatre was destroyed by fire in early 1937 but a local (Greek) refreshment room proprietor Theo Cassim (Cassimatis) built the new Civic Theatre that same year. It was rented to Sotiros until he sold the business in 1964.

History is said to repeat itself and it did so in Walgett in 1927 when fire destroyed the Victoria Theatre (built on the site of the razed Olympia Theatre) and adjacent refreshment rooms that were under lease to Peter Peters/Petracos. As there is no evidence to the contrary, it would seem that Peters left cinema exhibition after that.

At West Wyalong, Con Bylos took over the Rio theatre and its adjacent open air cinema in 1928 and, in 1929, leased the town's other cinema, the Tivoli. He demolished the Rio in 1930 with the intention of erecting a new open air. It was not until 1934 that his new Reo Gardens opened. Thirty years later, Bylos Investments (as the operating company had become) closed the Reo. The Tivoli, having been purchased by Bylos in July 1947, was retained until 1967 when it was sold.

Mottee Bros' Rendezvous Dance Hall of 1928 opened as the Macleay Theatre Talkies in August 1930. A short time later, they acquired the cinemas run by L B McNally, viz the Victoria in Kempsey and the Adelphi in West Kempsey. In 1935, a Sydney-based circuit built the Mayfair Theatre in Kempsey. Mottee Bros withdrew from the field, the two cinemas on lease going to the new operator while the Rendezvous returned to dancing. By the late 1940s, it was being used as a storehouse. Mottee Bros' two cafes kept them busy and they also had the confectionery rights at the Mayfair (which they retained into the 1940s).

After George Nicholas passed away at Merriwa in the mid-1930s, his brother, Sam continued to operate both the refreshment room and the adjacent Astros Theatre which they had built in 1928. While he employed a projectionist and some other staff, his business interests were such that they were becoming difficult to manage. When medical advice came that the family should seek a different climate for his son, Nicholas sold the businesses in 1940. Cinema exhibition was left behind as the family re-established itself closer to the Pacific Coast. Purchaser of the Astros was T J Dobinson who also operated the Graceson cinema at Swansea.

By 1944, Angelo Roufogalis had been operating the Barellan cafe and adjacent Royal Theatre since the late 1920s. Nephew, Arthur Roufogalis, arrived from Greece in 1938 and proved his worth. He took over the running of the businesses in 1944 to allow Angelo to help Nicholas Laurantus for about six months by running his Rio Theatre at Lockhart. Later that year, Angelo sold his Barellan business interests to Arthur and moved to Canberra. where he went into a cafe business with his brother-in-law. Arthur sold the Barellan cinema business in 1948, then the cafe in 1950. With that, he moved to Narrandera and out of cinemas.

Peter Hlentzos, who had been operating the Victor Theatre in Cooma from c1930, refurbished and opened the nearby Capitol Theatre in 1935. The Victor was then used for dances and other social gatherings. Hlentzos operated the Capitol until 1938 when he was forced out of business by competition from the new Monaro Theatre, operated by the head of a Sydney-based cinema chain.

Having been set up in business by his brother-in-law Nicholas Laurantus in 1930, Peter Stathis worked hard to make a success of the Montreal Theatre at Tumut. In those early years, Laurantus was the film buyer for the group of cinemas in which he had an interest, including those being run by his relatives at Junee, Tumut and Gundagai. In 1952, Stathis' sons, Peter and George, purchased a half share in the business and this arrangement continued until Peter's death in 1960. The sons continued to run the Montreal until they sold the business in 1965.

When Jim and Sophia Johnson took over the Gundagai Theatre in 1932, they made a commitment to the town. The work was hard, but they built-up a rapport with their patrons and provided them with entertainment for the next 33 years. When things became difficult after the introduction of television in the early 1960s, they struggled on. By 1965 business had fallen so dramatically that they had little option but to sell the business. Unfortunately, before the new owner could take possession, he died and the Johnsons stayed for a short time before another sale could be finalised.

Janis Andronicos died in 1936 and his son, Nicholas, continued to run both the cafe and adjacent East Moree Theatre which he had completely enclosed during 1936. He erected a small open air cinema at right angles to the rear of the enclosed theatre in late 1936 and this proved successful. Unfortunately, the Kouvelis management at Moree's Capitol and Capitol Garden Theatres put pressure on the East Moree shows by encouraging film companies to stop supplying Andronicos. A few remained loyal but it was not enough. Despite a determined attempt to keep operating, Andronicos decided to lease the enclosed and open air cinemas to J K Capitol Theatres in 1938. Not long after he sold the cafe business and moved away. He did not venture into film exhibition again.

When Theo Comino (who had helped his brother at Wee Waa) took over the Bellingen Memorial Hall Talkies in 1933, he had every intention of making an impression. He installed a new sound system (Australian-built) which included, not one, but two large speakers behind the screen. He under-estimated the town's potential and business did not come up to his expectations. In 1936, he sold his lease to C F Wall, a Narrabri exhibitor, and ceased to be involved with cinemas.

The ill-fated alliance between Emanuel Aroney, George Psaltis and Peter Feros to construct the Roxy at Bingara (1934 - 1936) came to an abrupt halt in late 1936 when the mortgagee foreclosed. Although the theatre had been operating for a number of months, the finances of the three men had been sufficiently strained with the construction of cinema and adjacent shops and residence. In less than a year, the three men had moved both in and out of cinema exhibition.

Theo and Bill Conomos started their Megalo Theatre at Carinda in 1937. In 1950, Bill decided to return to Greece and sold his Carinda business interests to his brother. For the next 21 years, Theo ran the cinema (and other businesses). Even after he moved to Dubbo in 1961, having leased his other businesses to relatives, he still travelled out to Carinda on Saturdays to screen pictures. When the end for this came in 1971, he sold the building and retired.

Alex Poulos and his sons ran the Warialda Memorial Hall cinema from 1939 until 1945. Besides learning how to project, the boys also helped with cleaning and running the business. When a better business opportunity arose, in the form of a Gosford cafe, they sold the lease of their cinema and the family moved to the Central Coast.

At first, Philip and Helen Lucas managed the Civic at Walcha for Hatsatouris Bros. That arrangement commenced in 1940. During World War II, the local showground was home for soldiers and, to assist their morale, Lucas regularly showed films at both his Civic and the older Walcha Theatre (in Fitzroy Street) for them. For this, he was awarded a certificate for contributing to the war effort. Balls, dances and concerts also took place at the Civic which was the entertainment centre in town. In 1949, Lucas bought the Civic and remained there, operating it with his wife, until 1972.

The De-Luxe Theatre at Goodooga, opened in 1941 by Peter Louran, remained under his care until the early 1960s when he sold it and his other business interests in the town. Louran installed a CinemaScope screen in 1960 by adding extra pieces of flat galvanised iron to the sides of the existing screen. One of the requirements demanded by the Chief Secretary's Department was that a sample of any new screen installed had to be sent to it for checking for fire resistance. The department could not understand why Louran resisted the temptation to send a piece of flat iron through the post and kept reminding him of his obligation. The problem was solved for Louran when he sold the cinema in 1961 and left the new owners to deal with the Chief Secretary who still kept writing so say that it had not received a sample of the new screen. For twenty years, under Louran's care, his De-Luxe, that little oasis in the outback, with its bushes, flowering shrubs, vines, and fountain, had provided a respite from the harsh, primitive conditions of the surrounding area.

At Mullumbimby, Anthony Peters/Pizimolas operated the Empire theatre from 1945 to 1965. He employed a projectionist and cashier but Peters did the film bookings and supervised the operation. At times he acted as assistant projectionist and on Saturday matinees he was the projectionist. In the 1950s, he installed CinemaScope. Having purchased the theatre, he also purchased the adjacent Empire Cafe which he ran for a short time, before installing a tenant. By the early 1960s, picture attendance was falling and Peters decided to move. The theatre was leased to another exhibitor.

Emmanuel Fatseas had taken over the Aussie Theatre (open air) and the Central Theatre in Condobolin in 1946. The Central received considerable external and internal remodelling in the early 1950s. From mid-March 1955 it was renamed the Renown. At the Aussie, Fatseas planned to remodel the screen end of the building and erect new amenities for patrons. In 1957, he engaged architectural firm Bruce Furse and Associates to draw designs but nothing came of the matter. In 1964 its licence was surrendered, the theatre closed and was demolished a year later. In 1967 the Renown came under the control of Fatseas Enterprises Pty Ltd, a company that included family members. Although Fatseas died on 30 December 1968 while still involved with his Renown cinema, his two sons continued to run the business for some time after.

On leaving his refreshment room business in 1946, Chris James moved into the operation of the Empire and Regent cinemas (and adjacent open airs) in Cobar and the Palais and open air at Nyngan. The Regent was not only a cinema, its flat floor ensured that it was often in use for balls and other social functions. At the time it was taken over, the Regent was in need of refurbishment. In 1946/47, James employed the architectural firm Guy Crick and Van Breda to design a new proscenium and splay walls, new projection and rewind rooms. Constant work had to be done to ensure that seats were in good order and maintain the building and adjacent open air. The Empire, in reality the Masonic Hall, was only ever the "poor relation". Although its adjacent open air was used often, the enclosed hall was used less frequently. By 1958 one official report stated that "This hall is mostly used for dances and very seldom for the display of cinematograph films." Within a year James had relinquished his lease on the hall and was concentrating on his Regent. At Nyngan, he renovated the front section (which included amenities and projection suite) and the auditorium of the enclosed cinema and the facade of the open air show. John W Roberts and Associates was the architectural firm, well-known for work done on many Hoyts' cinemas throughout Australia in the 1950s. The New Palais reopened in late 1957. Until this time, the theatre had been flat-floored and had been used for dances and balls. This aspect of its life ceased once the back section of the auditorium was raked. When his wife and family moved to Sydney in 1962 to seek better educational opportunities for the children, James remained, running both the Regent and New Palais. In 1966 he took his first trip back to Cyprus in nearly 50 years. On his return to Australia, and not believing that the Cobar mines would bring about a return of Cobar's "good old days", he sold the Regent. He moved to Nyngan where he ran the New Palais until 1984 when he disposed of it and retired to Sydney. According to his wife, the thought of living permanently in Sydney had no place in her husband's mind until then.

After John Tzannes bought the cinema business at the Empire Theatre (the Guild Hall), Boorowa in 1946, he ran it for about nine months before looking around for something else to occupy his time. He had no intention of disposing of the business but, since screenings were only several nights each week, he found himself with plenty of spare time. He installed a projectionist and manager and came to Sydney in early 1947 to take over the milk bar in the 4-sessions-a-day Regal Theatre at Bondi Junction. In 1954 the owners of the Boorowa hall decided to re-floor the auditorium and projection suite, construct a new supper room, remove of the existing stage and extend the auditorium, strengthen the balustrade to the gallery, and work on the vestibule. Around that same time, Tzannes went into partnership with his brother Stratis at the Black and White Milkbar in Martin Place. Realising that there was little incentive for him to return to Boorowa, he sold the cinema business in 1960.
Although Theo Coroneo was keen to leave the refreshment room business behind when he took over the Civic Theatre at Scone from his uncle in 1947, he was faced with the difficulty that he had no previous experience with cinemas. The theatre staff assisted him to learn what was necessary and, it has been said, he was an eager student. The business and lease on the building were in the names of Theo and his brother, Sam (who had other business interests in Sydney and whose contribution to the Scone venture was purely financial). The partnership was dissolved in 1953. The following year, part of the building was damaged by fire and required extensive restoration work. Coroneo eventually purchased the building from its owners (Scone Theatres Pty Ltd) in 1963. When he suffered a stroke in 1966, his wife took over while he recuperated. Desirous of retiring and finding that the theatre was becoming economically unviable owing to television, the family moved to Sydney in 1970 and the theatre was leased to another exhibitor.

James Katsoolis, having leased the Regent Theatre at Yenda in 1947, continued to maintain his nearby cafe as well. His two sons, Nicholas and Peter helped him run the pictures, both having learnt to operate the projectors under the previous lessee. Nicholas assumed the responsibilities of the projection box and Peter helped with front of house and cleaning. The silent partner, local grazier Sebastiano Bortolazzo, had nothing to do with the cinema. Like many country town cinemas, the building was also used for balls and dances, the seats simply being moved out of the way as required. When an offer to buy the business was made in 1949 by the owner of the newsagency-cum-cafe next door, the partners sold. Bortolazzo remained on his rural property and Katsoolis continued with his cafe (which stayed in the family's hands until 1994).

Having gained experience with installing generators and electrical wiring in Carinda and Goodooga, George Rosso enjoyed his few years in the late 1940s as projectionist at Mt Victoria with partner Reece Beetson. The financial return was insufficient and the two men went their separate ways. Rosso, however, was called upon several times in the early 1950s by his uncle, Theo Conomos, to manage his cinema at Carinda. Conomos enjoyed trips to Greece and Rosso was capable and experienced enough to manage the Carinda show, which was his last cinema job.

Con and Peter Kalligeris maintained the operation of their Boggabri Cafe after having acquired the two cinemas in town in 1952 (with partner Anthony Hassab). The Lyric was open air and was used in warmer weather, while the Royal was enclosed and was used in colder months. It was also the venue for balls and dances. In 1954, the brothers sold the cafe and Peter left, purchasing a cafe in Parramatta. Con stayed and, with Hassab and family members, ran the pictures in Boggabri. It was not long before he found time on his hands so he built a shop and returned to his former trade of shoe-making (including surgical shoes) and repairs. In 1966, unable to compete against the inroads being made by television, the partners decided to close the cinemas.

The last Greek exhibitors to enter the business before the introduction of television to rural areas of the state were Arthur and Bill Koovousis. In 1957 they bought the Regent and Roxy cinema businesses at Bingara. Although Arthur tended to let his brother Bill run the cinemas, he did help out if required. When he sold the Regent Cafe business about 1958/59, he helped at the cinemas until he moved to Sydney where he bought a delicatessen in Concord. Bill remained in Bingara with the cinemas, closing the Roxy around 1959 and concentrating his efforts on the Regent. By 1960, the open air cinema at the rear of the Regent had closed because of it "being unfit for further use..." Bill retained the Regent until the mid-1960s although he was running a delicatessen at Inverell by then and had to travel back and forth to screen at Bingara.

By the time that television had commenced in much of rural NSW (ie c1962/63), there was still a significant number of Greek-born men exhibiting motion pictures. The following table shows the years during which these men were involved with cinema exhibition, the number of years they worked in cinema, and their ages when they left the business. What is striking about their ages is that of the 16 men at the time they quit their cinema businesses, 13 of them were over the age of 61. Total number of years in the industry of those 13 is 481 years, an average of 37 years each.

Table 1: Greek Exhibitors who were screening at the time television transmission commenced in much of rural New South Wales (ie c1962/63).

Years in which involved in cinema
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Bill Koovousis
Years in which involved in cinema
1957 - 1965
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Con Kalligeris
Years in which involved in cinema
1952 - 1966
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Anthony Peters/Pizimolas
Years in which involved in cinema
1945 - 1965
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Emmanuel Fatseas
Years in which involved in cinema
1946 - 1968
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Theo Coroneo
Years in which involved in cinema
1947 - 1970
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Andrew Sotiros
Years in which involved in cinema
1933 - 1964
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Philip Lucas
Years in which involved in cinema
1940 - 1972
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Jim Johnson
Years in which involved in cinema
1932 - 1965
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Theo Conomos
Years in which involved in cinema
1937 - 1971
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Chris James
Years in which involved in cinema
1946 - 1984
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Con Bylos
Years in which involved in cinema
1928 - 1967
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Emmanuel Conomos
Years in which involved in cinema
1927 - 1970
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Jim Conomos
Years in which involved in cinema
1927 - 1970
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

George Hatsatouris
Years in which involved in cinema
1926 - 1971
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

Peter Hatsatouris
Years in which involved in cinema
1926 - 1972
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

George Conson
Years in which involved in cinema
1923 - 1975
Age at which left cinema exhibition
Number of years in cinema exhibition

The effects of later hotel hours, the growth of licensed clubs and, ultimately, the rapid spread of television across the state brought about the decline of cinema exhibition as had been known. These first generation men were not growing any younger and, in the minds of many people, it was believed that cinema exhibition was finished. It is difficult for the modern reader to appreciate how the decline of cinema attendance in the years after the introduction of television affected exhibitors and their livelihoods. Years of hard work disappeared before one's eyes and nothing could be done to counteract it. Nevertheless, the Greeks had established a proud tradition which commenced in 1915 with Crones and was maintained until James left the business in 1984 - a span of 69 years.

As the cinemas fell into disfavour with their communities, re-sale values fell. To compound this situation, much of country New South Wales in the 1960s was drought-stricken. This "slashed their attendances and turned many of their operations into the red." Emmanuel (Hector) Conomos recalled that, not only was television taking its toll on patronage, but the drought kept Walgett generally poor and attendances further declined. Arthur Johnson, recalling his parents' theatre at Gundagai stated that within eight years (from 1958 and 1965), television affected the business so badly that, whereas in 1958 his parents were offered £17,500 for the business (the building was owned by the Masonic Lodge), when it was sold in 1965, the business went for £5,000. In the Walcha area, audiences at Lucas' theatre dwindled.
The 1970s were bad times in many ways. By 1972 it was not economical to continue running the Civic Theatre. Freezing cold winters meant heating and large electricity bills. The advent and introduction of sewerage system also brought capital bills...Expenses generally rose and the business had dropped dramatically and on some occasions the theatre was closed when no-one turned up to the movies.

Finally in 1972 the theatre was closed and Philip and Helen came to Sydney where they joined the other members of their family. The theatre was rented out as a secondhand furniture store...[In 1976] Council of the City of Armidale...was exploring the idea of turning the Civic into a cultural centre. Nothing came of this and vandals broke into the theatre partially damaging same by fire and further more serious attack and fire followed and Council demolition marked the end. However, the fond memories of 'packed houses', upstairs and downstairs, chairs in the aisles and the loud laughter of a satisfied audience during such shows as 'Dad and Dave', 'Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis', 'Bub Abbott and Lou Costello', will linger on in memory lane like 'Paradiso'.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Discriminated Against and Forced to Discriminate. Chapter 3 of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis.

Dungong Theatre, built 1914 redesigned in
Spanish Mission Style in 1930.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D. Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

Chapter 3 of Kevin's thesis is concerned with discrimination against Greeks during the first wave of migration, and induction into discrimation against indigenous Australians during this same period.

The the importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution to Australian cinema ownership and history is clearly demonstrated in Chapt 3, as in all other chapters.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.

Chapter 3: Discriminated Against and Forced to Discriminate.

"Sometime ago I wrote you in connection with the Greek invasion
into our little burg [of Bingara]..."

The one thing that has kept Australia homogeneous since 1788 is its English language. In the past, it was expected that immigrants would learn to speak English as soon as possible so as to help them assimilate more quickly. This philosophy was not without its flaws but many of the pre-World War II British-Australian population believed it, as do many today. By the time that the first Commonwealth Census was undertaken in 1901, out of a total population of 3,773,801, there were at least 35 different nationalities represented. Migrants who looked different to the majority of the population and whose command of the English language was slight were the recipients of discrimination in various forms over the years. By far the worst race riots occurred in the gold fields in the 1850s and 1860s against the Chinese. The latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of this century saw the introduction of dictation tests and other discriminatory laws to prevent the immigration of "unwanted" nationalities. Having dealt decisively with the "Yellow Peril" was one thing, but the "Southern European Peril" was something else.

In 1915 all miners were required to belong to the Miners' Union and abide by wage agreements. This was supposed to ensure that immigrants did not under-cut wages and working conditions. As a result of a large group of Maltese and Greek migrants arriving in Melbourne in 1915 prior to the conscription referendum, a wave of xenophobia set in. Fear of what southern Europeans might do to working conditions while Australian males were fighting overseas, coupled with the vacillation of the King of Greece about where his allegiance lay, led the Commonwealth Government to ban the entry of all Greek and Maltese migrants (except dependent relations). In 1918 on the Western Australia goldfields, brawls and looting broke out because a returned soldier had died as a result of a fight with an Italian. Fifteen years later, the same area witnessed the infamous "anti-dago" riots in 1934 when businesses and houses were destroyed and so-called foreigners were literally "run out of town". Besides the antipathy felt towards non-English speaking migrants by the labour movement, some members of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors' League were quite prepared to "press matters to the extreme". Such was the case when Greeks tried to build a theatre at Bingara in 1934. It really has been a case of what we didn't understand, we feared and, as a result, often took a negative approach to the whole matter.
Writing in 1992 about the acceptance of Greek migrants by Australians, Alexakis and Janiszewski stated that "...Melbourne geographer, J.S. Lyng, writing during the early 1930's...described the Greeks as 'the least popular foreigners in Australia'..." With their limited employment opportunities,
...problems of acceptance by the host society, particularly one which had officially adopted an openly racist immigration policy (the Alien-Immigration Restriction Act of 1901), were evident. Other than the union restriction concerning the employment of foreign labour, xenophobia was often expressed in the form of name calling, restricting the language spoken in public solely to English and even physical abuse.

Assimilation for Greeks was difficult before World War II and the writers cite several examples of pure, unabashed xenophobia. One lady recalled her mother being rebuked by a passenger for speaking Greek on a tram. Another example occurred in the 1930s when a Greek winner of an eisteddfod was publicly shunned " not being presented with his award in an open ceremony with the other prize winners".

Perhaps the most frightening demonstrations against Greeks took place in 1915 in Newcastle and Sydney. By December 1915, Greece's neutrality was in question and press reports suggested that Greece's King Constantine was allegedly sympathetic to Germany. The situation fermented and, on 13 December, a 600-plus mob (mainly soldiers on leave) "held sway in the city [of Sydney] last night, and for a time took possession of portion of George-street, bombarding several shops with blue metal and lumps of concrete." Among those shops targeted were Michel Casimaty's oyster saloon (563 George Street) and Seros Bros' Original Candy Kitchen (564 George Street). It was put about that the reason for this "impromptu" action was that news had reached the soldiers that one of their lot had died as a result of injuries sustained in an altercation in a Manly fruit shop. Subsequent court cases saw a number of soldiers and civilians charged and fined for riotous behaviour. It was taken in evidence that
...the men who took part in the riot appeared to have had it in their minds for several weeks. They tried to bring an outbreak to a head in the city on Saturday night, and again on the following night, but the efforts of the police frustrated their plans. On Monday night, however, they carried out their plan in a manner which was evidently satisfactory to themselves. About 500 soldiers, assisted by 200 or 300 citizens of the larrikin class, were responsible...
Bearing in mind that a similar riot had occurred in Newcastle on the previous Friday evening (11th), it is difficult to believe that the Sydney action was not orchestrated. The day after the riot in Newcastle, military and police endeavoured to maintain peace and most Greek shops were shut and barricaded.
The Greeks of the city held a meeting yesterday [Saturday], when they claimed that they were law-abiding citizens. Some of them said that they were naturalised subjects...Since the war started the Greeks here have contributed liberally to the patriotic funds. Friday night's demonstration has been condemned by all sides.

Regardless of their law-abiding ways and contributions to patriotic funds, the Australian Greeks were still looked upon with doubt. The following year, all "aliens" (including Greeks) were required by law to register their presence in Australia. So that their movements could be monitored, they were expected to report to the police station on arrival at their new location.

In some of her early works, well-known English crime writer, Agatha Christie allowed some of her characters to air their xenophobic views. It is reasonable to assume that she was presenting views held at the time, and one may conclude that similar feelings were held in both England and Australia. The following are examples of this. "But Bella could not be regarded with complete approval. For Bella had married a foreigner - and not only a foreigner - but a Greek. In Miss Arundell's prejudiced mind a Greek was almost as bad as an Argentine or a Turk." And, "Any name's good enough for a dago," he remarked..."I like to see your righteous heat, James, but let me point out to you that dagos will be dagos..."

In the course of interviewing and corresponding with the members of the subject group for this thesis, it was found that many experienced discrimination, albeit in varying degrees. Recalling the 1930s when he worked for Greek-born Peter Limbers at the Theatre Cowra, British-born Harry Armstrong said, "...that was the time when no Greeks were really popular. There was a lot of racial prejudice then...Greeks were called 'dagos' and the Greek shops were called 'the dagos'." The poignant side to this discriminatory attitude was expressed by one interviewee. Of Kytheran parents, and speaking for Kytherans, he said that they wanted to be liked and to be recognised as people of merit. They had a deep desire to be seen as good in people's eyes. Hence they strove to honour debts, to create good impressions, and, when time permitted, to be involved in civic activities. Their general lack of formal education was reflected in their tendency toward shyness. From speaking with those born in other parts of Greece (or their descendants), what was said about the Kytherans could apply to all. During the course of research, not all of the exhibitors or their descendants made reference to discrimination. Those who did spoke openly about it. For some, it was old history and of little importance to them now. For others, this was not the case. It was also noted that there seemed to be a change for the better after World War II, which is supported by Alexakis and Janiszewski in their 1992 book.

Examples from the Subject Group - Before World War II

Growing up is never easy and for some of the Greeks, who came as children or teenagers, they experienced racist taunts and jibes because of their lack of English and knowledge of local customs. Nicholas Andronicos experienced this at Moree and he found it easier not to attend school, although his father wanted him to go. Emmanuel Conomos arrived in Walgett in 1919 and was introduced to a 'townie' by his brother Lambros. "When I got fellow asked 'What's his name?' He said 'It's Emmanuel.' 'Oh,' he said, 'it's too bloody hard. Call him Hector.'" The name stuck and acceptance came gradually. George Hatsatouris only attended school once at Port Pirie in 1919. Even though, at the time, there were a lot of Greek people working at the smelting works, George recalled, "The [Australian] kids wouldn't accept you...They don't help you. They would laugh every time you speak, they don't come near us, to help in those days."

Even those born in Australia to Greek-born parents often found that their parents' ethnicity hampered their acceptance. Peter Katsoolis (born in 1927) wrote "It was the same with our family and we were all subjected to the ignorance of people with narrow upbringing." George Nicholas experienced no problems while his family lived in Merriwa. This, he believed, was because it was only a small town and his father, who ran the cafe, garage, picture theatre and ice works, had become well-respected over the years. When the family moved to Newcastle in 1940, George received racist taunts while at school there. Growing up in Cobar after the war, Chris James' son and daughter "experienced the wog and dago bit". At the time, there was only one other Greek family in the town and a Chinese market gardener. At the school, George and Maria James were the only ones whose parents were of non-British-Australian origin. At Gundagai, Arthur Johnson was the brunt of racist taunts for most of his school days. It was not until he started to play in the University of Sydney Rugby team in the late 1950s and brought those skills to the aid of the local Gundagai football team that he started to be accepted. Like Cobar, there was only one other Greek family in town. At Walcha, Philip and Helen Lucas' children experienced similar taunts while at school. There were only two other Greek families in the town. Con commented that, as a result of the racist remarks, he sought to educate himself about his Greek heritage and found that there was a lot to be learned and enjoyed.

Two Australian-born interviewees commented that they did not have any problems about their Greek inheritance. One stated that this may have been due to the fact that he was permitted to bring a friend of his own choosing to his father's picture theatre each week. The other said that he "was a bit of a rebel at school" and this endeared him to other children. He also noted that his father was naturalised in 1905 because he "didn't want to be seen as Greek".

Another Australian-born used persuasion to overcome the taunts of a particular boy during the early 1940s. She informed him that, since her father ran the picture show, she would see to it that the boy would never be admitted unless he stopped the name-calling. Seeing the error of his ways, the boy ceased the taunting. Such was the power of the silver screen in those days!

Greek-born adults experienced discrimination in various ways. Just before World War I began, Jack Kouvelis wanted to marry an Australian girl, Blanche Cummins. While it was considered important that foreigners assimilate, and intermarriage was probably the best way to achieve this, British-Australians did not readily accept the idea of intermarriage, especially with southern Europeans. Mr Cummins was not impressed about his daughter wanting to marry a Greek and so Mrs Cummins brought her daughter to Sydney for the wedding to take place. Grace Walker married James Simos in 1928 and, according to their son, he supposed that, owing to prevailing attitudes, Mr Walker "might not have been too happy about it." Leo Spellson married an Australian girl, Edith, in 1937. While her family did not mind, it "was not approved of by the average Australian in those days." John Tzannes recalled that, during the mid-1930s, he used to visit a Greek carpenter employed by a shop-fitting firm. The Australians worked together, but the Greek worked by himself in a room at the back of the premises. At Wee Waa, Georgina Comino noted a tendency towards racist remarks but commented that it was not only directed at Greeks. The Italians and Chinese in the town also received them.

For Anastasia Sotiros and her daughter at Lake Cargelligo, prior to World War II their "social life seemed to revolve just amongst the Greek people themselves." The families of a number of Greek cinema exhibitors relied on other Greek families in towns where they lived, or in nearby towns, for their socialising. Lack of language and social constraints forced them into this situation. At Lake Cargelligo, there were four Greek families, two closely related. Often, family members would 'promenade' of a late Sunday evening down the street to the lake. "That was their social time." Sometimes, they went on picnics. After the cafes had closed on Sunday evenings, they got together " the lounge room in the Monterey Cafe and [played] cards." Although they mixed with Australian people at the cinema, it was not until the daughters grew up and made friends at high school that non-Greek people came to the Sotiros' home. At Gundagai, Arthur Johnson could not recall a time when his family was invited to a British-Australian's home for a meal. They socialised with the town's other Greek family and also travelled to visit relations at Tumut (Stathis family), at West Wyalong (Bylos family), and at Narrandera (Nicholas Laurantus and family).
As already expressed, what we do not understand, we fear and enmity may have been aroused by strangeness of customs, especially those related to the culinary arts. While the Greeks had to cook Australian-style meals in their cafes, in their own homes some old customs did not fade away. Jean Michaelides recorded that Australian-born Blanche Laurantus used to try to cook Greek-style food for her husband, Nicholas, and she also recalled the reactions of locals to the cooking of Sophia Johnson at Gundagai.
When she inserted slivers of garlic into a leg of lamb for roasting, they were horrified. 'Not that smelly stuff,' they exclaimed. 'You'll spoil the taste of the meat.' And when, one evening, she heated olive oil to fry some pieces of fish, they became genuinely concerned, hastening to explain 'that oil's not for cooking with, you only use it on babies when they get nappy rash.' Word quickly went around Gundagai that the new Greek lady knew nothing about cooking and would undoubtedly poison herself and her husband...

Arthur Koovousis, who arrived in Australia in 1949 and lived with his brother at Bingara, said that "In the 1950s, racism [was] still prevalent." They were simply referred to as "the Greeks" by many. Living in Boggabri in the 1950s, Peter Kalligeris recalled that there was "...some racism, but that was long ago now." During an interview in 1995, George Hatsatouris remarked that "...nobody would dare speak out of place to me...I could put them in their place."

Although a number of people did not mention discrimination in their interviews or correspondence, one claimed that he experienced none. Anthony Peters wrote that he was "treated well by all members of the Australian community...[and] has not experienced any discrimination." Perhaps the people of Mullumbimby were better adjusted than those in other areas of the state.

To this point, the material presented above has come from the exhibitors or their families. Some might argue that they may have misjudged those living around them or have been too "thin-skinned". During the course of the research, several primary sources came to light that reveal xenophobic feelings towards members of the subject group.

A rare insight into the esteem in which the Hatsatouris family was held was contained in a letter written in 1930 but it also contained a negative element. The letter remained in a government file and was not found until 1996 when the writer was researching for this thesis. In 1930, both local Port Macquarie picture show operators (the Hatsatouris family and Alf Kenna) were being harassed by a policeman into following the so-called letter of the law with regards to their cinema buildings. A local man decided to write to the Chief Secretary on behalf of the Hatsatouris family in the hope of setting straight the situation. From the content and tone of the letter, it seemed that the Greek family was being given undue attention by the policeman for no apparent reason. The writer told how the opposition exhibitor "...never made a single alteration" yet the Hatsatouris family "...were simply pestered by a Sergeant of Police who has since been transferred... Hatsatouris Bros make their place right up to date and [are] really the most generous people in the town but [are] very retiring. So I thought it was about time some one spoke up on their behalf."

In 1944, investigations were made by the Commonwealth Investigation Branch into J K Capitol Theatres Pty Ltd. The company controlled a number of cinemas in the large, provincial towns of Armidale, Inverell, Moree, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga and Young, The investigation was precipitated by a belief that the prevailing entertainment tax regulations were not being followed closely. Prior to taxation staff travelling to various country centres to interview theatre managers, a report was written in which was set out a short biography of the two principals of J K Capitol Theatres Pty Ltd, Jack and Harry Kouvelis. There is a distinct bias against the two men, especially the older brother. Reference is made to such things as his house, family, motor cars ("including a 16-cylinder Cadallac [sic] purchased some years ago from the Mexican Consul"), property and business dealings, and involvement with race horses. He is described in unsavoury terms and it is suggested that he "...has many enemies amongst the Greek community." The report claims that, when Harry arrived in 1923, his passport described him as a cook. "It cannot be said that either, in spite of their wealth, have made any notable contribution to the land of their adoption." (When one considers the beautiful theatre buildings built under the name of Jack Kouvelis and the immeasurable pleasure that they and their cinematic entertainment provided for many people, one may be tempted to say that the investigator made a biased assessment of the situation. It should also be noted that Jack Kouvelis' son was serving with the Australian Army at the time.) Besides the two brothers, three other Greek families are mentioned in the report which claims that none of them had made any "particular contributions to war loans". The final paragraph suggests that an investigation into the affairs of J K Capitol Theatres Pty Ltd would have "a salutory[sic] effect on the Greek community." Whether or not it did, the results of the investigation are unavailable, although the Greek-Cypriot-born manager of Kouvelis' Moree theatres committed suicide as a consequence. In the newspaper report of his death, it stated that "He was regarded as a man of high integrity, and had subscribed liberally to many charitable appeals", and "Both of his sons are serving in the present war."

In the years before television, when someone wished to acquire a licence for a new cinema, it was not uncommon for objections to be raised from various quarters. Sometimes it would be cinema exhibitors in nearby areas. In the case of Hatsatouris Bros at Laurieton, it was from some disgruntled members of the local School of Arts in 1947. A deal had been struck with the committee whereby Hatsatouris Bros would equip the hall with projection equipment, speaker and screen and show films there until building restrictions were lifted (as a result of wartime shortages) and they could erect a proper cinema. The hall's licence to show films would then be transferred to a new theatre, to be built by Hatsatouris Bros, thus keeping out opposition. They had acquired (in partnership with a local man) a block of land across the road "...on which the projected picture theatre is to be built by the Greek, Hatsatouris." A lot of ill-feeling surfaced about the way the School of Arts' cinema licence was being handled, leading to a number of complaints made to and reports made by the Chief Secretary's Department during 1947. One tried to show Hatsatouris Bros in a disparaging way. For example, "Plainly Hatsatouris is running this theatre 'on the cheap' with two boys and a woman." (re Laurieton School of Arts). At the inquiry held into the granting of the cinema licence to the brothers, one local man stated that he had in mind to build a 750-seat cinema in Laurieton. The judge asked him where he was going to get 750 people when there was only about 500 in the area. The Chief Secretary's Department investigated and rebuffed the reports.

Bingara - a case study

In the mid-1930s, in the north-western town of Bingara, a Greek partnership, Peters and Co (ie George Psaltis, Peter Feros and Emanuel Aroney) embarked on an ambitious construction project involving new cafe, shops and a modern cinema at the south-west corner of Cunningham and Maitland Streets. According to the local newspaper, "When completed it will have an equal frontage to both streets, a symmetrical and well-balanced building, a splendid addition to the town's business houses." Peters and Co intended to construct for their own use a shop and large restaurant (22 feet by 85 feet), with seating for 140 diners, a kitchen (14 feet by 26 feet), two cellars, a machinery room (14 feet by 14 feet) where ice would be made and electricity for the new buildings would be generated, and a modern cinema. Above the shop and restaurant would be living quarters. Two additional shops would be built and made available for lease.

What should have been a straightforward enterprise turned into a financial disaster tainted with overtones of discrimination. There were already two cinemas operating in the town, the Old Bingara Pictures and the Regent Pictures. The former was an old galvanised iron shed and the latter was under the control of a local businessman (who was a returned soldier and an alderman) and he used the Soldiers' Memorial Hall. When, in 1934, he learned that a new cinema was being mooted, he set about trying to undermine the project. Firstly, a letter to his parliamentary representative, who was also an old acquaintance.
Sometime ago I wrote you in connection with the Greek invasion into our little burg, & the position now is becoming more acute, inasmuch as they have issued an ultimatum that any of us who are not prepared to bring our businesses up to their end of the town, opposition businesses will be started by them.

...I have no intention of allowing the Greeks to put it over me in this way, so I am endeavouring to get in ahead of them... & I want find out from the Chief Secretary's Department if the Greeks have yet submitted plans to them for a new theatre, & if so have they been passed by that department'

I shall be submitting plans myself during the next few weeks, & I am hoping those of the Greeks will be held up until I can get a start.

The Chief Secretary replied on behalf of the parliamentarian, stating that " is not the practice of the Department to disclose particulars of the kind." Having lost that round, the businessman pushed on quickly with the building of his own theatre (the Regent) which opened in June 1935. Unable to withstand the competition from the new Regent, the Old Bingara Pictures turned-up its toes and died. One might be forgiven if one were to assume that the new theatre would also put an end to the Greek proposal. It did not and Peters and Co pressed on. In early 1936, as the Greeks' Roxy was nearing completion, xenophobia flared again.
As you are aware we are having our own little war with Greece in Bingara, & the latest development is that they want us to run our P.&.A. Asso. Ball in their new theatre, & the Committee have decided to stick to the Soldiers' Memorial Hall. Following on this decision they propose to run a stunt in their theatre in opposition to the Ball.

The Greek theatre is not complete, & is certainly not built to the plans and specifications as submitted...

If the inspection is to be done by our local police I would like you to see that this is carried out in such a way that they are compelled to comply with all regulations, but it would be more satisfactory all round if you could see your way to send your own inspector along.

Trusting you will not mind my writing you personally on this matter, for, as you know the maintenance of our Memorial Hall is a vital matter with our league here, & with kind regards...

Round Two also went to the Greeks when the Chief Secretary replied.
...the local Police were instructed on the 11th March to inform the proprietors that the premises may be opened for public entertainment pending the issue of the required licence, provided the building has been constructed in accordance...

You will, therefore, see that the question whether the premises may be used for public entertainment will depend entirely on the fact of the Police being satisfied in regard to the building...

[re the alternate function] ...I am unable to take any action in the matter if the building is in order and the conditions complied with.

The Roxy (sub-titled "Theatre Moderne") opened on Saturday, 28 March 1936, with the owners acknowledging "the wonderful support of the People of Bingara and District whose encouragement enabled us to open this New Modern Building" and thanking "the various Artisans, Tradesmen and Loyal Workers whose efforts and faithful service made the Roxy possible." Then came blatantly racist newspaper advertising by the opposition. From March, advertisements proclaimed the Regent to be "100 per cent Australian, including Ownership, Employees, Talkie Equipment." This continued until the middle of November, by which time the Roxy management was in financial difficulties, having over-extended itself financially on the building project. The Regent Theatre owner was elected Mayor in December 1936, having served in this capacity in 1928 and 1929. According to the report of the opening of the Regent in 1935, he had come to the town " a youth, and during his residence had associated himself with every movement for the benefit of the town. He had also served in the Great War...The Mayor (Ald. C Doherty) also paid a high tribute to Mr Peacocke's good citizenship and progressive spirit..."

Within a short time, Peters and Co's financial difficulties led to the mortgagee taking control of the buildings. Psaltis and Feros moved on and Aroney, having to support his mother and two brothers (one going to medical school) in Greece, moved operations to a new cafe in Bingara. The cafe, opposite the Regent Theatre, was called The Regent Cafe and had been built by the Regent's owner.

Examples from the Subject Group - After the War

World War II made possible the entry of Greek migrants into factories and other unionised industries and it increased the profitability of catering and cinema businesses in many areas. When Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies in 1940, a new bond formed between Greeks and Australians. At Walgett, Conomos Bros held a special fund-raising event for Greek Relief. A similar, but bigger affair was organised at Carinda by Theo Megaloconomos. Sadly, much of the bonding lasted only for the duration of the war. The major changes to the social position of Greeks in Australia did not take place until the mass immigration of post-war years when the overall mix of the population altered. The change in attitude towards Greek migrants was commented upon by several of the interviewees: Mrs G Comino (at Wee Waa); Mrs A James and her daughter (at Cobar); Mrs E Spellson; Mrs A Sotiros and her daughter (Lake Cargelligo); Arthur Koovousis (Bingara). Some of these people believed that Australian soldiers brought back with them kinder thoughts and greater respect for the Greek people who had sheltered, fought alongside them and befriended them during the war. Writers, Alexakis and Janiszewski also acknowledge this when they quoted from a story in a 1947 Oberon newspaper about local cafe proprietor, Peter Capsanis who had decided to return to Kythera for a holiday.
Striking Tributes at Oberon Farewell.
Our countries have always been allies, and have fought together in the struggle for the existence of peace loving nations. The bond of friendship has been strengthened through the undaunted spirit of the Australians in Greece. Greece will never forget the Australians, who from 10,000 miles away came to her assistance in the dark hours when she was being overrun by the enemy. That action will be honoured by Greeks for generations to come.

The Aborigines

The previous sections showed that Greek people were often the brunt of both overt and covert discrimination. As cinema exhibitors, the Greeks came into contact with many townsfolk from different walks of life. While the Greeks had their share of discrimination with which to contend, the indigenous population of Australia, the Aboriginal people, also experienced discrimination and this applied in country towns with regards to that seemingly egalitarian place, the cinema. In previous research, the writer found that theatre managers in the years before the 1960s had to follow what was expected of them regarding Aboriginal patrons. Several mentioned that they were unable to ignore the norm. Thus they, who had experienced discrimination, were forced to exercise discrimination towards Aborigines. One can appreciate that exhibitors (from whatever racial background) would not defy local custom. The following information is offered here as a record of the situation in which a number of Greek-born exhibitors found themselves.

The Empire Theatre at Boorowa was really the Guild Hall, owned by the Boorowa branch of the Australasian Holy Catholic Guild of St Mary and St Joseph. While picture exhibition rights were leased to others, the Guild ran dances and other social functions there. When John Tzannes took over the picture business in the hall in 1946, he followed the existing tradition of taking the Aboriginal patrons through a side door and seating them in the front stalls. Even the fact that the building was owned by a Christian religious group did not prevent discrimination against Aborigines.

Some miles out from Lake Cargelligo a mission station for Aborigines was built and they came to town to the pictures. "They weren't allowed to sit on the seats in the stalls. There were these long stools that must have been something like fifteen feet long, and the poor Aboriginal kids had to sit on these wooden stools, right down the front." When asked about their behaviour, the reply was that "They were extremely well-behaved. They were often blamed by the townspeople for desecrating or vandalising the theatre. But mostly it was the Australians." Who made the decision where they should sit? "I think Dad must have realised that he was going to have trouble if he didn't."

Aboriginal patrons at Walgett used to sit in the front stalls but they could also sit in the back stalls if they chose to pay the extra. Seating prices differed between front and back stalls, and downstairs and upstairs in those days. The cheapest seats were front stalls and the Aborigines chose these. According to the former exhibitor, [This section is yet to be confirmed from primary sources.] Walgett was one of the towns targeted by Charles Perkins and his student entourage in February 1965 in an attempt to highlight the plight of Aboriginal people and the way they were being treated. Among the students' activities, the local RSL club was picketed. Conomos Bros' Luxury Theatre experienced its share. On a particular night, the staircase to the dress circle was obstructed by the students. Recalling the night, Emmanuel Conomos said,
...Perkins organised the come up and declare the theatre black. Sergeant Gleeson was in charge of the town at the time and he rang Bourke in case he wanted reinforcements...Anyway, a few of them [students] came along and they stood on the staircase...Gleeson was there and two or three of his men and he said, 'Look, if you fellows remain when the lights come on at interval time, I'm going to put the lot of you in.'..And they remained there. So Gleeson had two Black Marias out the front. He said,' Boys, get on with the work. Put the lot of them in.' I think twelve of them.
The point was made and, consequently, a few Aborigines did go upstairs. However, it did not last as the upstairs seats were more expensive than downstairs.

Audience seating arrangements in cinemas in pre-television times often followed certain structures. Aborigines (if any in town) and children tended to sit in the front stalls, young people usually sat in the back stalls, the more prosperous business people and farmers and professionals sat in the front circle and the back circle was for anyone else who could obtain tickets. While this is a generalisation, it was particularly remarked upon by the son of the exhibitor at the Civic Theatre, Walcha. Seating within that theatre tended to follow this pattern: downstairs on left - poor whites; downstairs on right - Aborigines; upstairs front middle - graziers; upstairs back - middle class; upstairs sides - young workers and teenagers. While his father exhibited racial tolerance, local customs dictated otherwise. Upstairs was perceived as a "white" domain. He recalled one incident when some white Australians sitting upstairs found an itinerant Aboriginal shearer sitting next to them. They threatened to leave but Philip Lucas refused to refund their money because the shearer had paid for his ticket, was clean and neatly dressed, and was not creating a nuisance of himself. A completely opposite incident involved a drunken Aborigine who wanted to buy a ticket for upstairs. When Lucas refused to grant him admittance to anywhere in the theatre, he retorted with "Greasy wog!" and left.

The final example occurred at Goodooga where an action by the exhibitor's wife was seen by the exhibitor as a reflection on himself. Thalia Louran spent the seven years from her arrival in Australia until her marriage living in the city of Sydney where she had no dealings with Aboriginal people. When she went to Goodooga after her marriage in 1957, she was not familiar with local seating habits. One evening at her husband's De-Luxe Theatre, she could not find a vacant seat in the back section so she sat in the front part among the Aborigines. Her husband was perturbed as it was not fitting for his wife to be sitting there in full view of the "white" community and might be mis-interpreted by them. The same lady used to go for long drives into the country as a form of recreation. On one occasion her car became bogged and after an hour or so of being stranded, some Aborigines came along, noticed a "white lady" in trouble and lifted the car free for her. Forty years on, she can still remember their kindness and their smiling faces.

Of course, there was always the fortunate exhibitor who did not have to concern himself about where Aborigines sat in his cinema. Recalling the late 1940s at Yenda, James Katsoolis' son noted that they could sit wherever they chose and that the Regent theatre management "did not discriminate."

Discriminated against, and forced to discriminate, the Greek exhibitors battled on.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Introduction - Chapter 1 of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis.

Mudgee Regent Theatre.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

Chapter 1 of Kevin's thesis makes the importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution very clear.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.


"In Australia we have tended to think primarily of the dullness, the peasant background, the smells and dirt associated with the primitive background and a tradition of long hard does no harm now and again to lift one's eyes [and] catch the occasional reflection of gold and beauty in their own patient struggles and achievements."

For one particular group of Greeks who emigrated to New South Wales between 1898 and 1949, their process of integration was made easier because of their preparedness to seize opportunities and involve themselves in the places where they settled. This thesis examines that group whose special contribution was the exhibition of motion pictures from c1915 to the early 1960s. People may remember the mass immigration of the 1950s-60s and recall the ethnic cinemas around Sydney and Wollongong that were run by Greeks and screened mostly foreign dialogue films. The exhibitors at these were small in number and contributed little to the history of this state when compared to the much larger, earlier group of Greek immigrants who screened English dialogue pictures to millions of British-Australians in the days before television. This latter group's role in our social, architectural and technological history has never been acknowledged or examined by those who have contributed to our knowledge of Greek immigration to this state.

By the late 1950s, when cinemas that screened English dialogue films were closing as television increased in popularity, the few Greek ethnic film exhibitors were able to buy cinemas in or close to enclave areas and screen foreign dialogue films to those who craved cheap entertainment in their native language. They relied on the large number of fellow countrymen who had migrated to Australia and were concentrated heavily in inner-city areas where there was "cheap accommodation, access to transport, and access to services offered by the ethnic community and the wider host community." Like their pre-war counterparts, the post-war immigrants were often without English and were semi or unskilled but, unlike the pre-war group, they tended to concentrate in urban manufacturing industries. This was due to the large numbers that arrived. Whereas in pre-war days earlier arrivals assisted the small number who followed via chain migration, in the post-war years the numbers were too large to be absorbed into existing businesses. Hence the growth of ethnic enclaves in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

A negative aspect to the "enclave" exhibitors was that, knowing the low socio-economic status of their patrons, they were disinclined to service the cinemas which were allowed to deteriorate to a point where, in at least two situations, government agencies forced them to close. A third was closed until its safety standards were improved. As time passed and the immigrants bought television sets, then videos and/or moved away from the enclave areas, the ethnic cinemas lost their audiences. By the late 1970s, they were struggling to survive. Each took on an air of dilapidation and, one by one, they closed and were sold. Some were demolished; others were converted to other uses. One still operates, but as a live venue.

The Greek exhibitors who came to New South Wales before the mass immigrations of the post-war years were a different type of immigrant. They were not able to seek the security of enclaves and exploit their compatriots' lack of English and homesickness because they, themselves, were in country towns where usually no more than one or two Greek families lived. As exhibitors, they screened English dialogue films because their audiences comprised British-Australians. Yet, they did so not out of regret, but out of the desire to become economically independent and to break the peasant cycle from which they and their forebears had come. They could all claim an Hellenic heritage, but the areas from which they came were different in their local customs and traditions. What did bind them together was their peasant background and, if they wanted to break out of that cycle, they had to take some major steps during the course of their lives. It was in the taking of these steps, making decisions to move out of refreshment rooms and into motion picture exhibition, that broke the peasant tie and made integration in the host country more easily achieved.

The first step, and for many it was a matter of it being thrust upon them, was to migrate. Greeks had been doing this for many centuries so it was not an unusual occurrence. Secondly, they had to break away from the subsistence "tilling-the-soil" type of life to which they had been brought up. This meant finding employment in the new host country that was commensurate with their skills and abilities. For people with little or no English and who had few urban skills, this meant starting afresh in occupations completely different to what they knew or might be expected to know. The catering industry was most suitable for their needs as it required no experience (learnt on the job as an employee) and no capital (save as you went, then borrow from established compatriots or those sympathetic). Above all, it required limited English. As one became more proficient in one's job, language skills were acquired. Then, almost unexpectedly, as one became more involved with the business, one started to become integrated into the way-of-life of the town.

So it was that, soon after their arrival in Australia, the members of the subject group for this thesis went into the catering industry. This move set them on the path to economic independence. It was only later that they took the next bold step and became motion picture exhibitors. They did this because they were keen to further their financial futures and were prepared to put in the capital and long hours required to make a success of these new ventures. In doing so, they took a step up in the world - from being "the cafe Greeks" to becoming theatre managers, thus integrating further into the British-Australian communities in which they lived and worked. They had been prepared to tolerate discrimination and to weather the bad times (man-made and acts of God) and, determinedly, they set their minds on becoming accepted and respected members of their communities. Slowly, these southern Europeans began to find approval amongst the predominantly British-Australian population.

While, initially, they had no choice but to go to country towns, it was this particular move that allowed them to take the step to become cinema proprietors. The country towns were not subject to the development of cinema chains, as was the case in the cities and suburbs. Thus, the "Country Greeks" were in a more advantageous position than their "City Cousins" who, from about 1910 in Sydney, witnessed the growth of cinema chains (eg Waddingtons, Union Theatres, Hoyts, Western Suburbs Cinemas, Broadway Theatres) which acquired or built theatres in the city and/or inner suburbs, then spread outwards during the 1920s and 1930s as the city likewise spread. By and large, country towns were the homes of independent exhibitors and, because of this, the subject group members were able to assess local situations, make decisions that affected things locally, and act upon their acquired knowledge without having to be concerned that Union Theatres or Hoyts might move in and build just up the road from them. Having established themselves in their refreshment rooms (some also started complimentary businesses, for example, ice works, cordial factories), they were able to glean from what they saw and heard in their towns about what people liked to do for entertainment and they acted accordingly. A few enterprising men built their picture theatres to double as ballrooms, thereby allowing more flexibility and better utilisation of the buildings. The cafes, the complimentary businesses, and the cinemas/ballrooms brought these men into close contact with British-Australians on a daily basis. Serving in the shop, welcoming patrons at their cinemas, discussing film programmes and the weather, attending the balls in their cinemas, joining service and sporting clubs and lodges - all of these things helped to hasten their integration into their communities.

Out of the 1,433 country picture theatres identified in a recent New South Wales survey, 116 were operated at various times in country areas prior to the early 1960s by people of Greek birth. This figure of 8.1 per cent of the total country cinema venues that ever existed is significant and covered 57 centres of population. To this figure can be added four cinemas in Sydney that were controlled by Greek-Australians during the same time frame. Three of these were in then-outer suburbs: Fairfield (2) 1924 to 1928; Liverpool (1) 1947 - 1957. The fourth was at Rose Bay North (1946 - 1958). Thus, the total number of venues is 120.

This thesis is not a set of biographies. It present information and thoughts relating to the achievement through integration of the 66 Greek men. Chapter 2 provides information about their backgrounds and beginnings. Included is a case study of the Hatsatouris family. Chapter 3 examines how the subject group were discriminated against and how, because of the norms of the day, they were forced to discriminate themselves. It includes a case study on the three Greeks who built the Roxy Theatre at Bingara in the mid-1930s. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the cinema years for each of the subject group. Chapter 5, entitled "Parthenons Down Under", discusses the importance of picture-going in pre-television days and offers a brief overview of the theatres built by the Greek exhibitors. A short survey of Greek landmarks in New South Wales is considered and a case argued for the retention and placement on heritage lists of six theatres constructed for Greek exhibitors. Chapter 6 is a case study of an atypical country town, examining the history and contributions made to the town of Walgett by the six Greeks who ran five local picture shows at various times between 1915 and 1970. Chapter 7 is a picture gallery: photos of the men, their families, their cafes, their theatres. Captions provide additional information. Chapter 8 is an overview of the achievements of the subject group, and includes the contribution made by their wives. Two case studies are included, one on Anastasia Sotiros and the other on Theo Conomos of Carinda. A case is then presented to show that the members of the subject group integrated through their achievements rather than assimilated (the latter being the expectation of both government and general population for all immigrants prior to the 1970s).

Our Knowledge of Greek Immigrants to Australia to Date

In the Preface to her 1987 book on Sir Nicholas Laurantus, Jean Michaelides noted that in Australia's story, "the contribution of smaller groups - the Greeks or the Italians, for example - has gone largely unrecorded...After the British and the Italians, the Greeks are our third largest group of migrants from Europe." Despite the large number of cinemas and centres in which they operated, there is no record of this Greek connection. Available literature on Greek migration to Australia is of a general nature and there is a need for specifically oriented studies of migrant experiences. "The present need is for more studies in depth - of particular groups or classes of Greeks or of particular localities where Greeks abound..." In terms of the development of our post-1970s multi-cultural diversity, and with cinema having passed its Australian centenary in 1996, now would seem to be an appropriate time to examine the role of the New South Wales' Greek motion picture exhibitors of pre-television days and acknowledge their place in this state's heritage.

Our public culture should "...acknowledge and respect diversity...such as the migration experience...", yet for many years, Greeks living in Australia have been synonymous with food - cafes, milk bars, delicatessens and, older still, oyster-saloons and refreshment rooms. The Greeks themselves recorded little of their lives in Australia. Two early works by Greek immigrants do exist. The first, from 1915, I Zoi en Afstralia (Life in Australia) by J D Comino, contains over 200 short biographies with accompanying photographs of many Greek migrants. This book (written in Greek) was designed to encourage others who might have been interested in migrating to Australia by telling what earlier migrants had achieved. The second was written in 1920, the year that Australia lifted its ban on Greek and Maltese immigration that was imposed in 1916, during the uncertainties of World War I. Oscar Georgoulous opens this work with a short, encouraging poem.
"May health success and joy
Thy course through life attend,
And nothing sad destroy
Thy hours, my immigrant friend!"
Greek Guide To Australia was written in order to assist and advise Greek migrants who were thinking about coming to Australia, or who had already arrived. Many topics, including legal matters, were covered and doubtless proved helpful.

Charles Price is known for his work on migration, including Southern Europeans in Australia and Greeks in Australia. The former examines the migration to Australia of people from countries such as Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia, Greece and Malta. It discusses the complex geographical, social and political backgrounds of the areas from which the migrants came, their migratory patterns, settlement in Australia, the rise of ethnic groups and assimilation. Price's book provides a general overview of southern European migration to Australia. The latter book is a collection of pieces written about Greeks in Australia and, as Price who edited the book states, it was not intended that it should be a definitive work. Most of it contains post-war studies, although the first chapter (M P Tsounis, "Greek Communities in Australia") examines the pattern of Greek settlement in New South Wales and discusses some of the problems that both pre- and post-war Greek immigrants had to face. Possibly because of space limitations, there are no case studies.

The most impressive work on Greeks in Australia has been the first of a set of volumes, published in 1992, by Hugh Gilchrist. His work traces the history of Greek migration to Australia from the early days when, in 1829, seven Greek males (transported for piracy) arrived in Port Jackson. Facts and figures relating to the Greek migration pattern to Australia until 1914 are presented. Life was difficult for the non-English speaking Greek migrant.
Of the thousand Greeks who inhabited Australia towards the end of the 19th century fewer than fifty had had a complete secondary education. Most were the century drew to a close many Greeks ceased to be gold-miners or shepherds or waterfront workers and became shop-keepers or cafe proprietors. They began to bring out brothers and nephews and cousins to join them in their enterprises, at first as cooks or waiters or shop-assistants, later as partners.
While he mentions in passing a few Greek migrants who were involved in the entertainment industry, Gilchrist wrote, "...I am not writing a history of Greek settlement in Australia...".

One of those whom Gilchrist mentions is Sir Nicholas Laurantus whose life story has been recorded in Portrait of Uncle Nick: A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus, MBE. by Jean Michaelides. Commenting on the pattern of Greek migration to Australia, she says, "Others who followed did well and returned home to speak glowingly of the opportunities in far-off Australia, so starting a chain of migration from the same family or the same village, a chain which was to strengthen in the first half of this century." Laurantus operated a number of cinemas (although little detail is given about them), but he is best remembered for endowing the Chair of Modern Greek at the University of Sydney and establishing the Lourantos Retirement Village in Sydney.

An earlier work than Gilchrist's is Hellas Australia (Ελλάδα Αστραλ_α), by Josef Vondra, which gives personal observations of the writer and opinions on various topics by members of the Australian Greek community. Vondra notes a major difficulty associated with both pre-and post-war Greek immigrants.
In the pre-war period, and indeed early in the post-war years, those newly arrived, even if they had been sponsored by a relative or friend, could, by the constricting factor of the language barrier, only work for other Greeks, or for sympathetic Australians. Usually there wasn't much choice; the lowest of the unskilled jobs was often a starting point..Restaurants, apparently, were a special feature, a mark of respect and testimony that a particular person or family had finally 'made it'.

In a magazine article entitled Hidden Faces of the Greek-Australian (1990), the writers Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski make the comment that Greek immigrants became heavily involved in food catering but they also entered a number of other occupations.
The arising entrenchment of a popular stereotyped perception of this ethnic group as nothing more than a mere collection of fish-and-chip shop owners or cafe proprietors, has unfortunately overwhelmed and hidden the faces of Greek-Australians involved in a plethora of other occupational pursuits.
The article tells how these men turned their hands to viticulture, mining, market gardening, agricultural and pastoral work, animal husbandry, fishing, maritime work (including pearling and oyster farming), secondary industry (particularly for post-war migrants), itinerant jobs (such as timber cutting, railway construction, fruit picking, mail delivery), and sporting and artistic occupations (the last two areas having developed since World War II). The writers briefly touch on each of the areas and show that the Greek-born Australian was much more than simply involved with food catering. "As a wide sweep of the historical panorama of the Greek presence in Australia, this presentation is extremely limited. However, its aim was only to provide an insight into some of the 'hidden faces' of the Greek-Australian. Many more are still waiting to be discovered." No mention is made of Greeks as cinema exhibitors.

Another article written by the same writers two years' later expands upon the earlier article and tells of some of the difficulties that Greek-Australians had before World War II. Sydney's neglected Hellenic heritage, 1810 - 1940: an insight was published in 1992 and tells of Greek migration to Australia. It is interspersed with pieces from interviews with Greek-born people who tell of their experiences. In the Sydney metropolitan area, the writers claim that, "In 1916,...of the 76 Hellenes who appear to have been self-employed, a little over 84% ran food catering businesses... Additionally, those Greeks employed by such businesses totalled 73.", and by the late 1920s, little change had occurred to these figures.
Undeniably though, Sydney possessed a significant Greek presence well before the immense post-war wave of immigrants spilled upon the important insight into the city's Greek-Australian community, which deserves far greater recognition and detailed investigation to that which it has generally been accustomed.

Continuing their promotion of Greek-Australian heritage, Alexiakis and Janiszewski's 1995 book, Images of Home comprises photographs, taken by them while on trips around Australia and Greece, and lengthy captions.
The idea for this project began in Greece in 1985...Although I had already noticed many deserted houses throughout Greece, it wasn't until I saw a whole street of deserted homes and ventured inside them that I realised that many of the people had left their homes with the intention of returning.
The book, sub-titled Μαύρη Ξεvιτιά (translated "black foreign land"), examines migrant experiences. In a number of cases, the people returned to Greece and re-settled. The writers note, "...the lives and experiences of those Greeks who journeyed to the antipodes, and for any number of reasons, decided to return to Greece, has scarcely received anything beyond disregard." Although the reminiscences of Greek migrants are recorded and photographs show derelict houses, decaying bric-a-brac, streetscapes, and a variety of people, because of the writers' intention, it is an overview rather than a detailed study. Occasionally something appears in the book that is reminiscent of information from a member of the subject group for this thesis. One such example is from an elderly man.
Yes, I was the pioneer [from our village] was a new country and you had more chance...Well, the old man, he sent me here and I have to obey...landed in Sydney with two shillings and sixpence - half a crown...The only thing, of course, we couldn't get a had to go to the Greek coffee house [to find a job]. Third class citizens was us really...

The writers are critical of the way that the variety of occupations undertaken by Greeks has been, generally, ignored.
Whilst their firm establishment and numerical abundance in small catering businesses such as oyster saloons, restaurants, cafes, milk bars, fruit and vegetable shops and fish shops, in urban and rural centres, particularly eastern mainland Australian states, has been generously acknowledged within existing publications, their persistent presence in other occupational avenues has generally been overlooked. The arising entrenchment of a popular stereo-typed perception of this ethnic group as nothing more than a mere collection of fish-and-chip shop owners or cafe proprietors, has unfortunately overwhelmed and hidden the faces of Greek-Australians involved in a plethora of other occupational pursuits.

An example of this can be found in Ian McNamara's Australia All Over 2, a collection of his listeners' responses to various topics taken from his ABC Radio program. It is not surprising to find that the book contains a section on the ubiquitous Greek cafe. The reminiscences of McNamara's listeners about the cafes reveal the warmth and affection in which they were held by many country people. Only two mentioned a cinema - George Conomos (whose father ran the Luxury Theatre at Walgett and had the Barwon Cafe next door) and Keith Wilson who spoke about his days in Balranald. "The local picture theatre was next door and each Saturday night after the flick the cafe would be full to capacity with the locals having supper - anything from toasted sangos to mixed grills. Those were the days!" Going to the cinema was more than simply going to see a film. It was an important social occasion, especially for country folk, which has been forgotten over the years.

Radio National's Milkbar Dreaming relies on the reminiscences of the various proprietors and former employees of Greek milkbars and cafes of yesteryear. This valuable piece of oral history not only presents fond thoughts, it also shows the less-pleasant side.
...our own compatriots exploited us also, by the lack of not knowing English, and there was not many jobs around. It wasn't easy to find a job. I used to work one day from seven in the morning 'til seven in the evening, and the next day from twelve midday to one in the morning. Monday to Sunday. And I will have Wednesday afternoon off from two o'clock onwards.

And, the Greeks often had to contend with prejudice.
Man: "In little country towns there was often an Australian cafe and a Greek cafe. Ninety percent of the town would use the Greek cafe."
Lady: "Because, even though they were very - sort of prejudiced people in Australia in those days, they all knew that the Greeks ran a better cafe."

For the second generation, it "...was very important seeing how hard they worked. It made you feel they weren't doing this just for themselves. It was for us as well as for our future. They wanted us to go to university, to have a life that they didn't have a chance to live."

Gillian Bottomley, in After The Odyssey: A Study of Greek- Australians, claims that economic success for the Greek cafe operators came about because of the labour-intensive methods used by them. Keeping their cafes open for longer hours meant that they were able to attract more business.
Families were often organized as economic units, with a consequent reduction in overheads - outlay for wages might be minimal, and communal living on the premises further reduced costs. The establishment of cafes, mainly by the Kytherians, in country towns, typically followed this labour-intensive pattern. Two brothers might combine to buy the business, wives and children would help to run it, nephews, cousins or more brothers would be sponsored from Greece as trade expanded. Another shop might be purchased in the same town or nearby, one brother would move out with his family to run it, and so the pattern went on. Many of these shop-owners brought [sic] real estate in country towns or in Sydney and began to derive income from rent as well as from business. As the sons grew up, the aim was usually to send them to universities. The family then moved to a comfortable house in the city, either selling or leasing the business and perhaps expanding investment in real estate.

Bottomley draws attention to an important difference between pre-World War II and post-war Greek migrants. "The pre-war settlers are predominantly the owners of businesses, the post-war settlers are mainly factory workers and labourers." The 1947 Census shows that 7.7 per cent of Greek-born males were labourers or similar. This figure had risen to 59.9 per cent in the 1971 Census. "The recently arrived migrants have found self-employment more difficult. The Australian economy nowadays offers less scope for the development of small businesses. Chain stores and supermarkets have replaced corner stores."

In a nostalgic letter to the Nyngan Observer in mid 1996, a writer recalled the two Greek cafes in that town and their owners, one of whom became Mayor. No mention was made of the Greek cinema operator who, for over 30 years in his enclosed and adjacent open-air cinemas, probably entertained more people than the two cafes fed.

A recent media report on a New South Wales' rural Greek cafe stated that "The Elysian is part of a fading Australia." After mentioning the proposed sale of the Greek-operated cafe at Mendooran, the article tells of the better educational and employment prospects for the children of Greek-Australians. It also comments that, as fast food stores invade rural areas, Greek cafes will fade from the scene, thereby removing potential Greek landmarks.

Dolores Hayden in her The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History observes that "Place memory and urban preservation connects urban landscape history to memory rooted in places." She explains that urban landscape history is " places are planned, designed, built, inhabited, appropriated, celebrated, despoiled, and discarded. Cultural identity, social history, and urban design are here intertwined." To some historians, this concept may seem new. Writing from her American point-of-view, Hayden raises the question, "Centuries of neglect of ethnic history have generated a tide of protest [in recent years] - where are the Native American, African American, Latino and Asian American landmarks?" To understand our own multi-faceted social history, we cannot ignore "place" in the realm of things. One is entitled to ask "Where are the Greek landmarks in Australia, and particularly in New South Wales?"

The changing occupational opportunities for the large number of post-war Greek migrants "...resulted in ethnic differentiation and a degree of pluralism that allows immigrants some freedom to maintain alternative social and cultural frameworks." This takes the form of multiculturalism. Writing several years ago in a Sydney newspaper, Gavin Cantlon noted that "...this now redundant stereotype [of the Greek cafe proprietor] has hidden the multiple contribution they [the Greeks] have made to most other occupations and professions in the country...Business, commerce, politics, sport, the arts and education have all attracted the talents of people of Greek descent." As one Greek-born person commented in 1995, "This country has been very hospitable and very good to us. But...having said that, I think, that we have been very good to this country also, and we have given everything that we have, and everything that we could give. So, it was a good partnership!"

The body of knowledge about Greek migration to Australia continues to grow and will expand as new generations of Australians of Greek descent take more interest in Hellenic migration to these shores. This is more likely to occur as those who complete higher education acquire more leisure time and seek to know more about their families. Already, the proportion of second generation Australians of Greek descent who have attained post-secondary qualifications numbers 15 per cent, which is higher than that for all Australian-born, which is 12.76 per cent. The total Australian population with post-secondary qualifications is 12.8 per cent. It is surprising that, to date, only ad hoc work has been done to record the history and social significance of Greek food catering businesses that once proliferated in New South Wales. While the Paragon Cafe at Katoomba continues to operate (albeit with strong tourist support because it is noted for its architectural beauty rather than its Greek connection), part of Greek-Australian heritage will remain, even if obliquely. If the trend espoused in Stephens' Mendooran article continues, then we may see within a short time, the demise of a once-important part of our culinary history even though Greek cafes of yesteryear are held with some fondness in people's memories. A situation of even worse proportion has already occurred to the group of 66, pre-1950, motion-picture-exhibiting Greeks (the subjects of this thesis) and the buildings that they used to control.

Once they operated at least 120 cinemas at various times in this state between 1915 and 1963 and, of that number, they commissioned 34 to be built in country areas. When one considers the differences of function and scale between a cafe and a cinema, it is understandable that the number of cinemas would not equate with the possible number of Greek cafes. What is of concern is that most of the theatres operated by Greek-Australians have either been demolished or converted, and their internal fabrics destroyed. Apart from an occasional mention in a local history book or Jean Michaelides' work on Sir Nicholas Laurantus, nothing has been recorded of these Greeks or their cinemas that served the communities in which they stood. Thus, the tangible evidence of the social, architectural and technological input that these people made to the towns in which they operated has been removed. As older residents pass away, so will their memories and the relevance to our social history of these Greeks and their "Parthenons Down Under" will disappear. At present in New South Wales, pre-1950 Greeks were generally remembered by a cafe or two.

In mid-1995, the writer was privileged to interview Emmanuel (Hector) Conomos, aged 94, who was born on Kythera in 1901, came to Sydney in 1914, and moved to Walgett in 1919 where he remained until the early 1970s. From 1927 until 1970 (with the exception of two years in the late 1930s), he was involved with cinema exhibition in Walgett. His reminiscences and those of his wife, Elly (who arrived in Walgett in 1938) and their son, George, set the writer on a quest to find similar Greeks.

One result of the interview was an analysis of The Film Weekly Motion Picture Directory 1948/49 from which a list of New South Wales' Greek exhibitors was compiled. By searching the directories from 1937/38 to 1962/63 (the time when most country areas of the state received their first television transmissions), the list grew. Having ascertained those Greeks who were exhibiting films from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, the writer then sought those who existed prior to the commencement of The Film Weekly directory in 1936/37. While viewing newspapers to find more information about the Conomos' cinemas in Walgett, it was discovered that three other Greeks had operated cinemas at various times in the town. It was thought that if this had happened in Walgett, similar situations may have occurred in other places. As more people were interviewed and newspapers and film trade magazines consulted, this was found to be true.

Below is the list of known Greek-born men who were cinema exhibitors in this state prior to the introduction of television in rural areas. (Their names are presented as they were known in the industry, and not necessarily as per their original surnames which, in a number of cases, were Anglicised.) Included in the list are the locations covered and the names of the cinemas in their charge. (A list, by towns, is provided in Chapter 5.)

Andronicus, J and N J - East Moree Theatre and Open Air
Aroney, E, Feros, P and Psaltis, G - Bingara Roxy
Bylos, C - Wyalong West Rio and Open Air, Tivoli, Reo Gardens
Calligeros, P - Temora Star and Open Air, Crown, Strand
Comino Bros - Wee Waa Star (1st), Star (2nd)
Comino, T - Bellingen Memorial
Conomos, T & B - Carinda Megalo Theatre
Conomos Bros - Walgett School of Arts and Luxury Theatre
Conson, G (Riverina Theatres Ltd) - Leeton Globe and Open Air, Roxy, Roxy Garden Theatre; Yenda Regent; Griffith Lyceum, Rio (2nd)
Coroneo, A - Armidale Arcadia, Capitol; Glen Innes Grand and Roxy; Scone Civic; Rose Bay North Kings
Coroneo, S - Cessnock Strand (1st), Strand (2nd); Tamworth Strand
Coroneo, T - Scone Civic
Crones, A - Walgett American Electric Pictures (aka Walgett Picture Palace)
Fatseas, E - Condobolin Central/Renown, Aussie Open Air
Fatzeus, E - Maitland West Rink Pictures & Lyceum Hall
Hatsatouris, E and Sons / Bros - Port Macquarie Empire, Ritz, Civic; Walcha Civic; Laurieton School of Arts and Plaza; Kempsey West Roxy; Taree Civic, Savoy
Hlentzos, Peter - Cooma Capitol and Victor
James, Chris - Cobar Regent and Open Air, Empire and Open Air; Nyngan Palais and Open Air
Johnson, J - Gundagai Theatre
Kalligeris, C and P - Boggabri Royal, Lyric Open Air
Katsoulis, J - Yenda Regent
Koovousis, A and B - Bingara Regent and Open Air, Roxy
Kouvelis, A, J, P - Young Imperial Open Air, Lyceum Hall; Cowra Lyric, Palace, Centennial Hall
Kouvelis, J (J K Capitol Theatres Ltd) - Young Strand; Temora Star and Open Air, Crown; Harden Lyceum; Armidale Arcadia, Capitol; Tamworth Capitol, Regent; Wagga Wagga Capitol, Capitol Gardens, Plaza, Strand, Wonderland Theatre; Moree Capitol, Capitol Garden, East Moree Theatre and Open Air, Inverell Capitol
Laurantus, G - Cootamundra Arcadia; Junee Lyceum, Atheneum; Tumut Montreal; Liverpool Regal
Laurantus, N - Narrandera Globe (1st), Globe (2nd)/Plaza, Open Air, Criterion Hall; Lockhart School of Arts Pictures, Open Air, Rio; Gundagai Theatre; Junee Lyceum, Atheneum; Corowa Rex; Hillston Roxy; Tumut Montreal.
Limbers, P - Cowra Lyric, Globe, Palace, Theatre Cowra
Logus, H - Hay Federal Hall
Louran, P - Goodooga De-Luxe
Lucas, P - Walcha Civic, Theatre
Margetis, B - Fairfield Butterfly, Crescent
Mottee Bros (E, D, G P) - Kempsey Rendezvous/Macleay Talkies, Victoria; Kempsey West Adelphi
Nicholas Bros (S and G) - Merriwa Astros
Notaras Bros (J & A) - Grafton Fitzroy, Saraton; Woolgoolga Seaview
Paspalas, A - Walgett Olympia Pictures
Peters (Petracos), P - Walgett Victoria Theatre
Peters (Pizimolas), A - Mullumbimby Empire
Poulos, A - Warialda School of Arts
Rosso, G - Mount Victoria Pictures; Carinda Megalo Theatre
Roufogalis, A and A - Barellan Royal
Simos, J - Cootamundra Arcadia, Roxy
Sotiros, A - Lake Cargelligo Star and Civic
Sourry, C - Armidale Arcadia, Capitol; Glen Innes Grand, Roxy; Tenterfield Lyric; Rose Bay North Kings
Spellson, G - Condobolin Central Theatre; Lake Cargelligo Star
Spellson, L - Condobolin Central Theatre; Bogan Gate Picture Hall; Lake Cargelligo Star; Tullibigeal Hall and Public Hall; Ungarie
Spellson, N - Condobolin Central Theatre; Bogan Gate Pictures (at Tolhurst Hall)
Stathis, P - Tumut Montreal
Tzannes, J - Boorowa Empire

In the early stages of researching, it was thought that the thesis might encompass all of Australia. By the time that the above list had been compiled, it was decided to narrow the research to New South Wales where there was a worthwhile number of Greek exhibitors to examine and ascertain their contribution to the state's social, architectural and technological heritage to the early 1960s.

Research was undertaken concurrently on two fronts. Firstly, interviews with as many people as possible who were exhibitors, or family members of exhibitors. This also meant consulting a number of books to ascertain why so many people migrated from Greece in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Secondly, use was made of available primary sources (for example, archive material) to construct histories of the people themselves and their cinemas, thereby balancing oral histories with documented facts.

Qualitative researcher, Lindlof, states that interviews people to understand their perspectives on a scene, to retrieve experiences from the past, to gain expert insight or information, to obtain descriptions of events or scenes that are normally unavailable for observation, to foster trust, to understand a sensitive or intimate relationship, or to analyse certain kinds of discourse.
Because archival material can only provide part of a picture, the above thoughts were kept in mind when the oral histories commenced.

Besides Emmanuel Conomos, two other exhibitors who could go back to the 1920s and 1930s respectively) were found and interviewed: George Hatsatouris (aged 89); Nicholas Andronicos (84). The wife of the exhibitor from Lake Cargelligo (from the early 1930s to the 1964), Anastasia Sotiros (aged 90) was also found and interviewed. She was able to provide an insight into the life of a Greek bride of about seventy years ago. Several men who had entered cinema exhibition in the 1940s and 1950s were also located. Where original exhibitors had passed away, family, friends or relations were sought. Many interviews were done face-to-face, the transcriptions or notes being returned for perusal and alterations, then amendments made. These documents, especially those with Emmanuel Conomos, George Hatsatouris and Anastasia Sotiros, provide exciting and vibrant first-hand accounts of Greek migrants who came to Australia with no English language and no money. Some interviewing was done by telephone where distance precluded meeting. Others completed postal questionnaires and follow-up letters were used when uncertainties arose. In their own ways, each of the tales was a story of adaptation and success.

There is an old saying: "When an old person dies, a library burns to the ground." Besides the contribution made to the body of knowledge by the early exhibitors, it was gratifying to speak with those who entered the exhibition field later on, in the 1940s and 1950s (for example, John Tzannes, Arthur and Bill Koovousis). Family members, those who were old enough to remember the 1930s, 40s and 50s, provided useful information but this was often tinged with a regretted response such as "Dad never talked much about why he did so-and-so." On the whole, family members and friends were willing to share their knowledge. They were proud that Greek migrants had made a distinct contribution to Australian history and way-of-life. There were times when the writer was able to assist in kind by supplying additional information.

A number of primary sources were used in order to substantiate and illuminate the oral histories. Documents at the Australian Archives (such as World War I Alien Registration Forms, and naturalisation records), the New South Wales State Archives (including Chief Secretary's Department and Board of Fire Commissioners' files on theatres and public halls), the State Library of New South Wales (for books, newspapers and magazines), the Mitchell Library (photographic collections, magazines and books), the New South Wales Land Titles Office, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics aided the research. In some cases, newspapers have not survived. A similar tale can be told of company and personal records. In her 1975 thesis, Diane Collins noted, as she searched for material on cinema-going, that archives of film distributors and exhibitors are "either unavailable or destroyed". More often than not, "destroyed" is the case. Once a cinema closed and/or the exhibitor passed away, there was no need to keep records. Even when a cinema was part of a chain, as the buildings were disposed of, so were the records.

The Australian Archives holds Alien Registration Forms that were introduced in 1916 and were maintained until the early 1920s. The Greek forms not only give physical and personal details, but include place of birth, date when entered Australia, then-current address and occupation. When an address changed, the person was obliged to report to the nearest police station and a form was completed. These alteration forms provided details of where each man went for a number of years prior to his involvement in cinema exhibition. Naturalisation records (those available for perusal) provided some personal details which either corroborated existing information or filled gaps. Public access to naturalisation records has a 60-year restriction placed on it. After 1937, only Archive Staff can view records, so the extraction of material was fraught with difficulties. Archive Staff were prepared to assist but had to work when their time permitted. Six weeks was taken to check through a supplied list. Although information (such as date of birth) was supplied at the outset, staff were unable to cross-check or make deductions based on knowledge acquired by the writer who was not present when the searches were made.

Of the primary sources available at the New South Wales State Archives, the Chief Secretary's Department files relating to Theatres and Public Halls proved to be valuable. While the content of files differs from building to building, in general they contain inspection reports, police reports, Fire Brigade reports, correspondence between exhibitors and the Chief Secretary, architects' reports, government gazettal notices, occasional newspaper clippings and other miscellaneous material. The Board of Fire Commissioners Theatres and Public Halls' files (New South Wales State Archives) contain similar items but not to the extent of the Chief Secretary, who was responsible for the licensing of all theatres and public halls from 1909. The files used for this thesis have not been used before by researchers. The New South Wales State Archives also holds gaol and medical records and registers of firms and company records which proved useful on occasion.

Both the State Library of New South Wales and the Mitchell Library have holdings of newspapers. Where they have survived, they provided a variety of information including dates, articles about openings, closings, deaths (obituaries), advertisements, and the occasional sketch (for example, proposed changes in 1935 to the Arcadia Theatre at Cootamundra) or photograph (for example, James Simos' car after it had been dragged from Middle Harbour in 1938 following the accident in which he drowned). In some instances, newspapers no longer exist (for example, for Lake Cargelligo in the 1930s) or holdings are incomplete (for example, Junee in the late 1920s). Occasionally, libraries misplace items. When these situations were encountered, it became necessary to seek other primary print material (for example, film trade journals) but the level of success varied. The importance of newspapers in historical research cannot be under-estimated.

Also held at the State Library of New South Wales and the Mitchell Library are a variety of film trade journals (such as Film Weekly, Film Weekly Motion Picture Directory - annual from 1936/37 to 1971, Everyones, Picture Show, Exhibitor, Australasian Exhibitor). These provide some details about exhibitors and cinemas through the years. Much of the information about openings and closings was provided to the journals by the exhibitors themselves and cannot be said to be a complete picture of events as it was not compulsory to forward such information. On occasions a photograph appears (for example, Calligeros' Strand at Temora). At times, incorrect captions have been given to photographs (for example, the so-called Palace at Cootamundra, which was Limbers' Palace at Cowra).

The Mitchell Library is the repository of many photographs. Two specific collections, At Work and At Play and the New South Wales Government Printer, contain photographs of many towns and the occasional one of a Greek exhibitor's cinema. Another collection of photographs existed at the Denis Wolanski Library, Sydney Opera House and contained views of Hoyts' cinemas in the late 1940s/early 1950s. Among these were some of the cinemas operated by J Kouvelis (for example, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga). What makes some of the views valuable, from the point-of-view of this thesis, is that they were taken in pre-Hoyts' days and showed the theatres before Hoyts attempted to modernise them. Besides the named collections, photographs were provided to the writer by exhibitors, their family members and others. Since these have come from private collections, it is unlikely that they will ever be seen by anyone outside the families concerned. The writer is fortunate to have been permitted access to them and they add an extra dimension to this work.

Certificates of Title and other documents at the New South Wales Land Titles Office provided information about sites, land transference, leases and mortgages. In some instances, this primary source proved expensive both in money and time when seeking information for more recent years. Most councils were pleased to assist with deposited plan or volume and folio numbers. Local councils and their planning departments who were contacted for heritage details of extant cinemas built for Greek-Australians willingly provided what details were extant.

There are only very limited secondary sources on cinemas and their exhibitors. While there are some local history books written about a number of the towns covered in this thesis, for the most they tend to ignore cinemas and their exhibitors. On rare occasions, the material presented is flawed and may be due to writers' inability to access archives in Sydney or their reliance on other secondary sources and/or the memories of residents. While secondary resources have been read, they have been used only where primary sources are unavailable (for example, in the event that newspapers no longer exist) and, when done, this has been noted.

A number of local historical societies were contacted during the course of the research and were asked about their local cinemas and the Greeks who ran them. Responses varied from nothing to a little. On rare occasions, a society was able to provide some photographs and material, often for a fee. A few seemed parochial and gave the impression that anyone from outside their areas was "poaching". A few seemed unconcerned about their former cinemas and indicated that they would "have to think about it", especially when asked about photographs. Some letters were ignored or, presumably, lost in transit.

When it was considered that sufficient material had been collected, a composite listing of exhibitors was created. This set out name (Greek and Anglicised), date and place of birth, date and place of death, date of arrival in Australia, the years in which the person was involved with cinema exhibition and the places and cinemas themselves. Sources for the information was marked "F" for family source or "A" for documented source. This list continued to grow as interviews and research continued. From the list it was possible to extract material and place it in categories. A list was made that showed place of origin and number of people from each place. While the majority of exhibitors were from Kythera, another 11 places featured in the list. The years of birth and the years of arrival in Australia were extracted and placed in separate composite lists. By comparing the two, it was possible to ascertain how old each Greek was when he arrived in Australia.

Using the interviews with people it was possible to construct a list that showed the level of English language with which each man arrived. This substantiated what other writers have said about the lack of English amongst Greek migrants. Other lists were compiled that showed the number of years it took to enter cinema exhibition, and the years in which the exhibitor commenced and finished his cinema operations. From these lists, it was easy to ascertain the duration of these men's involvement in cinema exhibition, showing that the first of subject group commenced in 1915 and the last commenced in 1957. The range for when they ended exhibition was from 1916 to 1984. An alphabetical list of all the cinema venues operated by Greeks was compiled. From this list a number of extant buildings was selected by the writer for possible inclusion on heritage lists, not only for their social, cultural, technological and architectural merits, but for their close association with Greek migrants. As a matter of interest for future researchers, a list of known architects who designed the cinemas for these men was compiled and shows at a glance that a number of well-known cinema architects were engaged.

From the interviews and other sources, a list of the men's involvement in their local communities was made. Six sub-categories were established: Lodges and service clubs; Sport; Balls/dances in their theatres; School involvement such as concerts, speech days and awards; War service, effort and recognition; Religious bi-partisanship; Other. When compiled, this listing presented an interesting overview of how these men sought integration into their communities. As a corollary to this, a list was made to show the Greek exhibitors' commercial involvement within the towns. For some, this was limited. For others, the towns benefited greatly. It would not be appropriate to exclude the input made by the wives and families of the exhibitors, so a separate list was created to show this. From the interviews, it was possible to work out that the majority of the men saw themselves as Greek-Australians. Those who could speak for themselves told how they strove to integrate into the predominantly Anglo-Saxon populations of their towns. When opportunities arose to assist their communities, such as to give their theatres gratis for school speech days, they did so. When business opportunities presented themselves, they rose to the challenge.

Two more lists were constructed from the main list: number of years involved with cinema operation; year of death (if applicable). The former revealed a wide range, from one to 52 years. For the 66 exhibitors, their involvement in cinema exhibition totalled 1,130 years (an average of 17.1 years each). When one considers that millions of people were entertained in their cinemas over these years, then it is appropriate that their contribution to our social history be acknowledged.

The lists thus provided a framework around which discussion could take place.

What has been assembled in this thesis has not been attempted before, the examination of the integration of a group from a single ethnic background and that group's contribution to cinema exhibition which was the major pre-television medium. To date, only limited work has been achieved on the contribution by British-Australians to the latter aspect, and this group formed the large majority of exhibitors. We do not possess easily identifiable Greek landmarks and one of the outcomes of this thesis is to identify a number of picture theatres as deserving of recognition for their social, cultural, technological and architectural merit and, more importantly, for their Greek connection. It is the latter reason that, in this age of multiculturalism, the necessity to have ethnic landmarks within our communities becomes more pressing. The pre-war Greek contribution to this state should be acknowledged more broadly than it has been. Official recognition of the suggested buildings as Hellenic landmarks would ensure their maintenance as reminders of those Greek men who, having migrated here many years ago, integrated into British-Australian society and built these "Parthenons Down Under".

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Parthenons Down Under - Chapter 5 [Part B] of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis.

Rex Theatre, Corowa, NSW.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

Chapter 1 of Kevin's thesis makes the importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution very clear.

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under "Cork" on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.

Continued from Part A, Chapter 5: Parthenons Down Under.

Plaza Theatre, Laurieton, (cont'd)

The theatre opened on Wednesday, 25 February 1959.

The theatre site is 110 feet to Laurie Street and 135 feet to Bold Street, with a small piece of the corner dedicated to a war memorial. Entry to the vestibule is at the corner, the vestibule running parallel to Laurie Street. The auditorium is built beside the vestibule but is longer. The facade and return wall are of brick; the remainder of the building is timber and asbestos cement sheeting. A two storey brick tower holding the vertical neon sign links the vestibule and auditorium.

The foyer-lounge is truly a delight in comfort. A ticket office is on the right whilst the massive windows and drapes, the somewhat artistic round pillar and recessed wall mirror are resplendent in the luxurious atmosphere.

Patrons enter from the right side of the foyer and the lounge-circle is right again, left of the stalls. Floors are stadious[sic] type, i.e. sloping from rear to stage, seating being erected in semi-circular fashion.

Internally, there is cement render to dado height and fibrous plaster above. The ceilings are of fibrous plaster and internal decoration is limited. Indirect wall lighting is used to soften the lines of the interior.
The interior colouring comprises two-tone grey ceiling...attractively latticed for air circulation, whilst top walls of frieze are lilac with a coral-rose dado. Lower half of walls are in silver grey and the wings are pale blue. The curtain is of red velvet and the seating is red and gold.

Seating is for 476. Facing Bold Street, and situated underneath the projection suite, is the confectionery shop.

'Whether Hatsatouris Bros. live or die, the Plaza will go on living - in Laurieton!' he [Peter Hatsatouris] declared. 'It will ever by YOURS - a monument to the confidence we have in your town, and will remain to be praised by succeeding generations for its boost to the entertainment of Laurieton.'

Mr. Hatsatouris said the theatre was a true local effort . . . built by local craftsmen . . . made mostly of local materials . . . and operated by local staff...'It is yours to enjoy...'
Preserving Our Ethnic Past - Fulfilling the Guidelines

In the Introduction to the Movie Theatre Heritage Register for New South Wales 1896 - 1996, the writers state that
Almost no purpose-built cinemas have been recognised in New South Wales (or indeed the whole of Australia) as items of environmental heritage by their having Permanent Conservation Orders (PCO) placed upon them. In fact there are almost none. Compared to the building genre of domestic architecture, their representation is less than minuscule.

Compared to other types of buildings (for example churches and houses), cinemas and theatres have not been acknowledged as important pieces of our state's heritage. The Introduction discusses why some types of buildings are considered environmental heritage items more than others by reviewing the Reports of Commissions of Inquiry into four cinemas upon which PCOs were sought. One of the difficulties with the inquiries was that there are many who perceive heritage to be "associated with age or antiquity and/or items associated with high culture." At the time of the Wintergarden Theatre, Rose Bay Inquiry in 1985, there was only one cinema (ie the State Theatre, Sydney) on the register of the National Estate, but it was also noted that on it were 40 Gothic Revival churches in the Sydney Region. Sadly, the Wintergarden was not considered to be of equal heritage worth and subsequently demolished. The Commissioner of Inquiry stated,
For these arguments to be valid the phenomena of public entertainment would need to be of the same cultural significance as religion. Though both phenomena have deep roots in our past, I doubt if they could be held to be comparable in any way.
He went on to say,
Anyone who experienced the phenomenon of going to the movies before the advent of television would now be in their early 40s at least. In 50 years time there will be practically no-one alive who will have experienced it. Of what interest to that generation will be the movie experience of the 1920s-1950s' generation.

In the light of this statement, one might ask similar questions about the heritage value of former royal palaces, ancient Greek temples, old steam ferries, cemeteries, Aboriginal sacred places, and Christian churches (especially if one is of a non-Christian faith). As Thorne's Introduction points out, the tradition of mass entertainment has its roots in ancient Greece and, whereas pagan temples and Christian churches "represent segments in the history of the social and psychological need for many or most human beings", cinemas are also a representative segment of mass entertainment. This has long been ignored and should be redressed.

In 1979 the Australian ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance (aka Burra Charter) was adopted as the standard for heritage conservation practice in Australia. The charter set down guidelines that "apply to any place likely to be of cultural significance regardless of its type or size." Not the word "type". Cultural significance "means 'aesthetic, historic, scientific or social value for past, present or future generations'." The cinemas listed above do have considerable cultural significance (aesthetic, historic, scientific and social value) not only in terms of their local area but in relation to this state. In addition to this, they have national significance since they are part of our Greek migrant heritage. Briefly, their architectural and decorative schemes reflect the periods in which they were constructed. Being the type of building that they are, architects and exhibitors utilised the latest ideas in their design and construction. Aesthetically they were pleasing to the people of those times and give future generations first hand knowledge of period design and decoration of a particular genre of building. Although the buildings listed are not known to have been the scenes of momentous, historic events, they are part of the history of mass entertainment. The invention and development of moving pictures and their exhibition is a specific event in the history of popular entertainment (which started in ancient Greece). As well, the films exhibited at the cinemas starred many notable exponents of the acting profession (including people such as Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson) and many were directed by foremost cinematic directors (for example Alfred Hitchcock and Cecil B DeMille). If it were not for the medium of film, most Australians would never have been able to experience the work of these people. When the cinemas listed above were built, they utilised the latest in scientific technology for film projection, electric lighting (including neon) as part of the decor, and other mechanical devices (such as automatic ticket machines, electric fans and motors). The social aspect of going to the pictures has already been discussed in a previous chapter and does not need to be reiterated. The cinemas listed had relevance for past generations, and have relevance for present and future generations.

Heritage Studies is a guideline for ascertaining the significance of a place using a three-step management system described in the NSW Heritage Manual, viz investigate significance, assess significance and manage significance. To determine the importance of a site, a list of 35 historical themes relevant to this state is provided in the Manual itself. Added to this are 9 "Draft National Historical Themes" compiled by the Australian Heritage Commission. Even a cursory glance at both lists reveals that the 6 cinemas listed above fit into a number of themes. In the national ones, they relate to: No 2 Peopling the continent; No 3 Developing local, regional and national economies; No 4 Building settlements, towns and cities; No 5 Working; No 6 Educating; No 8 Developing cultural institutions and ways of life; No 9 Marking the phases of life. From the state list, the cinemas fit the following themes: No 1 Aboriginal contact; No 10 Townships; No 11 Migration; No 12 Ethnic influences; No 14 Communication; No 18 Commerce; No 19 Technology; No 25 Social institutions; No 26 Cultural sites ("from low to high culture"); No 27 Leisure; No 32 Education; No 35 Persons.

Taking the national themes, the 6 cinemas are directly linked to the 10 Greek men who were responsible for them and they represent the much larger group of immigrants (theme No 2) who came to this country from Greece. Because of their lack of English and other skills, they were forced to seek employment wherever they could obtain it. This meant that, often, they had to move to country towns. In these places, their work as food providers and cinema exhibitors should not be under-estimated. Through their hard work and perseverance, they helped the economies of the towns in which they lived (theme No 3). The building and operation of their cinemas created employment for local people (theme No 4), thereby adding to the local economy and helping to foster further growth within the towns (refer to comments by Mayors at beginning of this chapter). The exhibitors all started in the food trade and moved into cinema exhibition, thereby showing that this country was not inflexible in its acceptance of one endeavouring to better oneself. Their working lives (theme No 5) deserve to be acknowledged. The cinemas themselves provided education for the masses who attended, offering them glimpses of faraway places, famous actors, stories both incredible and mundane, news, travelogues, etc. The influence of the cinema affected our cultural outlook in numerous aspects of daily life - in fashion, architecture, decoration, music, literature, to name a few (theme No 8). With the rise of cinema and its subsequent decline in favour of television - from being part of a large group and experiencing social interaction to the predominantly anti-social television viewing of the post 1960s - the six cinemas represent the passing of a phase of life. The Strand at Young (1923) represents an early example, while the Plaza at Laurieton (1959) shows the end of an era in its design, construction and decoration.

At a state level, the 6 cinemas fit into 12 of the historical themes listed. The overall treatment of Aborigines (theme No 1) in the first half of this century is reflected in the way they were treated at country cinemas - a separate seating section and often having to use a separate doorway. While this was not "interaction", as stated in the list of themes, it was discrimination expected at the time and the cinema exhibitors were forced to follow community expectations. One might refer to it as reverse interaction.

Theme No 10 "Townships" includes the growth and development of towns. The Greek refreshment rooms and the Greek-owned cinemas added to each town's growth and development. While Greek food might not have been served in their refreshment rooms, "Aussie-fare" was fed to countless thousands. The cinemas were social gathering places that provided entertainment for many years and were important edifices in their streetscapes. "...a credit to the town and district" said the Leeton Mayor in 1930." "...a monument to the town and one of the finest buildings of its kind outside the city..." said the Mayor of Bingara in 1936. (In the case of Bingara, the adjoining shops and residence must be considered along with the theatre.) If these buildings were acknowledged worthy of such comments when they were built, are they not worthy today?

Theme No 11 is "Migration" and the 6 cinemas may be taken as the culmination of the lives of the men who came from Greece so long ago. Having worked as shop assistants, taught themselves English, operated refreshment rooms, they moved slowly up the ladder of success to become theatre managers, prominent men in their towns. The cinemas buildings represent that ascent: the seeking and achievement of success. The next theme (No 12 "Ethnic influences") is tied to the earlier one. These same men (those who married and had families), were determined that their own children should not have to go through the hardships that they had experienced. They worked hard, became financially successful, saw to it that their children were well educated at secondary and, quite often, tertiary levels, with many entering the legal, medical and accounting professions. This work ethic, engendered into the young men who arrived from Greece so long ago, has influenced others who have seen them become successful. While this may not always have been free from envy and racist taunts, it has proved that Australia is a land of opportunity and people can rise to "comfortable" heights.

"Communication" (theme No 14) is synonymous with mass media, and the cinema, in its heyday from c1910 to the early 1960s (in country NSW), was THE mass medium. Theme 32 "Education" is linked to this theme. People learnt about the world from the films that they saw. Places where they could only hope to travel, people and cultures about which they might only have read. Great actors of the English-speaking stage brought Shakespeare to country towns through the films in which they starred. Musicals with both popular music and the classics filled the ears of those present in the auditoria. People could hear Mario Lanza in "The Student Prince" (released 1954), see Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in "Fantasia" (released 1940), or watch big names from the swing bands in any number of films made in the 1930s and 1940s. People watched to see the latest fashions, furnishings, types of cars, architecture, accessories, etc. It was not unusual for newspapers (especially in the 1930s) to have sections for ladies on where film starlets lived, or what they were wearing or using on their faces.

Cinemas contributed to the retail establishments of the towns, whether through food purchases or purchases associated with what people had seen on the screens. They provided jobs for people (ushers, projectionists, cleaners, lolly boys, cashiers, odd-jobbers) which, in turn, assisted the commercial life of a town. (Theme No 18 "Commerce") A number of the exhibitors did not only operate cinemas. As shown in Chapter 8, there were quite a few who became involved with other commercial enterprises which helped the towns to grow (eg electricity supply, ice works).

For the cinemas to work correctly, they needed to have the appropriate "Technology" (Theme No 19). Building construction techniques improved as the years past. From the early days, cinemas had to be equipped with the latest in projection equipment and, with the coming of sound, had to be updated or replaced. Better interior and exterior lighting was employed by exhibitors as they sought to improve their buildings, thereby adding value to their properties and prestige to the towns themselves. Even adding an electric motor to a stage curtain or installing "deaf aids" were technological advances. As wide screen formats arrived in the early 1950s, new technology was used to offer patrons CinemaScope films and better sound systems. In order to maintain film supply and patronage, exhibitors were forced to keep abreast of the latest technology.

Theme No 25 "Social institutions" offers examples where people might come together to experience social interaction (eg CWA, Masonic lodges). In its day, the cinema was probably more of a place for social interaction than any other institution, including churches. As well, it was egalitarian (except for Aborigines as mentioned above). The following table shows the popularity of cinemas over other forms of social interaction in 1921. While church attendance and social clubs were not subject to any entertainment tax, it is probable that they did not have anywhere near the level of attendance of those entertainments listed below.

City (Sydney)
Suburbs (Sydney)
Country NSW



Picture Shows

Dancing & Skating



Taxable admissions totalled 28,178,931 and the population of NSW according to the 1921 Census was 2,099,763. A simple calculation reveals that everyone in the state attended the pictures 13.4 times during 1921. The figure would be higher if one were to include non-taxable admissions and eliminate the very young, the old and infirm and those not interested in attending.

The cinema venues were important "Cultural sites" (Theme No 26). They may be taken by some to represent "low" culture, but the figures above and those offered in the Appendices indicate that the cinema was an important part of our cultural life as we watched Australian-made films, or stayed in touch with our roots via English films or learnt new ways from American films. The next theme (No 27 "Leisure") is closely linked to No 26. The taxable admissions speak for themselves. Australians have enjoyed leisurely pursuits and our working standards in the first half of the twentieth century guaranteed leisure times and the cinema was a major activity geared to meeting this. For example, Saturday afternoon at "the flicks" was an institution for millions of children.

Australians have been educated (some may argue for worse rather than better) by the films that we have seen. When one considers the number of cinema admissions per year from c1920 to the early 1950s (as listed in the appendices), there is every reason to believe that the number attending churches was a lot less. If some people learnt their moral values from churches, there is the strong probability that many more learnt them from secular and cultural education which included visiting the cinema, hence the importance placed on the Chief Censor. It was not until the second half of this century that cinema "baddies" started to win (often with an overuse of violence) and, as a result, our social values have been challenged. In "'the old days", morals were upheld, good was promoted and virtue rewarded in the films that we saw. Besides the many and varied feature films, patrons saw newsreels, travelogues, educational featurettes, musical interludes, cartoons. All of these provided (Theme No 32) "Education". In the mid-1920s, for example, patrons in some places had demonstration films on how to do the latest dances, while at Bogan Gate it was recorded that the Sunshine Harvester Company screened special films for farmers in 1929.

The final theme (No 35 "Persons") encompasses each and everyone of the Greek-Australian exhibitors and their life-stories. Theirs were not easy lives, but they showed that it was possible to triumph over adversities (whether lack of English and work skills, fires, economic hardships, discrimination, etc). The story of these Greek men, and the wives who helped them, is part of our nation's migration history and deserves recognition. These men went beyond the refreshment room stage - they became cinema exhibitors and entertained the masses.

From 1915 to the early 1960s, the Greek-Australian exhibitors provided a service for millions who passed through the doors of their cinemas. If one were to take, for example the Luxury Theatre at Walgett and attempt to approximate the number of people it served from the time of its opening in 1937 to 1962, the figures would show that over 950,000 patrons passed through its doors. This figure is a conservative estimate. This is based on two-thirds of the theatre's seating capacity and the number of screenings over 25 years. From 1937 to 1940, it screened three times each week, giving an estimated attendance of 155,844. For the next 22 years, it screened twice weekly, with a small number, say 5, extra public holiday or special function screenings. This would give a patronage of approximately 798,534. It is most probable that Saturday nights were full houses and the numbers given here are on the low-side. The figures do not include numbers who attended balls, dances and other functions on non-picture nights. If similar calculations were applied to the six cinemas listed above that are being suggested for heritage listing, then it could be shown that they have served millions of people during their cinematic lives.

Is It Too Late?

Besides the social, cultural and education functions of these buildings, one should not forget their architectural merits, each representing different aspects of cinema building development. While having been converted into a hardware store, the Strand at Young retains much of its original decoration. The stage has been sealed-off, but the proscenium remains. The original ceiling is extant, although modern florescent light fittings hang from it. At the rear of the dress circle, the projection box has had its portholes covered. The decorative dress circle balustrade survives. Along the side walls, the ventilation windows have been opened up and plain glass installed, to provide natural light. The facade has been painted an unbecoming dark brown, the effect of which is to lessen the height of the building and make the decorative features less discernible. However, the conversion has been sympathetic and, although it may not be economically practical to convert the building into a cinema or community centre (there is a large Town Hall in Young), the Strand should be protected from further alterations or demolition as it is a good example of a 1920s picture theatre and was the first major building project undertaken by Jack Kouvelis.

Although still a single screen cinema, the Saraton at Grafton (1926) leads a precarious life. Should a multiplex centre be built in the town, the days of the Saraton would surely be numbered. Seating over 1000 on two levels, the theatre is capable of being converted into a community centre, with the income from the shops in front helping to off-set its running costs. Internally, the building was modernised in the 1930s, turning it into a modest Art Deco cinema. Its wide stage, replete with orchestra pit in front, is suitable for small, live productions. The building is in good condition throughout, according to the owner when telephoned in 1996. While it is in constant use for films, it has no preservation order on it and could be lost in the event already stated of a multiplex being built. Similarly, it would be a great loss to the state's cinema heritage if it were to be twinned, tripled, or so forth, as the Saraton is a delightful representative of a 1920s facade and 1930s Moderne interior. "The theatre is one of the most decorative and architecturally handsome in NSW." While the Notaras brothers who built it, only operated it for a few years before leasing it to a northern rivers' circuit of cinemas until the late 1960s. Since its re-opening in 1982, the family has retained exhibitorship.

In Leeton, when the Roxy was threatened with redevelopment in 1977, the local community fund-raised approximately one-third of the purchase price and the local council contributed the rest. Ownership is vested in the local council and the theatre has been progressively upgraded to provide a larger stage area, new dressing rooms, and better live theatre facilities. It is used for live presentations and films. Fortunately, the National Trust has classified the theatre. Installed in the theatre in 1987 was a WurliTzer theatre organ, purchased by the Leeton and District Community Advancement Fund. "The interior of the theatre is also virtually intact from its date of construction, and offers a rare experience to view a country picture theatre...still serving its community some 65 years after opening." Its facade is memorable, but the quality of interior decoration, when compared with the Saraton at Grafton, the Roxy at Bingara and the Rex at Corowa, is of a lesser degree. Yet, if the Leeton theatre has been classified, then the other three should also be, because of their better architectural and decorative merits, and for their Greek connections.

At Bingara, the corner two storey block, with adjoining cinema and shop must be seen as one unit. The Roxy has been used primarily for storage purposes since its closure in 1959. The vestibule with its street-facing ticket box is extant, and a cafe operates in the vestibule. A small kitchen has been built into part of this area but, according to a local resident, the public can still enter the auditorium through the original doors "to have a look". The raked rear section is intact, complete with original seats. The flat stalls area is used for storage. Most of the auditorium decoration is intact, as is the original paintwork, although it has been neglected for many years. The theatre's proscenium was never altered to show CinemaScope. Hence, its original appearance has been preserved. The adjacent shops still function and, above the corner one, the residence is still in use. The town itself is without a community centre with theatrical capabilities and the Roxy could be utilised as such. If necessary, the adjacent two-storey shop and residence could provide extra foyer, administrative, dressing room and storage space. "As an almost-untouched Art Deco country cinema of the middle 1930s, it is a rare surviving example of its type and era." The corner block as a whole is worthy of acknowledgment for its Greek connection, while the cinema in particular is a sole survivor of a particular architectural genre.

Corowa's Rex theatre is in use as a retail store and retains most of its cinematic elements. Even the main stage curtains (installed in front of the proscenium in the 1950s for CinemaScope) remain, albeit swept upwards to keep them out of the way of customers. Behind these curtains, the original proscenium is intact. All of the vivid yellow and red Art Deco stencilled motifs remain on the walls, proscenium and ceiling. There is little possibility that it will ever be returned to its original use. However, provision should be made to ensure that its architecture and decoration are retained in the event of its present use being changed. It is an excellent example of decorating using stencils rather than plaster (as at Bingara) and its vibrancy is as alive today as it was when Nicholas Laurantus opened it in 1936. "Unlike the more subdued decoration of other Art Deco cinemas, the Rex's decor provides a touch of sparkle to what otherwise is a typical county town."

The final cinema is the Plaza at Laurieton (1959). Built in the post-war architectural doldrums, it nevertheless is representative of that style. Its connection with the Hatsatouris brothers who had a number of cinemas in the area, stretching back to the late 1920s, gives it an historical connection. The Plaza operates today (as a single screen). "While the Plaza could be described as typical of the cinema buildings once found in coastal holiday areas to trade off tourism, particularly in Queensland, according to G Hatsatouris, it was better than most." It is a good example of late 1950s architecture of which there are, unfortunately, very few surviving cinemas left with which to compare it.

We cannot always judge what should be preserved by simply demanding that only the prime examples be kept. If this were the case with church buildings, then only major cathedrals in capital cities would be retained. This idea is refuted by the fact that the National Trust list contains many churches. In the case of cinema buildings, much of what might have been considered to have been "the best" has already disappeared because, when they closed in the 1960s and 1970s, too few people were concerned about this "low" cultural form. The same arguments can be put forward regarding preservation of former Greek refreshment rooms. It is important that these not be judged solely against the Paragon at Katoomba.

Apathy or Ignorance?

A survey of the local councils in whose areas the six cinemas above are located has revealed the following. In Young, there is no listing of the former Strand. It is not even in the Council's Local Environment Plan (LEP). At Grafton, the Saraton is merely a part of the Grafton Urban Conservation Area plan. It is not listed separately in Council's LEP, although a council representative stated that any proposed development of the building would mean close scrutiny to ensure that what was planned fitted aesthetically into the general area. Nothing was said about the heritage value of the existing building. The Bingara Roxy (and shops) has no listing on it at all. In Corowa, the Rex is listed in the LEP. Hastings Shire Council has not listed the Plaza at Laurieton on its LEP. In Leeton, the Roxy is listed in the LEP and, as already stated, has a National Trust classification. Not one of the buildings has any permanent conservation order on it. It was suggested to the writer that such an order on the Leeton theatre would be unnecessary since it is council-owned. Even a "safe" situation as this could be endangered should the right set of circumstances arise. While this writer commends local councils who have placed theatre buildings (both current and former) on Local Environment Plans, it is not sufficient to ensure their preservation. Because they are such prominent buildings in their communities, full and proper heritage studies should be undertaken, especially if there is any hint of a proposed re-development. These buildings are important on, at least, a state-wide basis and they need to be noted on something more than a local council list.

Figures available from the 1991 Census (the latest available at the time of writing) show that in Australia 136,028 people claimed to have been born in Greece. A further 151,082 indicated that they were second generation Greek, of who 49,706 resided in New South Wales. The Census found that, in New South Wales, 44,330 people claimed to be of Greek origin. Those who indicated that Greek was spoken in their homes numbered 94,814. It would be reasonable to assume that there are many Australians living in this state who do not speak Greek in their homes although their forebears were Greek. Their number will continue to increase as time passes, but it will not necessarily mean any lessening of their Greek or Greek-Australian heritages. It should be that each state of the Commonwealth ensures that all nationalities represented in our population should have specifically designated landmarks relative to them. These should be preserved for posterity, seen not as divisive elements, but as agents for the promulgation of the diversity and rich cultural mix of our nation's population. There was a time when Chinese immigrants and their establishments were considered by many to be unfavourable and disreputable. One only has to visit the specific migrant-related landmark called Chinatown in Sydney to realise that it has developed a sense of place in the minds of, not only Australians with Chinese backgrounds, but Australians generally and overseas tourists. A similar situation occurs at Cabramatta with its strong Vietnamese influence. Unfortunately, the pre-World War II Greek migrants did not "congregate" within a specific area nor have "tribal lands" such as the Aborigines. They were forced, as has already been noted, to move to many different places throughout the state in order to seek work. It is not as simple as declaring a small area as a landmark to them. Their contribution, by necessity, must be landmarks (buildings and sites) scattered across the state to show future generations what these people achieved.

In early 1997, a small, one-question survey was undertaken by the writer to identify Greek landmarks in New South Wales. Its findings show ground for concern. Three groups of people were selected: children of Greek-born, former exhibitors (Group 1); grandchildren of Greek-born, former exhibitors (Group 2); young people whose families were not associated with cinema exhibition but who have either Greek-born parents or grandparents (Group 3). The question asked was "What do you consider to be Greek landmarks (ie artefact, building or site) in this state?" A total of ten people were surveyed. Although it was planned to survey twice that number, it was felt that, because each person experienced difficulties in answering the question, it would serve little purpose to pursue the matter any further. The results are as follows. Three people (one from Group 2 and two from Group 3) could not name any Greek landmarks. The other seven suggested several Greek Orthodox churches (Holy Trinity at Surry Hills received 7 responses), three people from Group 1 suggested the Paragon Cafe at Katoomba, one (from Group 2) thought that the Greek section at Botany Cemetery was noteworthy. Because the Kytheran Brotherhood was formed in 1922 at the former Marathon Cafe in Oxford Street, this building was thought by a Group 2 person to be of importance. Another suggested the suburb of Marrickville (but this area's Greek links are not as strong as they were two or three decades ago). One person (from Group 1) suggested the Kastellorizian Club in Kingsford. It should be kept in mind that churches and clubs are usually community-based ventures of particular, often ethnic, groups rather than the work of a particular person or family. Thus, the survey has shown that there is a noteworthy lack of Greek landmarks in this state to acknowledge the role of individuals or families.

Australian society abounds in Anglo-Saxon landmarks (secular and religious) and, in the past decade or so, has come to be more receptive towards Aboriginal landmarks. It is usual for landmarks to be protected by government legislation. What, then, of the minorities who have helped to populate this country? It is nearly 160 years since the first free Greek came to New South Wales, thereafter, and possibly unintentionally, setting up a chain of migration that became much more than a trickle after World War II. Yet, there are no recognisable landmarks for these people. The same claim can be made on behalf of most minority groups (eg Italians, Indians). If multiculturalism, whether we wish it or not, is to be embodied in our psyche, then landmarks for each nationality who migrated to these shores must be identified, acknowledged, protected and preserved so that future generations of Australians are given opportunities to appreciate the sacrifices made by earlier settlers and respect their achievements.

Our interest in heritage and history has become more finely honed since the Bi-centennial in 1988. For many, this milestone sent people seeking information about their forebears. If we are to acknowledge the part played by all migrants in the development of this state, then we need representative landmarks, ones that attempt to cover many facets of their lives rather than solely spiritual. For the Greeks, what better than the six sites suggested in this chapter. The cinemas were built for the towns in which they were situated and this required faith in those towns by their builders. The men from whose minds the germ of the idea for these buildings first sprang had arrived in this country at a young age, with no English, few skills, very little money, and often alone. In order to succeed they had to "go bush" in their younger years. Once there, they grasped the opportunities offered by their adopted nation and, through integration and hard work, proved that it was possible to succeed. Practical considerations, such as prevailing economic conditions and population potential, had to be taken into account when deciding upon designs for their cinemas, but each town where Greeks built and exhibited had its very own "Parthenon".

Writing about the Acropolis in Athens, R J Hopper stated that "The Parthenon...was the great monument of Athenian glory" and represented the pinnacle of Athenian architectural and artistic endeavours. The six cinemas above are the tangible embodiments of the dreams of the Greek-Australian exhibitors. They are monuments to their glory, regardless of the construction style in which they were built. The buildings were meeting places for innumerable people of various races and creeds, places of entertainment, aesthetically pleasing, technologically and architecturally advanced for their times, and were built for the betterment of their towns. It could be argued that finer examples have already, to use film jargon, "bitten the dust" and that these six are less than fine. Since there is only a limited number from which to choose for preservation purposes, it is necessary to seek from among those extant and these six are representative of their architectural and decorative styles and are linked to our state's Greek migrants. If they are permitted to follow the same path as the 16 already demolished (out of the 34 built for Greeks), or be further altered, then future generations will have nothing of worth with which to acknowledge the physical embodiment of the achievement of the 66 Greek men who provided cinematic and other entertainment in this state from 1915 to at least the early 1960s. The six theatres deserve proper protection so that future generations (of whatever descent) can appreciate them for what they are - landmarks of Greek-Australians, viz "Parthenons Down Under".

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 15.10.2004

Parthenons Down Under - Chapter 5 [Part A] of KEVIN CORK's Ph.D Thesis.

Roxy Theatre at Leeton.

During the 1990's KEVIN CORK undertook extensive research into cinema's in Australia.

Tragically, he died before completing his work, but most of the chapters of his Ph.D. Thesis, were completed.

His wife and children have kindly given permission for his work to be reproduced.

Most Australian's would be unaware of the degree to which Greeks, and particularly Kytherian Greeks dominated cinema ownership in Australia - especially in New South Wales.

Chapter 5 of Kevin's thesis makes the importance of the Hellenic and Kytherian contribution very clear.

In 1995/6, Kevin was involved in the compiling a register of picture theatres in the state of New South Wales for the Department of Planning, Heritage Branch (now The Heritage Office). The register, was the first of its kind in Australia in the hundred years since motion pictures started.

Cinema's in this register are listed in this chapter. Histories of the cinemas's are also re-told.

Kevin was appalled that many cinema's - often unecessarily - had been demolished.

He felt that 6 cinema's in particular had to be preserved. He also felt that these "...buildings (were) worthy of acknowledgment as memorials to Greek-Australian exhibitors" and that they should "..serve as landmarks for the descendants of those Hellenes."

"They are the Strand at Young (1923), the Saraton at Grafton (1926), the Roxy at Leeton (1930), the Rex at Corowa (1936), the Roxy at Bingara (1936), and the Plaza at Laurieton (1959)."

[The picture which heads this section is of course the Roxy at Leeton.
See separate entries in this section of the kythera-family web-site for photographs and history of the Saraton Theatre, and the Roxy at Bingara.]

It is difficult to know how to pass on to Kytherians the results of Kevin Cork's important research's.

In the end, I felt that the results should be passed on in the most extensive way - i.e. in full re-publication of Chapter's.

Eventually all Chapters will appear on the kythera-family web-site.

Other entries can be sourced by searching under Cork on the internal search engine.

See also, Kevin Cork, under People, subsection, High Achievers.

This chapter was too long to post in one piece and Part B follows as the next entry.


"The viewpoint of those responsible was not that the town should be worthy of the theatre, but vice versa...In the conduct of such a theatre...they realised that their commitments were of a very heavy nature; but in their unbounding faith in the town they entered into the project with a good heart."

In a recent study, it was observed that there were, generally speaking, five stages of cinema construction in Australia. First of these was from 1896 (when motion pictures were first exhibited) to c1910 during which time local halls, town halls and public ovals were used by itinerant show men. It was not unusual for the films to be one of the acts in a touring vaudeville or concert party. The second stage was when a permanent venue was created. Often, this was little more than a primitive, open air structure. Occasionally a skating rink was converted for use as a cinema. Sometimes the enclosure was roofed thus permitting screenings in all types of weather and allowing for matinees. The third stage saw large shed-like buildings, invariably of timber framing and a combination of flat and corrugated iron, with decorative, pressed metal facades. Sometimes, the exhibitor had enough faith in his location to construct a brick building, but it invariably lacked ceilings and decoration. The fourth stage commenced after World War I when exhibitors built more comfortable, semi-palatial venues. "Through the 1920s this improvement to a more theatrical style is evident. Cinema venues...illustrate the trend to simple classical or semi-classical styling in cement render. Interiors became rendered and lined, frequently above the roof trusses immediately beneath the roof." Simple, applied plaster decorative features were used. As the 1920s progressed, the buildings took on more decoration and the term "Picture Palace" came to mean more than it did when applied to the open air cinemas and large sheds of the previous decade. The final stage "...seemed to be a more active one than that of the 1920s decade. It was conversion, rebuilding and new building in a new style that has caused some difficulty in defining." For some, it could be termed "Moderne" or "Expressionist-inspired". Others refer to it as "Art Deco". In the early 1930s, angular and stylised motifs were used but these gave way to curved and curvaceous forms in the later years of the decade. Three of the stages stated above can be applied to the cinemas built in New South Wales by the Greek-Australian exhibitors.

The relationship between exhibitors and cinema architects has seen little research undertaken on the subject. Some people assume that various cinematic architectural styles were developed and dictated by major city cinema chains (eg Hoyts Theatres). Others might conjecture that overseas models were utilised. For example, in 1927 Stuart F Doyle, Managing Director of Union Theatres, travelled to the United States of America to gain ideas prior to the construction of Sydney's Capitol and State Theatres. While Doyle may have had the money to travel overseas for inspiration, this was not the case for independent and small chain exhibitors. Little is known about their relationship with architects. During research undertaken in the early 1980s by the writer into the life and career of Alfred J Beszant (cinema exhibitor in suburban Sydney), it became obvious that his entrepreneurial flair was ever to the front where cinema building was concerned. From 1910 to 1944 (when the controlling interest in his circuit of 24 cinemas was sold to Hoyts), he was constantly building or rebuilding the cinemas that came under his control. His was the desire to provide comfortable venues and make money and he engaged a number of prominent Sydney architects, including George Kenworthy and Charles Bohringer (both of whom were also engaged by Greek-Australian exhibitors). A number of Beszant's cinemas were substantial picture palaces in their own right (eg Burwood Palatial (1921, extensively remodelled 1932), Strathfield Cinema/Melba (1927), Auburn Civic (1934), Hurstville Savoy (1937)). As the opening night programme of his Civic Theatre at Auburn told patrons,
Nothing that goes for the comfort of its guests has been left out...surroundings that are the envy of every eye...with restful ease and refinement radiating from its every point...TO YOU...the future dedicated this veritable fairyland, that will leave a lasting memory indelibly printed on your mind.

The environment in which patrons sat to watch films was important. "Environments...are not and cannot be passively observed; they provide the arena for action." Research undertaken in 1994 by the writer showed that many interviewees were aware of specific architectural and decorating elements in their local cinemas. As well, a sense of place regarding the cinemas existed in the minds of many people. For some, descriptions depended on particular patterns of behaviour associated with the building. Patrons dressed up to go to the pictures and, in more important centres, theatre staff wore special uniforms and were particularly conscious of their patron's well-being. Cinemas were places where trouble was not tolerated. "You didn't go there just to make a nuisance of yourself," was one recollection. If the exhibitors wanted to be successful, they had to have a certain amount of empathy with the expectations of the public. While the film programme should be carefully considered, taking into account local likes and dislikes, exhibitors had to pay attention to the environment in which the films were seen. Of course, this varied from centre to centre and depended on economic considerations and attendance potential. In her explanation of the difference between live theatres and picture theatres, Maggie Valentine describes this importance.
Psychological differences also exist between the two types [ie live theatre and movie theatre]. In the movie theatre, ticket buyers take with them only a mood and a memory, which is reinforced by the physical surroundings. In live theatre, the audience and actors interact, feeding off each other and creating a new experience each time. But in a movie theatre, the film is always the same. The experience of moviegoing is shaped by interaction among members of the audience and by the environment itself.

When cinemas were built, local government officials were usually among those who attended the opening nights, such was the prestige associated with the event. During the course of the evening's entertainment, these same men would stand on stage, address the audience (using words that complimented the architect, the exhibitor, the builder and others), and declare the buildings open. Either before or after the compliments, His Worship would invariably relate the importance of the new cinema to the town at large. Below is a chronological selection of examples taken from contemporary newspapers that relate to cinemas built for Greek-Australians.

Young Strand (1923) - The Mayor (Ald Rabbets) noted in his speech that the building "was a great asset as well as an ornament to the town, credible alike to the architect and the builder."

Cessnock Strand (1925) - "Cr. John Brown...congratulated the proprietor on his enterprise in erecting such a fine structure, which would prove a decided acquisition to Cessnock..."

Temora Strand (1927) - "Thanks to the enterprise of the Temora Amusements Company, our town is now the possessor of a picture theatre which is equal to any other on the southern line..."

Tamworth Capitol (1927) - "The Mayor said that...The theatre, both inside and out, was an ornament to Tamworth, and had already proved a splendid advertisement for the town. The many visitors who have had the pleasure of being shown through it have, in every instance, expressed astonishment at there being such a fine theatre in a country town."

Leeton Roxy (1930) - " 'Mr. Conson is to be congratulated on his enterprise in building a theatre which is a credit to the town and district,' said Major Dooley (President of the Willimbong Shire)..."

Wagga Wagga Capitol (1931) - "Alderman Collins said...Wagga possessed excellent public buildings...and now it had added another magnificent building in the best theatre in the country."

Wagga Wagga Plaza (1933) - Alderman Collins...praised the proprietor for the enterprise and genius that had been displayed...By the addition of the Plaza Theatre, he said, another milestone had been added to the record of progress of the beautiful town of Wagga."

Lockhart Rio (1935) - "Cr. J. J. Nolan, the President of the Lockhart Shire...congratulated Mr. Laurantus upon the erection of such a fine building in Lockhart. The new theatre was a splendid one in every way and it was undoubtedly a great asset to the town..."

Moree Capitol Garden (1935) - The Mayor Ald A J McElhome stated that "The indeed an acquisition to the town..."

Bingara Roxy (1936) - "His Worship [Mayor C Doherty] congratulated the management on their enterprise, saying that the theatre was a monument to the town and one of the finest buildings of its kind outside the city..."

Walgett Luxury (1937) - "Cr. G.D. Ritchie...doubted whether a better building could be found anywhere and knew that it would stand for many years as a monument to progress and a testimony to the enterprise of the proprietors."

Port Macquarie Ritz (1937) - "The owners of 'The Ritz' are to be complimented upon the erection of such a large and up-todate [sic] theatre, which is a mile-stone in the advancement of the town, and a definitely progressive forward movement. The building is a symbol of the faith in the town and its future..."

Tamworth Regent (1938) - " '...the large sum of money that has been expended and the planning of this new undertaking are appreciated and worthy of the highest commendation.' The Mayor then declared the new theatre open, amid applause."

These comments clearly show that new cinema buildings added prestige to local communities. Emotive words, some might be tempted to say cliches, abound in the remarks: ornament; fine; equal to any; a credit; magnificent; milestone; splendid; acquisition; great asset; enhance the prestige; monument; symbol of faith; worthy. Australians of the 1990s, who are accustomed to bombardment by mass media merchandising, may read these words and dismiss them as being equivocal. Politicians at whatever level of government have been known to be verbose in their remarks, especially at election time. This writer is of the opinion that the men who uttered the above sentences believed that what they were saying was true. Certainly, their remarks were meant to be uplifting and positive but, nonetheless, there was a truthfulness about them. If the building were more modern and better equipped than those in nearby towns, so much the better. In rural New South Wales, the advent of a new cinema could enhance a town's reputation and make residents feel that they had achieved the upper hand on other places. The following comment that hailed the opening of the Roxy Theatre at Cootamundra in 1936 sums up all of this.
He [Mayor, Ald J Rinkin] felt that the erection of this fine building would materially enhance the prestige of Cootamundra as a desirable place in which to live. By reason of its location, the splendor[sic] of its architecture, and the solidity of its construction, the theatre added charm and beauty to the main business centre of the town and would enhance the value of other property in the locality.

While what has been quoted above only relates to cinemas built by Greek-Australians, research undertaken by the writer in past years regarding non-Greek built cinemas reveals similar findings. In the years before television reached country New South Wales in the early 1960s, a cinema was one of the signs of modernity and progress. They were welcomed when first built and they provided entertainment variously for many years. "The motion picture theatre served as a significant architectural experience for millions of people." Yet, for all the accolades heaped upon them at the time of their openings, and having served their communities for years, there is little left in the 1990s of these "monuments", these embodiments of Greek-Australian exhibitors' dreams.

The Buildings

Between 1915 and the early 1960s, Greek-Australian exhibitors controlled at various times 120 venues in 60 towns in this state. Of that number, they were responsible for the construction of 34 (ie 28.3 per cent). In order to show the extensive nature of the towns served by Greek exhibitors, and provide a list of their venues, the following table is presented.

Table 1. New South Wales Cinema Venues Controlled at Various Times by Greek-Australians prior to the early 1960s. (Those in italics were built for Greek exhibitors.)

Armidale Arcadia, Capitol
Barellan Royal
Bellingen Memorial
Bingara Regent and Open Air, Roxy
Bogan Gate Picture Hall, Tolhurst Hall
Boggabri Lyric Open Air, Royal
Boorowa Empire
Carinda Megalo Theatre
Cessnock Strand (1st), Strand (2nd)
Cobar Empire and Open Air, Regent and Regent Open Air
Condobolin Aussie Open Air, Central Hall / Renown
Cooma Victor, Capitol
Cootamundra Arcadia, Roxy
Corowa Rex
Cowra Centennial Hall / Theatre Cowra, Globe, Lyric, Palace
East Moree Theatre and Open Air
Fairfield Butterfly, Crescent
Glen Innes Grand, Roxy
Goodooga De-Luxe
Grafton Fitzroy, Saraton
Griffith Lyceum, Rio
Gundagai Theatre
Harden Lyceum
Hay Federal Hall
Hillston Roxy
Inverell Capitol
Junee Lyceum, Atheneum
Kempsey Macleay Talkies, Victoria
Kempsey West Adelphi/Roxy
Lake Cargelligo Star, Civic
Laurieton School of Arts, Plaza
Leeton Globe and Open Air; Roxy; Roxy Garden
Liverpool Regal
Lockhart Open Air; School of Arts; Rio
Merriwa Astros
Moree Capitol, Capitol Gardens
Mt Victoria Pictures
Mullumbimby Empire
Narrandera Globe (1st) and Globe Open Air; Criterion Hall; Globe (2nd) / Plaza
Nyngan Palais and Open Air
Port Macquarie Empire, Civic, Ritz
Rose Bay North Kings
Scone Civic
Tamworth Capitol, Regent, Strand
Taree Civic, Savoy
Temora Crown, Star and Open Air, Strand
Tenterfield Lyric
Tullibigeal Hall, Public Hall
Tumut Montreal
Ungarie Hall
Wagga Wagga Capitol, Capitol Gardens, Southern Cross, Strand, Plaza
Walcha Theatre, Civic
Walgett Picture Palace, Olympia Pictures, Victoria Theatre, Popular Pictures (School of Arts), Luxury

Warialda School of Arts
Wee Waa Star (1st), Star (2nd) (School of Arts)
West Wyalong Rio and Open Air, Tivoli, Reo Garden
West Maitland Lyceum Hall, Rink Pictures
Woolgoolga Seaview
Yenda Regent
Young Lyceum Hall, Imperial Open Air, Strand

The distribution of where the Greek exhibitors were situated does not follow any particular pattern and the time in which Greek exhibitors showed pictures was not constant. With the exception of three suburbs in Sydney, (Fairfield, Rose Bay North and Liverpool), the Greek exhibitors kept to country areas. Along the North Coast, they stretched over eight centres, from Taree to Mullumbimby. In the Hunter Region, four towns were represented. The Blue Mountains, only ever the home of a few cinemas anyway, had one Greek at Mount Victoria for a very short time. The Northern Tablelands had six towns (if one includes Inverell) with Greek exhibitors. In the North/North-West of the state, Greeks exhibited in 11 towns. It is in this area that Conomos Bros of Walgett "sent out" Peter Louran to Goodooga and Theo Megaloconomos to Carinda where both opened cinemas. In the Southern Highlands, only one town is represented. By far the biggest concentration of Greek exhibitors was in the Southern/South-Western part of the state (including the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area). Greeks ran the pictures in 25 towns in the area. Some of this concentration is, in part, owning to the work of Nicholas Laurantus who, for a time had his own cinemas (Narrandera, Lockhart, Corowa and Hillston), but was instrumental in having his relatives operate others at various times in Cootamundra, Junee, West Wyalong, Tumut and Gundagai. A similar situation occurred on the North Coast where the Hatsatouris brothers operated cinemas in Port Macquarie, Taree, Laurieton, West Kempsey and Walcha. George Hatsatouris' brother-in-law managed the West Kempsey venue (42 kilometres away from Port Macquarie) and Philip Lucas and his wife Helen (nee-Hatsatouris) ran the show at Walcha, 172 kilometres from Port Macquarie.

Just as British-Australian exhibitors engaged the services of prominent Sydney architects to build comfortable venues in order to make money, so too did the Greek-Australian exhibitors. With the passing of time and the loss of reference material, some of the theatre architects have not been able to be identified. Among the architects whose names have been found are some of considerable importance in the design and construction of picture theatre buildings in this state. The theatres built for Greek exhibitors ranged through the period 1915 to 1959.

Table 2. Year of Opening, Towns, Venues, Greek Exhibitors, Architects - 1915 - 1959.
(The number after a theatre's name indicates the construction stage into which it fits. See above for details.)

Town and Name of Venue

Walgett American Pic Palace /2
A Crones

Young Imperial Open Air /2
P & J Kouvelis

Young Strand /4
J Kouvelis
Soden & Glancy, Sydney

Cessnock Strand /4
Narrandera Criterion Hall /4
S Coroneo
N Laurantus

Grafton Saraton /4 later /5
Notaras Bros
F J Board, Lismore

Temora Strand /4
Narrandera Globe (2nd) /4
Tamworth Capitol /4
P Calligeros
N Laurantus
J Kouvelis
Clement Glancy, Sydney
W Innes Kerr, Sydney
Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson, Sydney

Tamworth Strand /4
Kempsey Rendezvous /4
Merriwa Astros /4
S Coroneo
Mottee Bros
Nicholas Bros
G L Grant, Sydney
C Bruce Dellit, Sydney

Junee Atheneum /4
N Laurantus
Kaberry & Chard, Sydney

Leeton Roxy /4
G Conson (Riverina Theatres Ltd)
Kaberry & Chard, Sydney
(G W A Welch of Leeton, supervising architect)

Wagga Wagga Capitol /4
J Kouvelis
Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson, Sydney (G P Turner, of Wagga Wagga, supervising architect)

East Moree Danceland /4
Wagga Wagga Plaza /4
J and N Andronicos
J Kouvelis
H H Court, Moree (built walls, roof, etc 1935)
Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson, Sydney

West Wyalong Reo Gardens /4
C Bylos
Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson, Sydney (G P Turner, of Wagga Wagga, supervising architect)

Lockhart Rio /5
Moree Capitol Gardens /2
N Laurantus
J Kouvelis
Allan & Rowlands, Narrandera
Crick & Furse, Sydney

Cootamundra Roxy /5

Leeton Roxy Gardens /4
Hillston Roxy /4
Bingara Roxy /5

Corowa Rex /5
East Moree Open Air /2
J Simos (et al)

G Conson (et al)
N Laurantus
Psaltis, Feros and Aroney
N Laurantus
N Andronicos
W Kenwood & Son, Sydney (G Mammett, Cootamundra, supervising architect)
L J Buckland, Sydney
Allan & Rowlands, Narrandera
W V E Woodford/e,
109 Pitt St, Sydney
Allan & Rowlands, Narrandera

Walgett Luxury /5
Lake Cargelligo Civic /5
Port Macquarie Palatial Ritz /5
Conomos Bros
T Cassim/A Sotiros
E Hatsatouris & Sons
C Bruce Dellit, Sydney
H Helman, Forbes
G N Kenworthy, Sydney

Tamworth Regent /5
J Kouvelis
Crick & Furse, Sydney

Goodooga De-Luxe /2
P Louran

Condobolin Renown (remodelled) /5
E Fatseas
Bruce Furse & Associates, Sydney

Taree Civic (rebuilding completed) /5
G Hatsatouris
G N Kenworthy, Sydney

Laurieton Plaza /5
Hatsatouris Bros and B Longworth
Kenworthy, Traill, Arena & Associates, Sydney
(J Arena did the design)

Among those of especial note is C Bruce Dellit whose Sydney War Memorial in Hyde Park was designed in 1929, shortly after he designed the Astros Theatre at Merriwa. A comparison of front elevations of both buildings shows a slight similarity. It would be interesting to conjecture that Sydney's Hyde Park gained from a cinema experiment at Merriwa. Certainly, both buildings have a theatrical element. The Astros was bull-dozed only a few years ago in the name of progress, its designer unknown at the time.

In their early years of cinema exhibition, some of the Greek-Australian exhibitors used public halls (ie the first stage of cinema construction). An early example of this occurred during December 1915 when Emanuel Fatzeus utilised his Lyceum Hall and a nearby roller skating rink in West Maitland for cinematic performances. It was reported that the 1000 "seats are of a comfortable nature, and the electric lighting plant and machinery are on the most improved lines, the biograph being one of the latest Pathe models." J J Ernst was in-charge of the operating box and Misses Dumbrell and Harford provided the music on piano and violin respectively. Fatzeus' employment of British-Australians may have been two-edged: firstly there may have not been any Greek people proficient enough for the jobs; secondly, by employing those mentioned, patrons might appreciate his attempt at integration into the existing society. While Fatzeus was able to use existing buildings for his own purposes until 1917 when his cinema enterprise closed, others used public halls at various times up to the 1960s (for example, Comino Bros at Wee Waa).

It was not unusual for stages of building development to overlap. The second stage involved the construction of two open air venues by Greek-Australians - one in 1915 at Walgett, and the other in 1919 at Young. Success when screening at the Walgett School of Arts in 1915 must have encouraged Alfred Crones (aka Angelo Coronis/Coronces) into constructing the American Picture Palace (variously known as Crones' Picture Palace and Walgett Picture Palace) which opened on Tuesday, 17 August 1915. The local newspaper gave no details about the venue but did state that there was an "extra fine programme" and that the audience was not as large as anticipated owing to the very cold night and the fact that the cinema was open air. The last time it is mentioned in the local press is a short item in May 1916. With that, the first cinema built in New South Wales for one of Greek descent passes into oblivion.

No explanation has been found as to why Fatzeus at West Maitland ceased to screen pictures in 1917. Rather, newspaper advertisements became fewer and his cinema business seemed to fade away. In 1917, only the odd dance at Fatzeus' Hall was advertised in the local newspaper. It is possible that other cinema proprietors in West Maitland managed to monopolise the rental of film product. It may also have been the "alien-isation" of Greeks during World War I that saw his business decline. The son of one German migrant stated that his German-born father, who arrived in Australia in 1911, was forced out of his cinema business by his other partners during World War I because of his former nationality. Patronage at the theatre had dropped and the partners blamed it on anti-German feeling. Crones and Fatzeus may have faced similar experiences and their businesses declined. These were the only two Greeks known to have been showing films during World War I, and no relatives have been found from whom information might be obtained. Thus it is pure speculation about why they ceased exhibiting. Crones moved to Sydney in 1916 and, after a short time, disappeared from the scene. Fatzeus remained at West Maitland until c1918 then disappeared.

The second Greek exhibitors to build in the style of the second stage were Peter and Jack Kouvelis who registered the firm of Imperial Pictures in Young on 2 January 1919. Shortly before this, they were screening films in a hall (Lyceum Picture Hall) in Boorowa Street. In late 1919, they constructed an open air cinema adjacent to the hall. The Imperial Pictures opened on Monday, 17 November and remained open air until 1923 when it gained a roof - "new Waterproof Canvas Theatre". By that year, the adjacent hall had been demolished and Jack Kouvelis was erecting a new cinema on the site. The canvas roof may have been a necessity to ensure continuity of screenings in all weathers. When the new cinema opened on 1 May 1923, the Imperial closed. Jack Kouvelis retained an interest in cinemas, going on to form J K Capitol Theatres Ltd, which operated a chain of country cinemas in New South Wales.

Although the various stages of cinema construction overlapped, those Greek-Australian exhibitors who built skipped the third stage (large barn-like structures with the least amount of comfort for patrons). This occurred because the early Greek builders drew upon the cheaper, second stage for their inspiration even thought the third stage had evolved by the time they were building. By the 1920s, the fourth stage was clearly in evidence in theatre building construction and this was when the newer generation of Greek exhibitors started to build. They knew that, if they wanted to succeed, they had to make their cinemas better than what had been around in earlier stages of construction.

The first of the cinemas to represent the fourth stage was that built by Jack Kouvelis at Young and superseded his adjacent Imperial Pictures. Having failed to persuade the local council to erect a new civic hall (which he was prepared to lease), Kouvelis demolished the old wooden and iron Lyceum Hall and erected a modern theatre on the site. With this, the Greek-Australian exhibitors embarked on the construction of many fine cinema buildings.

There is no clear demarcation line between the end of a stage of development and the beginning of another. While the fifth stage, with its Moderne/Art Deco decoration, was noticeable in the decade after the 1920s, occasionally there were "throwbacks". The way of the world is such that architects are obliged to design according to clients' available finances and expectations. Just as some fine theatres were built during the fourth stage, so too were some fine cinemas built for Greek-Australian exhibitors during the fifth stage. It was not unusual for well-known architects to be engaged (see Table 2), for example C Bruce Dellit, Guy Crick, Bruce Furse, George Kenworthy and Charles Bohringer.

A Fragile Nature of Theatre Buildings

With 120 venues in the hands of the 66 subject group members at various times between 1915 and 1984, one might be forgiven if one were to assume that there is a lot on record about their personal histories and the theatres they operated. This is not the case. Until the writer undertook the interviews and correspondence for this thesis, only one of the group had been contacted, this by Hugh Gilchrist for his Australians and Greeks (Volume 1). The others were surprised that anyone would be interested in recording their work or the work of their fathers. A similar story has emerged in relation to the buildings that they operated as cinemas. Instead of there being representative examples to acknowledge the contribution made by these men to the social, cultural, technological and architectural heritage of this state, we face the reality that nothing has been done to ensure a place for them in The National Estate. It is one thing to classify Union Theatres' Henry White/John Eberson-designed Capitol Theatre in Sydney as a fine example of Australian Picture Palace architecture (although it is a hotch-potch of styles and concepts borrowed from USA, with much of the plaster decoration and other elements being imported from that country). It is another thing to realise that cinemas commissioned by and for Greek exhibitors in New South Wales have not been acknowledged in a similar fashion as worthy of preservation as part of our Greek-Australian heritage. In 1995 controversy raged over the re-development application by the owners of the Mandarin Cinema in Elizabeth Street, Sydney. Aboriginal groups protested because the Australian Hall (the cinema's original name) had been the place where the first national Aboriginal civil rights meeting had been held in 1938. The National Trust, the Heritage Council and Aboriginal groups maintained that the place had significant historical and social importance to the City of Sydney. To those Australians of the future of Greek descent, it is important that Greek landmarks also be established. Part of this should relate to the social, cultural, technological and architectural contributions made by the members of the subject group.

In 1995/6, the writer was involved in the compiling of a register of picture theatres in the state of New South Wales for the Department of Planning, Heritage Branch (now The Heritage Office). The register, the first of its kind in Australia in the hundred years since motion pictures started, is divided into a number of sections. One of them is an alphabetical listing of known venues, divided into Sydney city, Sydney suburbs and NSW country towns. Using information from the Register regarding the 120 venues operated at one time by Greek-Australian exhibitors, several interesting points may be drawn regarding their legacy. Only 7 of the cinemas are still operating. One of them is in a community hall and was only operated for two years by a Greek-Australian. Two are closed, their futures uncertain. Seven have reverted to their original status, as a community halls. Thirty-six have been adapted (in varying degrees) to take another type of business. While some have retained bits of their cinematic features, others have been completely gutted and only retain their facades. The category most often found is "Demolished". Out of the 120 venues operated, 69 (ie 57.5 per cent) have been demolished. It should be kept in mind that this situation has occurred over a long period of time. Demolition of cinema buildings is an on-going occurrence, whether by fire (18 cinemas) or purposeful intervention (51 cinemas). The latter category acknowledges that, besides obsolescence, exhibitors vied with each other or endeavoured to keep abreast of new developments in technology. For example, Kouvelis' Imperial Open Air Theatre at Young outlived its usefulness within a few short years and was superseded by his new Strand in 1923. The Notaras Bros' Saraton Theatre at Grafton was extensively modernised in the 1930s, turning the theatre from a Stage 4 type of construction into a Stage 5 type, and giving Grafton a theatre of which it can still be proud some sixty years later. In doing so, all vestiges of the former silent-era cinema, except for the facade, were swept away. After the coming of television, it was not uncommon for cinema buildings to be perceived as obsolete, "a thing of the past", and not worthy of retaining. This sub-category of post-television demolitions accounts for 29 venues.

What makes the demolition of these buildings (for whatever reason and in whatever time) regrettable is that it is done for the sole purpose of replacing it with something which is considered to be more modern, rather than utilising the extant and thereby maintaining its "place" within its community. Buildings, that might have been retained as representatives of a particular architectural style or for their social history, have disappeared. Even the replacing of an older style of cinema with a newer one has meant a loss of architectural, technological and social history. While realistically it is impossible to retain everything, the alternatives should be more often considered. Yet, of the 34 cinemas built for Greeks in this state, and it is from this group that suitable landmarks to mark their contribution to our social history should be found, 16 have been demolished, 15 have been altered to various degrees, and only 3 remain relatively intact. From the 18 extant buildings, there is a limited range from which to choose if a selection were to be made to acknowledge the contribution of the Greek-Australian exhibitors to the social, cultural, technological and architectural heritage of this state.

The following examples show just how easy it is to demolish a building if one is intent. While an outhouse is one thing, a large, important public building is something altogether different. If the following cinemas had been extant at the time the Movie Theatre Register was compiled in 1995/6, each would have been classified as Category 1 (ie worthy of retention).

Firstly, the case of Jack Kouvelis' Capitol Theatre at Tamworth was little more than crass commercialism. In 1984, locals believed that the owner of the building intended to restore it and sympathetically convert it into a venue for live and film presentations. The local historical society supported the project and the National Trust was supposed to be "on the verge of classifying the theatre". What was not known was that the owner, while giving the impression that he was prepared to undertake the work, was actually negotiating with the local council to purchase the property. At dawn on 5 November 1984, a wrecking crew moved into the theatre and, despite protests from locals, the theatre was reduced to rubble. Police were not empowered to stop the work and both the owner and the Mayor were out of town and could not be contacted. Local newspaper headlines attacked: "Council Plotted its Ruin" (6.11.1984); "Demolition Hurts Many" (6.11.1984). Local high school students, angered over the loss, demanded answers from council but debate was gagged at the meeting they attended on 27 November. Two days later, Tamworth Council decided to purchase the empty site. The theatre that was reputed to have only one rival in the state when it opened in 1927 (that being Sydney's Prince Edward Theatre) was reduced to rubble in an insidious manoeuvre to gain a car park. "And the ATHS [Australian Theatre Historical Society], the National Trust, the Heritage Council, the Tamworth Historical Society, the local press and the people of Tamworth were all taken completely by surprise."

If the Capitol was a good representative of the 1920s "Picture Palace" style, then James Simos' Roxy at Cootamundra was an excellent example of 1930s Art Deco. On 6 October 1992, its then-owner, the adjacent RSL Club, commenced demolition.
Paperwork which could have saved Cootamundra's Roxy theatre from demolition this week was lost within the NSW Department of Planning in 1985, the National Trust claimed yesterday. A report in that year recommended the 56-year old theatre be listed as a heritage building. The recommendation was set to be passed by the then minister but its paperwork was lost by bureaucrats.

The President of the NSW branch of the National Trust was reported as saying that "the demolition of the theatre was just another 'disaster' for conservation in the State." Sadly, he was merely lamenting its architectural loss, rather than focusing on the broader issue of Greek-Australian cinema heritage. What makes the situation even more ludicrous is the reason given in the newspaper for the demolition. "Representatives of the National Trust were amazed to discover last week the Cootamundra Ex-Servicemen's and Citizen's Club was to demolish the theatre because they believed it had been registered as a heritage building." When the Minister for Planning, Robert Webster was asked to place an emergency protective order on the site, administrators in his department "stated that it was 'uneconomical' to save the Roxy...[he] was also told that there were a number of art-deco theatres, like the Roxy still in existence..." Thus the Roxy, "one of a few buildings which still maintained its art-deco features both with its facade and internal furnishings" was reduced to rubble to make way for - a car park!

At Merriwa, Nicholas Bros' Astros Theatre of 1928 was unceremoniously demolished in 1993, with the blessing of the local council, by a potential developer who had allowed the property to fall into disrepair in preceding years. The local historical society was unaware that C Bruce Dellit had designed the theatre. The Astros was his only building in this genre left intact. Now, four years later, there is still "an empty block of land right in the middle of the street and it looks a bit like a missing tooth!"

Sometimes, it has not been the case of an "outside" developer. Hatsatouris Bros' Palatial Ritz Theatre at Port Macquarie was an elegant Art Deco showpiece built in 1937. In the early 1970s, the family retired from the business and leased the theatre to another exhibitor. By the early 1980s, economics had come into play. As a single screen cinema, it was too large and film company politics (involving long runs in order to secure first release films) meant that it was no longer viable. One can sympathise with Peter Hatsatouris who, for sound economic reasons, demolished the Ritz in 1982 and constructed a twin cinema inside its shell. However, it was in no way a sympathetic conversion and all was lost of the original Ritz except for a small part of the facade.

Where Are They Now?

The following Greek-built cinemas have been demolished: Cessnock Strand (2nd); Cootamundra Roxy (#); East Moree Open Air; Goodooga De-Luxe (#); Leeton Roxy Gardens (#); Merriwa Astros (#); Moree Capitol Garden; Port Macquarie Palatial Ritz (#); Tamworth Capitol (#); Tamworth Strand; Taree Civic (#); Wagga Wagga Capitol (#); Walgett Luxury (#); Walgett Picture Palace; West Wyalong Reo Gardens; Young Imperial Open Air. Of these, the ones marked with (#) would have qualified for a Category 1 classification in the Movie Theatre Register for various reasons. The Walgett Picture Palace may have qualified because it was the first Greek-built cinema in New South Wales and could have been a representative of primitive open air cinemas.

The following 15 buildings have been adapted to other uses and the extant cinematic elements in each varies. Part of the Bingara Roxy is used as a restaurant, although most of the building is intact, as are the adjacent shops and residence above the corner shop. Condobolin Renown (remodelled in the mid-1950s) had a video shop and restaurant (both closed) in part of it, but its auditorium remains intact. Corowa Rex retains most of its cinematic features and its exterior and is in use as a shop. East Moree Danceland Theatre retains part of its facade but the interior has been divided into shops. While alterations were made to the Hillston Roxy in the 1950s, it retains much of its original auditorium decoration and is currently used for storage by a stock and station agent. Junee Atheneum has become the Jadda Centre for community use and, according to a local council staff member, has suffered over the years. Kempsey Rendezvous/Macleay Talkies has been adapted so well into a large video store that it is almost impossible to tell its origins. Lake Cargelligo Civic has had its stalls and stage removed to form squash courts. Alterations have been done to the vestibule and former milk bar, but its facade is relatively intact. Lockhart Rio has seen its vestibule and projection suite altered, but its brightly-painted 1930s auditorium remains. The Criterion Hall at Narrandera was used as a Telstra depot for many years but in recent times has been used by the adjacent church which is the former Plaza Theatre. This bulding was converted into a church some years ago and, although parts of it are intact, it has lost its unity as a cinema. The Regent at Tamworth was converted into twin cinemas many years ago and retains parts of its 1930s decor. The downstairs section was converted into shops but it is planned to construct two small auditoria in this area in the short term. The facade of Temora's Strand remains but the interior was completely gutted in 1969. It is currently being used as a retail store. Above its street awning, Wagga Wagga Plaza retains its magnificent Spanish-esque facade. What was below the awning has been destroyed, as has the interior into which twin cinemas were built in the late 1980s. The Strand at Young has become a hardware shop but much of its cinematic detail has been retained.

There are three cinemas intact: the Saraton at Grafton; the Plaza at Laurieton; the Roxy at Leeton. While the first two are privately owned and operate as cinemas, the Roxy is owned by the local council and is available for film screenings, live shows, and other activities.

Six Extant Examples Worthy of Preservation

What has been demolished or extensively altered is beyond our capabilities to restore. However, there are a few extant examples which should be considered as buildings worthy of acknowledgment as memorials to Greek-Australian exhibitors and which can serve as landmarks for the descendants of those Hellenes. They are the Strand at Young (1923), the Saraton at Grafton (1926), the Roxy at Leeton (1930), the Rex at Corowa (1936), the Roxy at Bingara (1936), and the Plaza at Laurieton (1959).

Using material from the time when the theatres were opened and from available photographs, it is possible to describe in writing these six buildings. Much of the descriptions for the six theatres have been written in the present tense and contemporary quotations are used wherever possible to enhance the information presented.

Each theatre is different from the others, especially those built in the 1930s when the Modern style was in vogue. The Strand at Young and the Roxy at Leeton represent the fourth stage of theatre construction; the Saraton represents a mixture of stages four and five; the last three represent the fifth stage, the Plaza being an example of post-war Modern.

1. Strand Theatre, Young.

The Strand Theatre, at the corner of Boorowa and Clarke Streets, opened on Monday, 30 April 1923, the opening being performed by the local mayor "in the presence of a very large audience". The mayor noted in his speech that the building "was a great asset as well as an ornament to the town, credible alike to the architect and the builder." The newspaper reporting the opening spoke positively about the new building, mentioning the "elaborate furnishings, the beautiful white fibrolite ceiling, the comfortable seats, the orchestra, the lighting, and the general up-to-dateness of the theatre", claiming that it was a "complete and pleasurable surprise to all who had not previously seen the interior." Kouvelis wanted the local people to look upon the building not being privately owned but "built for them to take their amusements therein...".

The open-air smoker's balcony in front of the building upstairs is another splendid example of the careful planning and thoughtfulness of the proprietor, which will be fully appreciated by patrons on summer nights.

Beneath the street awning, the facade is divided into four sections, with a decoratively tiled pilaster between each. The main entrance doors are set on either side of the middle pilaster. The end sections are used for display boards and have small, horizontal windows above. These provide natural lighting for the two sets of dress circle stairways. Above the street awning, and stretching the width of the main entrance doorways, is the smokers' balcony. Access to this is afforded by a set of doors at either end, direct from the dress circle. Between these are two small square windows that designate the projection box. At each end of the facade are two large windows that can be opened at night for ventilation purposes. The facade returns into Clarke Street. Each window and doorway is decorated with a border of decorative tiles. Just below the top of the facade is a cornice with dentils, in the middle of which is a section suggesting a false roof overhang to form eaves. The middle section at the top of the facade is stepped and a decorative tile pattern highlights this stepped effect. Except for the tiled sections, the facade has been cement rendered and painted white.

The new theatre, both outwardly and inwardly , is a magnificent example of modern architecture..., is most harmoniously designed, the beautiful plaster and cement mouldings, and the exquisitely decorated ceilings, instantly attract the eye of the visitor...The approach from the street to the theatre is through a beautifully designed and decorated vestibule with approaches to the dress circle on either side.

The vestibule floor is patterned with small tiles, using two colours. A pentagonal-shaped ticket box, with tiled dado, is fixed to the wall between two double sets of doors with panelled skylights leading into the auditorium. The vestibule walls are texture-finished and the ceiling contains three shallow domes from which hanging pendant light fittings are suspended.

The auditorium is 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep, seated with chairs of the most comfortable and latest design...Off the gallery is a balcony, which will be a great convenience on hot nights...The tableau curtain, window and curtain decoration was specially designed and executed by Farmer and Co. Ltd. The fibro plaster proscenium and ceiling decoration were specially designed and modelled by Messrs. Weine and Co., Ltd., of Sydney. The electric lighting of the theatre has received special care, and the latest electrical appliances have been installed, the lighting generally throughout being indirect, with specially selected fittings. A special feature of the lighting is the dimming arrangement fitted to the house lighting...

The proscenium features a highly-decorated Ionic pilaster on either side surmounted by a decorated pediment, in the centre of which is a feature. The walls, while plain, have six large windows spaced along them on either side, each covered with pelmet and curtains. Colouring of the walls is in three sections, becoming lighter towards the top: the dado, from dado to above the windows, then to the ceiling. The hanging pendant light fittings are centrally located along the length of the ceiling.

The ceiling follows the form of a modified truss which has no bottom cord with two side panels following the pitch of the roof and a centre panel being horizontal beneath an intermediate tie-cord - the absence of a bottom rod being supplanted by tie-rods that are exposed below the ceiling connecting the centre of the truss to the springing-point at the walls. The sloping and central sections are of fibrous plaster panels fixed with battens. Across the width of each of the central sections is a ventilation grille, the centre of which features a diamond-shaped ceiling rose from which hangs a light fitting...

The theatre is equipped with a large stage, although this section has been constructed of corrugated iron, unlike the bulk of the building which is constructed of brick.

Special provision has been made for the orchestra, also dressing rooms for the stage for the convenience of artists. The picture screen has been specially constructed so that it can be moved back when the stage is used for concerts. The scenery, drop scene, and stage setting has been specially designed and painted by Messrs Clint Bros., of Sydney...The stage is specially illuminated with spot lights.

Designed by Soden and Glancy of Sydney, the theatre is "a monument to the artistic taste of the designers". For a municipality the size of Young (3,283 in 1921), the 1,000-seat Strand is an impressive investment. As the newspaper reporter covering the opening states,
Mr. Kouvelis could have pocketed these profits [ie from the open air and old Lyceum Hall] and gave[sic] the public less for their money...The proprietor has chosen however, to build a better theatre than exists in any country town or suburb in New South Wales, and whilst congratulating him upon his enterprise, we hope...that he will receive a good return for his outlay.
2. Saraton Theatre, Grafton.

Notaras Bros (John and Anthony) of Grafton entered the picture show business when they built the Saraton Theatre in Prince Street in 1926. According to the Government Architect's Report of 24 September 1925, the interior was to be 106 feet long by 53 feet wide, brick and concrete walls, steel and iron roof, wooden floor, with no stage or dressing rooms. Seating was for 1,100 downstairs and 494 in a gallery. The theatre was officially opened on 17 July 1926 by the Mayor of Grafton, Ald W T Robinson.

The Saraton, with its three shops in front...[has] a spacious vestibule, at the far end of which are two wide doors giving access to the stalls. Downstairs, the floor space is 106ft. by 53ft. and seating accommodation has been provided for 720 persons. The main auditorium, however, is capable of seating 1100 people, but the management have left vacant a space, which could be utilised for dancing, and in which it is possible to place an additional 300 seats.

The cinema is an important part of the streetscape, with the cinema entrance and shops (one on one side, two on the other of the cinema entry) presenting a unified whole.
Above the awning there are two twelve pane multipane windows to each shop. They are set in an orange-red brick wall with flat arches above each containing a stepped Art Deco keystone design. The auditorium, set back about ten metres from the street rises above the entry roof to display a wall with central pediment, beneath which is a projecting hipped roofed bio box. At each side of the central section there is a horizontal entablature and cornice, below which are arches outlined in the wall surface.

The auditorium is unceiled and audience members are able to see the underside of the galvanised iron roof. Walls are rough-rendered, with piers spaced along them, each decorated with an applied plaster capital. A window (for ventilation) is situated between each set of piers. Light pendants hang in two rows from the steel roof girders while, at stalls level, small spherical wall lights provide illumination. (By 1928 a stage and two dressing rooms had been built.)

From the centre of the entrance vestibule, access is provided to wide reinforced concrete stairs, leading to an intermediate floor or foyer, 53ft. by 12ft., thence to the large gallery, in which are 429 comfortable seats. The building is in every sense up to date, and is an acquisition to the town. Electric light, together with the latest fittings, has been installed throughout, and the work generally is a great credit to Mr. F.J. Board, the architect, and to Mr. Walters, the contractor, and all who have co-operated in its construction.

While Notaras Bros owned the building, they ran it for only a short time before leasing it to T J Dorgan who was developing a large circuit of cinemas in the far North Coast. It was not until the 1930s that the Saraton acquired its Art Deco interior which is currently intact.

3. Roxy Theatre, Leeton.

The 1,091-seat Roxy Theatre at 114 Pine Avenue, Leeton was built for George Conson to the designs of architects Kaberry and Chard. Supervising architect was G W A Welch of Leeton and W H Jones was the contractor (also of Leeton). Its opening night on Monday, 7 April 1930 was a huge success. The Roxy is a brick building, 120 feet long by 70 feet wide, and is situated on the corner of Pine Avenue and Chelmsford Place, thus affording it a prominent position in the town. When erected, the theatre was incomplete, and the Chief Secretary gave permission for a temporary stage (18 feet deep by 45 feet wide) to be installed until such time as Conson could finish the building.

Leeton may well be proud of its Roxy Theatre, which will stand out as a monument to the enterprise of Mr. George Conson, whose faith in the area and the future of the picture industry is expressed in a building which altogether will cost in the vicinity of £15,000..

Externally, the theatre is in a modified Spanish style with Art Deco elements, although neither style has been continued into the auditorium. The rendered facade is divided into three sections, with a slightly overhanging projection box jutting out from the top of the middle section. This has been made a feature of the building. Situated in a decorative frame below is the name of the theatre in cement letters. The side sections of the facade are decorated with pilasters, cornices, and other embellishments. It is the latter and the cornices that show a Spanish influence, while the remainder of the decoration suggests angular Art Deco. Below the street awning, the cinema entrance is centrally placed, with a shop on either side. Adorning the roof line are three neon signs, each spelling out 'ROXY'. One faces Chelmsford Place while the other two are fixed to the facade return walls and face Pine and Kurrajong Avenues respectively.

A feature of the Roxy is the vestibule, with its maple panels, and marble light standards on each side of the staircase. In the centre of the vestibule is a magnificent glass chandelier, while around the edge of the ceiling are concealed colored[sic] flood lights.

The architects used the Classical style on the proscenium, splays and balcony front, and appropriate decorative pieces were fixed to the rendered walls. The ceiling is a mixture of panels with strip covers and lattice squares for ventilation. No attempt has been made to cover or disguise the tie rods. Two rows of hanging pendant lights are fixed along the sides of the ceiling.

The ceiling of the main theatre is painted to tone with the general scheme...The stage drop curtain is blue and gold and is automatically controlled...The window curtains are of blue and cream and gold. The main interior of the theatre is lit up with thirteen 150 candle power lights, while there is also an auxiliary lighting service...

It was not until 1933 that the orchestra pit, proscenium and stage were installed. The proscenium has decorative moulding around it, painted in a mixture of red, yellow, blue and green. The main curtains and fringed valance are of dark blue, with gold appliqued swags near the bottom of the main tabs. 'RT' is appliqued to both curtains. Typical of the 1920s' Kaberry and Chard cinemas, the Roxy has two loges on either side which lead to exits from the dress circle. The curved splay walls do not reach the ceiling: they end about a metre or so from the top of the proscenium which is, itself, at least a metre from the ceiling line. They are decorated with pairs of pilasters on either end and three decorative frames spaced between. The ones on either side of the central, short one reach from dado to pediment and are in-filled with plaster decoration. The central frames are situated above exit doorways and have urn-shaped light fittings placed in the centre of each frame. The basic wall colour is light cream with old gold highlighting on the decorative plasterwork.

Change is inevitable and
The old Globe Theatre has outgrown its usefulness as a picture theatre. The Roxy, with its up-to-date magnificence and its spaciousness, will cater for a new era.

4. Roxy Theatre, Bingara,

In Maitland Street, Bingara, near the corner of Cunningham Street, stands the 480-seat Art Deco -style Roxy. It was not built without difficulties and it was never the success its originators hoped. George Psaltis, Emanuel Aroney and Peter Feros
...purchased a block of buildings in Maitland Street, Bingara, consisting of premises occupied by them as Refreshment rooms, and three other shops adjoining.

It is the firms[sic] intention of demolishing the existing buildings, and to replace them by modern and up to date premises. The work of demolishing that part of the buildings occupied by them as refreshment rooms is now in hand, and the building of modern premises will be proceeded with, the rebuilding of the shops will follow later.

Mr Psaltis informed me that he intends to erect a modern and up to date Picture Theatre...

The development was announced in June 1934 in the local Bingara newspaper. Plans for the shops and theatre received favourable comment. "When completed it will have an equal frontage to both streets, a symmetrical and well-balanced building, a splendid addition to the town's business houses." The architect for the cinema was W V E Woodforde of Sydney and construction of the cinema commenced in early 1935. It was subject to a number of alterations (believed to have been instigated by Psaltis) that resulted in extra time and expense. One of the alterations was to heighten the auditorium walls by 4 feet 6 inches to allow for the possible later inclusion of a dress circle. This brought about changes in decorative treatments of the main ceiling and proscenium.

It was not until the following year that the theatre opened.
Probably no event in the history of Bingara has caused more interest and excitement than the opening of the new Roxy Theatre, which took place on Saturday night last. The crowds which stormed the streets in the vicinity of the theatre...and long before the opening time, it was impossible to wend one's way through the crowd in front of the main entrance.

While its exterior is a basic rectangular interpretation of the Art Deco style, with pilasters and entablature and simple panelling to break up its cement-rendered wall surface, the interior is something different. Entry to the auditorium is through a long, narrow vestibule, the ticket box being situated in the middle at street entry (typical of USA cinemas). A short flight of steps leads up to the auditorium entry doors. The rear section of the auditorium is stepped and seating is fixed, whereas the front section is flat (for dances) and seating is moveable.

The auditorium decoration repeats the stepped motif of the facade, the ceiling stepping down to meet the walls at an entablature seemingly supported by pilasters. A wavy Art Deco frieze on the entablature and the perforated panels between the pilasters contrast with the angular theme. The wall panels comprise two elements, a central vertical row of five perforated, fan-like elements on each side of which are a vertical row of six rectangles containing diagonal strapping. The light fittings on the pilasters and proscenium splays are designed as angular vase elements. For Bingara, the Roxy is truly the "Theatre Moderne" (its advertised sub-title).

Reporting the opening performance on Saturday, 28 March 1936, the local newspaper said,
Great admiration was expressed at the beauty of the interior features of the theatre, and the wonderful coloured atmospheric lighting is certainly an innovation to Bingara. Changing from a soft white light to the effect of a rosy sunrise, the theatre gradually faded into soft blue lighting and the show was on.

And, the local mayor
...congratulated the management on their enterprise, saying that the theatre was a monument to the town and one of the finest buildings of its kind outside the city...Mr George Psaltis...received a flattering reception. He said it was the proudest moment of his life...He expressed...his appreciation of the support of the people of Bingara and district, whose friendship and encouragement had given them the inspiration to carry on in the face of all the obstacles that had beset them. They were but the servants of the people and they were out to give them the utmost value for their money, both in entertainment and service.

5. Rex Theatre, Corowa.

In 1935, when Nicholas Laurantus decided to erect a theatre at 190 Sangar Street, Corowa, he turned again to the architectural firm of Allan and Rowlands, Narrandera. They designed for him a 776-seat venue, with stepped gallery at the rear of the flat-floored stalls. The Rex, as it was called, opened on Saturday, 5 September 1936.

"The new picture hall in Corowa, called The Rex, was opened Saturday night last. There was a fairly representative attendance."

The Rex is slightly different to previous Laurantus theatres in that the vestibule is situated on the left of the theatre building in a semi-detached, single sto

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 11.09.2004

The Olympic Café, Murwillumbah, 1921

Amongst those on the balcony is probably Jack Cos Aroney contemplating his future after suffering his third severe flood in as many years. Shortly afterwards he decided enough was enough and moved north to Southport, where the rain continued unabated for another 8mths, keeping the vital Brisbane holidaymakers and their wallets at home. He was tempting fate when he shook his fist at the sky and shouted ‘Why me Lord?’ before selling out to Jim Fardouly and sneaking south to chance it in Goulburn, where 12mths later he was burnt out. (Dontcha love the Lord’s wicked sense of humour.)

He then tried a brief sortie into Wagga, followed by a short sojourn at Bundarra with his relocated brother Jim, prior to trekking on to Talwood, west of Goondiwindi, where the Lord, unappeased, sent dust storms every second day. Under the cover of dust and darkness he snuck out to Cooroy on the coast, but the Lady upstairs quickly tracked him down and, still in a jolly mood, sent the Depression. On the Eighth Day the Grand Comedienne rested, eventually showing some of her mythical mercy after Jack had bunkered down in Sydney, where she left him unmolested for the rest of his life.

In the meantime the Olympic was redubbed The Belle Vue Café by Nick Antonios Coocooles (Koukoulis of Katsoulianika), who also took over the other ex Aroney café, The Tweed River Oyster Saloon, in 1922 from the short lived partnership of Emmanuel Jacob Haros (Haroupoulos from Manitohori) and Emmanuel Harry Mavris (Mavromikhail, unknown origin). But shortly afterwards the entrepreneurial Nick installed managers in the joints while he concentrated on his Tweed Heads and Coolangatta ventures. Initally Themistoklis Kopeleas (Tom Copland), from Brállos, Central Greece, was installed in ‘The Bellevue’, followed by the Kastellorizan Spyros Karpouzis, who seems to have stayed for only a year or so, after which the Bellevue was sold to the Ithacan Vlismas Bros, in whose hands it remained into the late 1950s. It’s still going strong as The Balcony Restaurant.

Nick returned to Murbah in 1932 and 3yrs later took up hands-on management in the Tweed River building, by then known as The Continental Café, but who, apart from George Venery and Angelo Victoratos, was in the place in the meantime is another of Her great secrets. In 1939 he offloaded to Steve and Jack Peter Comino (Douris) and tried his luck in New Zealand.

Shortly afterwards Steve and Jack went into partnership with the Varella Bros and grew the business into Murbah’s largest fruit and veggie wholesaler and retailer. They let the café side of the business slide, moving into the adjacent building and leaving a series of different businesses to occupy the old Tweed River building before it eventually was demolished.

From up there Jack Aroney would have seen the council finally build flood levies, protecting Murbah from all but the worst of the Lord’s temper tantrums.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 06.09.2004

Jim and Penelope Castrisos, Nowra, in middle life.

Jim and Penelope were proprietors of the Red Rose Cafe, Nowra, NSW.

See a previous entry in this CAFE & SHOPS section, for more detailed information on the Red Rose Cafe, and the lives of Jim and Penelope Castrisos.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 06.09.2004

Jim and Penelope Castrisos on their wedding day.

Jim and Penelope later became proprietors of the Red Rose Cafe, Nowra, NSW.

See a previous entry in this CAFE & SHOPS section, for more detailed information on the Red Rose Cafe, and the lives of Jim and Penelope Castrisos

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 06.09.2004

Interior of the Red Rose Cafe, Nowra. The established business.

See previous entry in this CAFE & SHOPS section, for more detailed information on the Red Rose Cafe, and the lives of Jim and Penelope Castrisos.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 06.09.2004

Red Rose Cafe, Nowra. Jim and Penelope Castrisos

Photograph: The Red Rose Cafe, Nowra. The Early years.

Jim Castrisos - Red Rose Café

Demetre Castrisos was born in Mitata Kythera in 1895. He came to Australia in the early 1920's after serving in the Greek Navy during the Smyrna Campaign.

He went into business with his brother Peter Castrisos at the Golden Bell Café Tamworth. He became an Australian citizen in 1930. In 1931 he sold his share in the business and returned to Kythera where he stayed until 1936.

Jim returned to Australia on 21st August 1936, and while on the ship met his future wife Penelope Haniotis, who was joining her sister, Eleni Feros in Dorrigo NSW.

In 1937 in partnership with his brother Peter and Cousin Theo Demetre purchased the New York Café and Red Rose Café Nowra from Nick Aroney.

Jim married Penelope Haniotis on 17th August 1938, and they had 4 children (Chrisula, Victor, Tasos and Peter).

In 1944 the New York was sold to Sam Vlandis & Theo Mavromattis.

Peter & Theo Castrisos left Nowra but Jim retained the Red Rose Café. In 1951 the Red Rose Café was completely renovated, and in 1959 the business was relocated directly opposite in a property owned by Jim.

The business was sold in October 1963 and the family moved to Sydney where Jim died suddenly on 8th May 1965.

Penelope lived in Sydney with her family, which include 11 grandchildren until her death on 17th of June 1994.

The Red Rose changed hands 6 times form 1963 and in 2001 closed down. A sports store is now trading on the site.

[See this Cafes and Shops section for other photographs of Jim and Penelope Castrisos, and the Red Rose Cafe.]

Information supplied by Chrisula Feros (nee Castrisos)

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 25.08.2004

The Kiosk, Ballina, 1960

On the short list of cafes providing an idyllic lifestyle for their proprietors was The Kiosk on the waterfront at East Ballina. From 1944 to 48 a bloke simply identified as ‘Mr Feros’ had it, probably Mick George Feros or possibly George Jim Feros, but it’s doubtful he lived on site. The Tzortopoulos family took over 10yrs later and lived on site for about 9yrs, but any interim Greeks have yet to be identified. Ditto pre 1944.

Jim Tzortopoulos arrived from Kythera via a sojourn in Piraeus in the early 1950s and worked for a few years at Kyogle before acquiring The Kiosk in 1958, the same year his wife, Garifalia, nee Coroneos, and family turned up. Garifalia was the sister of the copious Coroneos living around the region - Mrs Katina Stan Gleeson of Kyogle, Mrs Anna Peter Crethar of Lismore and Jim, Peter and Leo of all over the place.

The Kiosk was a popular spot for squillions of holidaymakers, both day-trippers and tent city residents, through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and living on site gave the Poulos a lifestyle envied by all. Sometime in the late 1960s they acquired the Monterey café of the unconnected George and Peter Anastasios Poulos in the Ballina CBD and operated both businesses until 1973. And then for some odd reason gave it all away to retire in Canberra.

A piece of Ballina history was lost in 2001 when the Kiosk suffered severe storm damage and the Council took the opportunity to turn it into a vacant lot. The valuable site remains in limbo as Ballina, like all coastal towns growing like the clappers, becomes urbanised and kills off the old Australian beach culture (although tent city is not going down without a fight, with caravan parks becoming the new battle ground for cheap accommodation as house prices soar beyond the reach of many.)

There was still a Greek presence at East Ballina until recently, with Archie Poulos, the son of Peter Anastasios Poulos and Frosso Mentis, the daughter of Angelo and Theodora, nee Crethar, operating an Italian restaurant at Shaws Bay, about a 100yds from the old Kiosk.

[Settlement around the Richmond, a province of the Kingdom of Karavas, was certainly an interconnected family affair. Falia Poulos’s brother, Jim John Coroneos, arrived in town in 1953 and acquired the café next door to the Plaza Theatre in River Street. He had first landed with his brother Angelo pre WW1 and been in partnership with Peter Conomos at Kyogle from the early 1920s until selling up in 1931 and returning to Karavas to establish an olive oil making factory and woo the Greek American, Maria Mentis, the sister of Nick Con Mentis of Tenterfield. Post WW2 he decided to introduce Maria to surf board riding and came back to settle at Ballina after another stint in Kyogle. Unfortunately, he died shortly afterwards, in early 1957, whereupon Maria and children figured the surfing mecca of Ballina was a con job and sold out to Jim’s brothers, Peter and Leo Coroneos, to return to the holy waters of Karavas. Jim lies with Angelo at Casino, where the latter had died in 1924.

Coroneos continuity lasted into the 1980s. Peter and Leo passed the café to their niece, Mary Black, the daughter of Anna Peter Crethar, who passed it to her sister, Matina, who passed it to her son, Peter Coronakes, who finally broke the connection when he returned to Lismore to become a property tycoon.]

(Psst: A bloke simply identified as ‘S. Coroneo’ converted the Lismore Federal Hall into a cinema in early 1927. Does anyone know anything about him?)

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 05.02.2006

Bingara Theatre. Memories recalled. August 9, 2003.

"It's much like it was in the '50s" . . . former projectionist's assistant Dennis Miller. Photo: Paul Mathews

Roxy lives again as little town's cultural hub

By Peter Cochrane

August 9, 2003

Back in the early 1930s Bingara was a town going places. At least that's what.... Peter John Feros, Katsehamos, (Mitata)- George Ernest (Proto)Psaltis, Katsavias, (Frilingianika), and Emanuel Theodoropoulos Aronis, known as Emmanuel Aroney, (Aroniadika).......Greek migrants from the Ionian island of Kythera, thought.

The historic gold mining town already had a cinema, the Regent, but that didn't deter them from building a second, the Roxy, along with a cafe next door and a guesthouse behind.

Neither cinema survived the arrival of television, although, surprisingly, both buildings are still standing.

One, the plain jane Regent, is now home to the town's indoor basketball competition.

The fabulous Roxy, however, has been restored to its former glory and will soon reopen as a picture palace.

Cinema is undergoing a revival in regional NSW. The big screen is once again the focus of cultural life in small towns such as Bingara, known as the gem of the Gwydir (150 kilometres north of Tamworth, population 1250). But few places can boast of a cinematic jewel like the Roxy.

"It's the most beautiful art deco building, with quite spectacular plaster detailing, and in extraordinarily good condition," marvels Tony Deakin, an Armidale architect who is also overseeing its restoration and that of other, less ornate, cinemas at neighbouring Barraba and Bowraville on the North Coast.

Dennis (Denne) Miller remembers the Roxy well. In 1952, at age 17, he got a job there as assistant projectionist and "roustabout". Movies were shown on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Mr Miller swept the floor, would open and close the curtains, spin 78rpm records - On Top of Old Smokey was an audience favourite - at interval. Musicals such as Showboat filled the coffers, along with stars like Betty Hutton.

On Wednesday Mr Miller revisited the Roxy for the first time since it closed more than 40 years ago, and the memories came flooding back. "It's much like it was in the '50s. Even the bench where I would rewind the spools is still there."

The Roxy kept Bingara entertained from 1936 to 1958. The Bingara Shire Council bought it in 1998 and found the two original projectors still worked. It has since spent $630,000 - including $300,000 in Federal funding and $130,000 from the state - restoring it.

All that remains are the finishing touches, such as curtains.

The council is anxiously awaiting the NSW Arts Ministry's next round of funding approvals, due to be announced on August 25.

As other country towns are discovering, the imminent or foreshadowed return of the flicks has proved a catalyst for the performing arts.

A theatre company was recently established in Bingara, with the Roxy as its home. Such was the success of the North-West Theatre Company's first production, Educating Rita, that it now plans to mount A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the Bard's immortal words, all the world's a stage.