Freotopia > cinemas >

Oriana Cinema

The Oriana Cinema (1938-1972), on the corner of High and Queen Streets, was an art deco building which was removed in 1972 in favour of some very ordinary shops. Its first name was Hoyts Fremantle, but that was changed when ownership changed hands, and on the occasion of the first visit to Fremantle by the P&O ship, on her maiden voyage in 1961.

In 1937 a local company, Hoyts (Fremantle) Pty Ltd proposed the construction of a picture theatre at the corner of High Street and Queen Street, Fremantle. The cinema was estimated to cost £20,000 and seat 1,300. The site was previously occupied by the Rose and Crown Hotel which was built in 1830—although in the late 1870s it was used as the Fremantle Grammar School, as a private dwelling and lodging rooms.

This colour photo shows the earlier name. The marquee announces Trade Winds. This would be the Fredric March/Joan Bennett film first released in 1938. The other title is hard to read, but I'm going for Pardon Our Nerve, which was a comedy released in 1939. This would make 1940 a possible date for the photograph, which is from the WA CinemaWeb page.

rose and crown hotel

The notes written around this 1927 photograph (which is from the Fremantle City Library Local History Collection) are informative. This is the building that was removed in favour of the Hoyts/Oriana Cinema.


On the bill at Hoyts Fremantle in this photo is Race Street (1948) with George Raft and William Bendix, and also a Randolph Scott flick from two years earlier, called Badman's Territory. This might be the best extant photograph of the building: it is from the Battye Library collection, and is dated 1950.

Another photo from the Battye Library, this one from 1957. It shows the Sandovers store on the other side of Queen St from Hoyts Fremantle, on what was to become the Myers site. The photographers for both of these photos is an anonymous 'government photographer'.

Oriana Cinema

The Cinema with the Oriana sign in 1969. The photo is credited to Roy Mudge on the WA CinemaWeb page. The title on the marquee is that of a French film released in 1966 called La grande vadrouille (dir. Gérard Oury). It was released in English as Don't Look Now We're Being Shot At. It was a farce set during WW2 and featured Terry-Thomas among the English-speaking actors. (This photograph is from the Fremantle History Centre.)

Oriana Cinema

Roy Mudge panned a bit to the left to take another shot. (You can see that it's the identical puddle in the street.) Locals may be interested to see that at this time Premier Pianos was in the Oriana building. They later moved down to 30 Queen St opposite the end of Henderson St and over the road from Myers. Mudge also shot the interior of the cinema.

These three photos of the interior of the Oriana Cinema from the Fremantle History Centre (#961, #962, #963) were taken by Roy Mudge 'about 1972', according to the Historians.

The front stalls appear to be in better condition than those in the Princess Theatre at about the same time.

And there is more decoration over the Oriana proscenium.

References and Links

Wikipedia page
WA CinemaWeb page
LISWA entry with more photos


What follows is the whole entry, unedited, for this former cinema from the ammpt (Australian Museum Of Motion Picture & Television Inc.) site - not as an act of copyright theft but as a backup. Websites often disappear for various reasons.

HOYTS FREMANTLE/ ORIANA, 177 High St, Fremantle
On the site of the old ‘Rose and Crown’ Hotel (and later also the Fremantle Grammar School), on the corner of High St and Queen St, Hoyts built a new theatre which they considered calling the ‘Crown’, but finally named simply Hoyts Fremantle. The architects were H. Vivian Taylor and Soilleux, in conjunction with Messrs. Oldham, Boas and Ednie-Brown. The Gala Opening (a screening of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Love on a Budget) was held on 4 August 1938:
Convenience for patrons has been the keynote in the construction of the new theatre, and the quaintly shaped ticket office allows easy access from all sides. The circular foyer is spacious and is designed to prevent any overcrowding. One moves naturally towards the various stalls entrances and cloakrooms and to the ample staircase leading to the dress circle and lounge. The various fittings have been carried out to harmonise with the decoration scheme, in which pastel shades of green predominate. Entrances and all floors of the theatre have been richly carpeted, and noteworthy features of the theatre include a crying room, in which mothers may take recalcitrant children without spoiling their own entertainment and without interfering with the pleasure of other patrons.
Special attention in the theatre has been paid to the acoustics and an unusual (and attractive) ‘ripple’ roof aids the sound equipment. Streamlined ‘fins’ extending from the proscenium to the circle railing also play their part in giving faithful sound recording. The interior decoration of the theatre is carried out in toning pastel shades and curtains, lighting and other fittings have been made to conform. The ‘floating screen’ is a new departure in screen entertainment which adds to the enjoyment of programmes. During intermissions patrons will enjoy the quiet luxury of the lounge, in which comfortable furniture harmonises with the decorative scheme. (West Australian, 5 August, 1938)
Among congratulations received on the opening night were messages from Samuel Goldwyn, Gary Cooper, Walt Disney and Shirley Temple, quite overshadowing the local dignitaries. When it opened, the theatre had provision for 1376 patrons, and was controlled by the Board of Hoyts, Fremantle Ltd, chaired by S. (Stan) W. Perry.
But not all patrons appreciated the luxurious surroundings. In September 1939, two teenagers were convicted of ‘rowdyism’ in the cinema, and fined for disrupting the screening. Mr W.F.Samson, then Secretary of Hoyts Fremantle, brought the charges, saying that:
These young people come armed with whistles and other contraptions to make hideous noises for the sole purpose of spoiling other people’s amusement. They come like lambs, and as soon as the lights go out they become jackals. (West Australian? Fremantle Gazette? 1 Sept. 1939)
The cinema continued to be known as Hoyts Fremantle till 1961, when it was taken over by City Theatres and renamed the Oriana. Renovations in 1967 reduced the seating capacity to approx.1000, and a new 70mm screen was installed as late as May 1968. But the cinema closed 4 December 1971, was demolished in March 1972, and the new building on the site used by Walsh’s Menswear.
Sources: Fremantle Library, cuttings collection
Max Bell, Perth: a cinema history, The Book Guild, Lewes, 1986 pp.38-9
Max Bell, ‘Fremantle’s Theatre of Distinction’, Kino, no.65, Spring 1998, pp.30-31; no.66, Summer 1998, p.7.
Vyonne Geneve, ‘William Leighton, architect’, Kino no.25, September 1988, p.7.
Vyonne Geneve, ‘The theatres of the 30s in Western Australia’, Kino no.32, June 1990, p.18
Australasian Exhibitor, 16 May 1968 p.8
Film Weekly, 13 Aug. 1959, p.6
Film Weekly Directory, 1943/4 – 1971
Fremantle Advocate, 4 Aug. 1938
Post Office Directory, 1938/9 – 1949
West Australian, 5 Aug. 1938 p.4, 1938 – 1971
Interviews (Ina Bertrand): Ken Booth (1978), Chris Spivey (1978), Arthur Stiles (1978)
Interview (Ina Bertrand & Bill Turner): Jack Gynbn (1981)
Photos: 1 exterior (Oriana), b&w, 1969 (Roy Mudge)
Interiors (Oriana auditorium, foyers, staff , bio box ) b&w, various dates (Roy Mudge)
1 exterior (Hoyts), colour n.d.

Garry Gillard | New: 25 June, 2013 | Now: 21 October, 2023