When I lived in Sydney years ago I loved going to the art-deco, Cremorne Orpheum Theatre on the Lower North Shore.
It was wonderful to find an equally special theatre right here in the Blue Mountains.
The building above, at 2a Harley Avenue Mount Victoria, dates from 1934…just a year later than the Orpheum. It was originally a cinema known as Mount Victoria Pictures.
In September 1935 The Katoomba Daily provided an idea of what patrons might expect. This was the days of double features, and news reels.
GOLBY’S THEATRE CIRCUIT – OPENING AT MOUNT VICTORIA. Mount Victoria The latest location of Golby’s Blue Mountain Theatre Circuit will enjoy a regular fortnightly talkies entertainment commencing next Wednesday, 11th September……The opening programme is headed by ‘The Informer’ , from Liam O’Flaherty’s widely discussed book.
The B feature was a musical called ‘On the Air’. There was a Cubby Bear Cartoon for the kiddies. It was great value in the days of the Great Depression and the hard times of the Second World War. The theatre closed in the late 1950s, which must have been very sad.
New life came in 1986, with Ron and Diane Bayley. They reopened it as Mount Vic Flicks, which become a much loved institution.
I first visited Mount Vic Flicks on Australia Day 2013, which was celebrated by the handing out of free lollies to patrons . By this time the Bayleys had decided it was time to retire. Who could blame them after so many years?
My partner Rob and I were welcomed at the entrance that day by Diane Bayley, who I recall was wearing a summer dress and huge new hiking boots. She said she was breaking them in, ready for some trekking holidays.
Movie lovers from all over the Blue Mountains wished the couple well and showered them with gifts. However, they were devastated at the thought of the business closing. The prospects certainly looked grim. Upgrades were urgently needed, with digital projection equipment required. It was doubtful whether anyone would be willing to invest in a single screen, country theatre. But then……great news. In July 2013 the Blue Mountains Gazette reported;
One of the busiest nights ever at Mount Vic Flicks was in April 2014. It seems I shared and commented on a FB post about the occasion. 80 people had to be turned away and there were jokes about riots. Apologies for the typos.
I went to the pictures recently by train from my home at Blackheath. It’s only a short, one stop journey ‘up the hill’. I wanted to see the movie of a best selling book published in 2008. It was the perfect choice really; a gentle, nostalgic story set in the 1940s; around the same vintage as the theatre.
There were only a handful of us waiting for the doors to open. Well…. it was lunchtime on a Friday.
I was surprised when the lady I was chatting to suggested we line up. I said I didn’t think there were enough of us for a queue, but she soon put me straight; ‘I saw hordes of people having lunch in the hotel and I bet they’re on their way here.’ Oh my word….she was right! I was lucky to have arrived early enough to get a good seat, but its best to book ahead for popular showings.
The original box office booth is still in use.
I was delighted to find that nothing had changed inside either. There was the quaint old Royal Box I remembered.
Unusually, the snack bar is inside the small auditorium. How convenient is that? There are home made Choc Tops and baked goodies on offer, plus soup in cooler weather.
As it was autumn and a bit chilly when I was there, lentil soup was on the menu. It’s served in a miniature tureen with a generous length of bread roll balanced on top. Just the ticket, if you will excuse the pun. Tea and coffee are still served in ‘proper’ mugs. Some friends of mine once missed the last train back to Blackheath and had to cadge a ride with the Bayleys. Their fare was to help wash up the mugs.
I simply cannot explain why it took me so long to go back to Mount Vic. Next time I’ll reserve a seat and splash out on lunch at one of the historic village’s grand old hotels.
UPDATE – I saw quite a few movies before the dreaded Covid arrived. Even after we could venture out, patrons had to contend with QR codes and masks etc. It must have been such a difficult time for the little theatre.
Thankfully, everything is now back to normal…well almost. I have just been to see Cate Blanchett in Tár. It was so good to see a full house. And yes, there will be an Oscar for Cate for sure.
I hope the community will continue to support Mount Vic Flicks. To lose it doesn’t bear thinking about. 😨
Here is a link to the theatre’s HOME PAGE
FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A MESSAGE IN THE BOX BELOW.