One of Australia’s two remaining open air theatres, Winton’s Royal Open Air Theatre, celebrated its 100th anniversary on Tuesday 3 July.
Guests celebrated the milestone with a night laced with nostalgia, indulging in a special dinner by Camilla Neilson, a chef reigning from the Margaret River who has a history of catering for rock stars. The dinner consisted of three specialty courses. The feast was followed by 100 year old silent film, The Sentimental Bloke, accompanied by the Volatinsky Quartet who added colour and life with a tailored composition to complement the film which first screened in 1918.
The Royal Open Air Theatre recently underwent a renovation, and has been packed with budding Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival goers.
The theatre has a history carved by more than movies, having hosted shearer’s meetings, boxing bouts and a roller skating rink in its long history. Historian and local Jeff Close said the theatre is important to the town’s history, having published a book about the theatre. “We had about four open air theatres in the late 1930s, but the Royal was the first theatre to put in sound,” he said. “We had about four open air theatres in the late 1930s and one even had a full-blown rodeo inside. In 1938 the Royal burned down but it still survived.”
Theatre owner Peter Evert said he still remembers working in the cinema as a child. “I was an usher and remember that they’d make sure not to schedule any dances on Saturday to run the pictures on that day,” he said. “It’s pleasing to see it turn 100, but it does make me sad because the whole industry has gone digital, it’s pretty hard to reutilise the theatre at this stage.”
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