Orion Theatre

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Front facade of the Campsie Orion Theatre, 155 Beamish Street Campsie, 1960.


The Campsie Orion Theatre was situated at 155 Beamish Street, Campsie. The theatre opened on 7 March, 1936 and was named after the bright constellation, "Orion". The original name was "Orion - theatre of the stars". The Campsie Orion Theatre had seating for 999 persons and boasted a long wide foyer, elegant appointments and sparkling mirrors. The Campsie Orion was independently operated and in 1949 was given a facelift. The stalls had a parabolic floor and a deep exaggerated curve which allowed unrestricted vision from all parts of this area. With concealed auditorium lights and colourful red, blue and silver stage curtain, it was indeed an impressive house - without doubt one of the best in the suburban area. The Orion was taken over by Greater Union in 1953 and operated on a restricted policy, screening only Fridays and Saturdays for a period before closing in 1959.

The Auditorium

The following excerpt is taken from "Building", 13 April 1936 pp 23-24

The walls being of textured finish are entirely plain but for six slender vertical grills finished in silver which, in addition to playing their part in the decorative scheme, house the lighting, and as the various lighting schemes are brought about, appear to continuously change the form and silhouette in a remarkable manner. Over both of the side exit doors and also in the main foyer is a decorative panel depicting symbolically the Drama of the Cinema. On the one hand we see Hamlet symbolising Tragedy, and at his feet sits a jester as Comedy while behind both is seen a tripod upon which is mounted a modern movie camera. The whole is carried out in heavy bas relief and when illuminated at the bottom seems to come to life.

A point of planning to which special reference should be made is that of the side passage from the entrance vestibule to the front stalls, which thus enables the patrons of this section of the theatre to enter it without causing inconvenience or passing before those in the back stalls. It also eliminates any necessity for roping off sections of the seating which at best is a cause of annoyance and looks a makeshift. A feature of the circle, which is entered up a broad flight of stairs leading from the foyer, is its remarkably gentle rake which enables each row of seats to have a tier of its own and does not necessitate the incorporation of any intermediate steps.

Over £1200 was spent on the lighting of the theatre which work was entrusted to Mr N. R. Gallant. As we sit in the Circle and watch the various changes of colour combination, it is really remarkable the variation of effects that can be achieved. One minute it is the rich red of the sunset, and the next, the pale, rosy pink of the dawn. The proprietor realises that no matter how attractive his colour scheme or how good his show, the public will not enjoy it to the full if they are not comfortable. Consequently Dunlopillo seats have been installed throughout the whole theatre.

In addition to a refreshment buffet which opens directly on to the Foyer where ice creams and other refreshments can be obtained at interval without leaving the theatre, a separate milk bar has also been incorporated outside, which not only serves the theatre during performances but is open to the public the whole time.


Canterbury Council purchases the building

Canterbury Council purchased the building in 1964 with the view to converting it to a public hall - Canterbury Town Hall, located on Canterbury Road, Canterbury, had been demolished that same year. Between 1959 and 1984 the Campsie Orion Theatre building served as a community market, public meeting place, theatre rehearsal venue and migrant neighbourhood centre.

Orion Centre

During 1984 Council began extensive restoration work on the building with the view of using it as a multi-purpose community function centre. Restoration work in the main hall brought the building back to its former Art Deco grandeur. The additional building work carried out by Canterbury Council provided a stage with the impressive dimensions of 12 by 18 metres, and, on a lower level, dressing rooms and storage facilities. The main hall now provided seating for 650 persons. The mezzanine and foyer areas were made available for smaller functions. After the Campsie Orion Theatre building was restored by Canterbury Council, it was renamed the Orion Function Centre but is generally referred to as the Orion Centre.

Sources

http://www.orioncentre.com.au/history/

Orion Theatre, Campsie, Sydney: The Theatre of the Stars: Simplicity in Planning and Design. (1936, April 13). Building, pp. 23-24