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Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas > Bingara Theatre. Memories recalled. August 9, 2003.

Photos > Cafes, Shops & Cinemas

submitted by George Poulos on 18.06.2004

Bingara Theatre. Memories recalled. August 9, 2003.

Bingara Theatre. Memories recalled. August 9, 2003.
Copyright (2003) Paul Mathews & Peter Cochrane

"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.

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