The Astor Theatre
The Astor Theatre is a classic, single-screen revival movie theatre located in the inner Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, that has a long and illustrious history. The site at 1-3 Chapel Street was first used for public entertainment in 1913 when Thomas Alford established the Diamond Theatre, which shared the site with a confectioner and livery stables. Part vaudeville theatre and part cinema, in 1914 it was renamed the Rex before closing in 1917. By 1924 the site had been occupied by a motor garage.
In 1935 Alford sold the property to Frank O'Collins. After council approval was received in October, demolition of the site's original buildings commenced in December. Construction began shortly afterwards, O'Collins having commissioned architect Ron Morton Taylor (among the earlier work of which included the State (now Forum) Theatre on Flinders Street) and construction firm Clements Langford. Work progressed rapidly and the new Astor Theatre was officially opened on 3 April 1936. The design of the theatre is in the Art Deco style typical of the time. Notably it was one of the last theatres in Melbourne to use the traditional two-level auditorium layout; the stall-and-circle arrangement falling out favour for its cost during the post-war years. Originally it had a seating capacity of 1,673 people. In the years since, the theatre has changed ownership several times, undergone redesign and survived contemporary redevelopment proposals to remain a Melbourne landmark venue. The Astor Theatre is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, under record number H1751. It is also one of the rare contemporary theatres that consistently maintains the tradition of showing Double feature screenings for the price of single films.
In 1983, The Astor Theatre was leased by George Florence, who still runs the business. Florence developed the renowned programming style of The Astor and the quarterly calendar is much looked forward to by lovers of film Australia wide. In August 2012, St Kilda businessman Ralph Taranto bought the Astor for an undisclosed sum believed to be less than the $3.8 million St Michael's paid for it at auction in 2007. He intended to leave the running of the cinema in the hands of Florence. When asked if his intention was to keep it as a single-screen cinema, Taranto's response was simple: Oh God yes. I wouldn't buy it otherwise.
Whilst on 23 August 2014 it was announced that the Astor would close in early 2015 this changed when Palace Cinemas agreed to become the new tenant with apparent intent to 'continue business largely as it is', according to The Age. Palace announced that the cinema will reopen as is in June 2015 after some minor renovations to the candy bar.