Flashback Friday | Hurstville's Savoy Theatre - which became the Mecca - entertained and enthralled

​A bland apartment block stands today where a beautiful, old art-deco building entertained and enthralled generations of St George residents.

The Savoy Theatre opened in 1937 at 14-16 Ormonde Parade, opposite where the Hurstville Super Shopping Centre would open in 1965.

Hoyts closed the theatre in 1972 and the building lay derelict for three years before Mecca Theatres restored and reopened it in 1975.

The name was changed to Mecca-Savoy but eventually was called just Mecca.

In 1990, the theatre closed for a second time and, despite attempts to save it from the wrecker's ball, was demolished in 1995.

The last owner of both the Hurstville and Kogarah Mecca Theatres was Philip William Doyle, a convicted paedophile, who also operated a theatre at Oatley.

Doyle was sentenced to a maximum of seven years jail in 2012 for grooming and sexually assaulting underage boys over three decades.

In October, 2018, Doyle, 75, was charged with 13 further offences after a new complaint to police led to the reactivation of the task force that carried out the initial investigation.

Ian Hanson, writing for the Cinema Treasures website said the Savoy Theatre opened on August 4, 1937 with Merle Oberon in Beloved Enemy and Lynne Overman in Three Married Men.

"Noted for its large size of 1854 seats and art deco style atmosphere, the Savoy Theatre was the most popular movie house in Sydney's south," Hanson wrote.

"It featured a 2 Manual /10 Ranks Wurlitzer pipe organ which was opened by organist Knight Barnett.

"The instrument had previously been installed in the Kings Cross Theatre, Sydney.

"Other organists who played this organ were Paul Cullen, Barrie Brettoner.

"The Savoy Theatre had a fully fitted stage and flytower.

"Although only small, the stage was big enough for the few novely acts that played there during the war years.

"It was taken over by the Hoyts Theatres chain in March, 1944.

"The Wurlitzer organ was removed in 1958, and was installed in the Congregational Church, Burwood.

"The Savoy Theatre was closed by Hoyts on November 4, 1972 with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland in Klute."

Another organ was installed when the theatre was reopened in 1975.

In 1957, there were 660 cinemas and theatres in NSW, 1991, Sydney Morning Herald reporter Geraldine OBrien wrote in 1991, when the future of the Savoy-Mecca was being decided..

"In 1983, a report commissioned by the NSW Heritage Council recommended retention and protection orders for 13 of these, all considered gems of the 'picture palace' age.

"Today, seven of those 13 gems have been smashed under the wrecker’s hammer, two – the State and the Cremorne Orpheum – have been retained and restored.

"Another – the Hurstville Mecca Savoy – is about to be demolished."

The Mecca at Kogarah was demolished in 2013.

LEADER FLASHBACK 

Every Friday we delve into the Leader archives to embark on some time travel.

We will bring you photographs of a news event from 59 years of Leader news coverage that you may or may not recall.

Flashback Friday submissions are also welcomed.

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