‘at the Coliseum de Luxe.’

When producer/director Anthony Buckley and co-producer/researcher Les Tod began researching a book on one of Sydney’s grand picture palaces, they faced one big problem: There are no photographs of the original building which was destroyed by fire.

So they teamed up with Paul Brennan’s PTB Screen, business partner John Laycock and videogame designer Adam Young for a 3D recreation of the Coliseum de Luxe in Miller Street North Sydney, based on original sketch of the façade by Joe Kethel.

The result is at the Coliseum de Luxe, a feature documentary which spans 150 years of Australian entertainment, some of the entrepreneurs who created grand buildings and the women who fought to protect and restore them.

Narrated by Bruce Beresford with a commentary by sound mixer Peter Fenton, the film will premiere at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace on Sunday November 3, presented by Buckley and Beresford. That will be followed by matinee screenings at around 20 locations starting on November 7.

The venues include Cinema Nova, Dendy Opera Quays, Dendy Newtown and Dendy Canberra.

Brennan has booked matinees to cater for cinemas’ seniors’ clubs and other mature moviegoers who are often under-served. Brennan is also marketing the film as a masterclass for students of film schools and for audiences who appreciate theatre history, silent and talkie cinema.

Produced in association with the National Film and Sound Archive, the film’s primary focus is the 2,400 seat Coliseum de Luxe, a former tram shed which was converted into a hugely popular skating rink in 1910. In 1921 it became the Union de Luxe, one of Sydney’s grandest cinemas.

It was commandeered by the Army to store munitions during World War 2 and was burnt to the ground in 1944.

‘at the Coliseum de Luxe.’

The doc also examines the adjacent building, the Coliseum Theatre, which in 1939 was renamed the Independent Theatre, run by legendary theatrical producer, director and actor Doris Fitton.

Buckley said: “I knew Peter Fenton could condense Les Tod’s meticulous manuscript into concise, intelligent and informative commentary to be spot on.”

When the producer asked Beresford to narrate, he suspects the director thought he was mad. “Here we have the three of us, the producer, the writer and the narrator, all from the period of the renaissance of Australian film,” Buckley said. “That, for me, gives our film a special significance.

“Bruce’s style works extremely well, particularly our tongue-in-cheek moments like the 95,000 extras with their own costumes arriving at Flemington for the 1896 Melbourne Cup. Unquestionably a director’s field day.”

The book will be published next year.

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