Premier history

1 Premier Theatre, 291-293 Stirling Street Perth, 1956. COV PH02611
2 Entrance to the Premier Theatre Gardens, 1956. COV PH02616
3 Premier Gardens, Stirling Street Perth, 1950s. COV PH02617
Cinema goers watching an outdoor screening at the Premier Gardens in Stirling Street, Perth, 1956. COV PH02620

IN this instalment of Lost Vincent, the City of Vincent Local History Centre brings us the story of the Premier Theatre & Gardens, Stirling and Bulwer Streets, Perth.

THE Premier Theatre was built in 1925 on the corner of Stirling and Bulwer streets in Perth. 

Its early history was closely connected to the East Perth Football Club, which had previously screened films at Perth Oval. 

The construction was funded by club patron Bill Haynes and for many years the theatre was managed by EPFC secretary Cyril Norton. 

In 1937, the adjacent outdoor theatre Summer Gardens opened and in the 1950s Cyril’s son Graham Norton took over management of the theatre. 

“Every suburban theatre in Perth had gardens because it was too damn hot in the theatre in summer,” Mr Norton said in an interview with the Local History Centre in 2008. 

“If it rained, they used to have to carry half of the projection equipment across into the theatre and start 20 minutes later in the theatre.

Cheap seat

“Of course everyone from the cheap seats in the garden used to head straight into the theatre for the good seats upstairs.

“[From the late 1950s] television was having an effect on our attendances. First thing we did was start running a lot of Italian movies. There were a lot of Italians in the area. 

“We used to advertise the posters around the restaurants and areas around Lake Street and James Street… We ran Greek films and Italian films and English speaking films. 

“It kept us going for a while and that’s why we still owned the cinema after all the TV hoo hah.”

Ice rink

The Premier Theatre closed in 1963 and was converted into an ice skating rink and later a disco. 

The Summer Gardens closed in 1975 when the screen blew down in a storm. 

All of the buildings were demolished in 1987 and were replaced with an office building, which was in turn demolished in 2018 to make way for construction of a new supermarket due to open shortly.  

Mr Norton’s full interview is available at the Vincent Local History Centre, and for more great photos of former cinemas and life in the Vincent area visit:

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