Camberwell’s Rivoli Cinemas marks 21 years since reopening
Article posted: May 3, 2021
The iconic Rivoli Cinemas in Camberwell has marked 21 years since undergoing reconstruction and reopening as an eight-screen multiplex.
In May 2000, the Rivoli reopened following a year of construction work and a $16 million refurbishment which enhanced its Art Deco architecture and added six cinema screens to the previously twin cinema venue.
Gerard Turner, Head of Operations at Village Cinemas, said the refurbishment works also included maintaining the cinema’s Art Deco theme and architecture, including the Heritage Foyer and the grand staircase which are key features of the building, and upgraded the cinema’s seating and audio-visual technology.
Since its reopening, the Rivoli has marked some notable milestones.
In 2005, the Rivoli was added to the Victorian Heritage Register, which recognises places of cultural heritage significance in the state of Victoria, Australia.
The Rivoli’s Gold Class redevelopment took place in June 2011, which converted two existing cinemas into Gold Class cinemas. The Mongusto Mama restaurant was also converted into part of the Rivoli complex to form the Gold Class bar, kitchen, and foyer area.
In September 2016, the Rivoli’s rooftop bar nineteenforty opened.
The Rivoli has also hosted several movie premieres, with Hollywood stars Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L Jackson attending the venue for the premiere of The Hateful Eight in January 2016.
“There has been a number of movie premieres across the last 21 years, with Rivoli a much-loved destination for movie events and hosted events, from weddings to birthdays,” Mr Turner said.
Camberwell Centre Association manager Kerry Daly said the Rivoli was a local icon, and one of Camberwell’s true gems.
“Cinema has played a pivotal role in the Camberwell community for many years – as a focal point for entertainment in its early days, to social activities and events in more recent times,” she said.
“The building itself, with its stunning architecture and retaining a piece of the past that we can continue to enjoy today, is a reminder of how important the Rivoli has been and will continue to be for Camberwell. And that is worth celebrating.”
Remembering the rich history of Rivoli Cinemas
The Rivoli was built in Camberwell Rd, Camberwell and opened on October 11, 1940. It replaced an earlier Rivoli Theatre which opened in 1921 on the east side of Burke Rd.
The Rivoli survived the post-war decline in cinema patronage and has undergone various alterations since its inception.
In 1968, the large auditorium was split into two cinemas, resulting in an upper and lower cinema.
“The original plasterwork was retained in the upper auditorium and the proscenium brought forward and a new plaster pelmet created. The original stage and proscenium remained intact behind this new screen. All of the original fabric was removed from the lower auditorium and the original crying room was converted into a bio box. The milk bar, accessed from both the foyer and the street, was altered and the space enlarged to form a larger coffee lounge, and the circular ticket box was removed from the lower foyer,” the Victorian Heritage Database notes.
The Rivoli is renowned for its Art Deco architecture and features, which boasts a stunning interior foyer with a grand staircase and circular patterned carpet.
The carpet’s unique circular patterns and colours, which complement the geometric feel of the existing building, are based on the 1920s painting by artist Sonia Delaunay, according to the Cinema and Theatre Historical Society of Australia.
The Victorian Heritage Database said the Rivoli’s architecture is a distinctive example of the Streamlined Moderne style, “which was highly fashionable in the design of commercial buildings in Melbourne in the 1930s”.
From 1999 – 2000, the Rivoli had extensive renovations, which extended the west side of the building and added six cinema screens to the venue. Much of the original features were retained and restored including the bathrooms on both levels, the foyers, circular staircase, upper lounge, and upper auditorium.
An Art Deco inspired statue, designed by Peter Schipperhern, sits at the foot of the original staircase. The staircase retains the original bannisters – one of the surviving unique features of the cinema.
Since the Rivoli was added to the Victorian Heritage Register in 2005, the cinema has been recognised as having architectural significance, “as the most intact surviving example of the work of specialist cinema architects, H Vivian Taylor and Soilleaux in Victoria”.
The Rivoli’s historical and social significance is also due to its association with one of the most popular forms of mass entertainment of the twentieth century, and because it is a largely intact example of a cinema building from the late 1930s.
The Rivoli’s rich heritage lives on today and is enjoyed by many who share a love of cinema and historical architecture.