The Montreal Theatre has been placed on the State Heritage Register.
Heritage Minister Robyn Parker said the theatre, which was opened in 1930, is one of only a handful of intact interwar movie theatres remaining in NSW.
“The Montreal Theatre is loved by the people of Tumut, having been at the heart of community life for more than 80 years,” Ms Parker said.
“Going to the movies is a commonplace activity today, but back in the 1930s a night out at ‘the flicks’ was a reason for great excitement.
“Getting dressed up and going to town to the Montreal picture theatre in Tumut, as in most small towns, was a glittering and eagerly anticipated event.
“The decade of the 1930s was a golden age of cinema attendance and a huge number of cinemas were designed and built in NSW towns in that period.
“In 1951, there were still 351 rural theatres still in operation, but sadly, the Montreal is now one of only 11 rural cinemas remaining recognisable as a theatre.”
The theatre opened to great excitement on April 2, 1930, when at first a non-synchronous music system accompanied the film, which was soon followed by “the Talkies”.
For the next 60 years the theatre was the hub of film entertainment in the shire, until it closed as a commercial venue in 1992.
In 1995 the building was put on the market, before a local management committee galvanised the community into action and enough money was raised to buy the theatre and ensure it remained in use.
On April 19, 1995, 65 years after it first opened, the Montreal reopened with a variety night featuring local talent to a more than packed house.
Since then, under the banner of the Montreal Community Theatre, patrons have enjoyed a range of entertainment from opera through country and hard rock, live plays, dance, the latest release films, school speech nights, drug seminars, concerts, book launches and art shows.
Movies are shown about once a week, sometimes more often, and just this month the management committee made the decision to move from film screenings to digital.
Local MP Daryl Maguire said it was amazing that the theatre is still operating as a cinema and live theatre venue.
“The theatre is operated entirely by volunteers who make sure the Montreal remains a living example of how small rural theatres were and can still be, at the heart of their community,” said Mr Maguire.
The listing also includes a wonderful collection of moveable heritage items including; a set of ticket dispensing boxes and ticket stub boxes; a 1930s pedestal fan; a set of handmade timber and glass exit signs; and a silent movie projector dating to the 1930s.
Inclusion on the State Heritage Register ensures that the future management or development of listed sites is supported with advice from the state’s leading heritage organisation, the Heritage Council of NSW.
Tumut mayor Trina Thomson, someone with a long association with the Montreal, said she was excited to hear that the theatre has been included on the State Heritage Register.
“To have it recognised and included on the register confirms what those who were involved with the move to retain it over 20 years ago knew back then; the Montreal Theatre is a unique and special part of not only local history and culture but significant at much greater levels.
“What this announcement means to the community is that Tumut’s Montreal Community Theatre is indeed of significant heritage value, and previous Tumut Shire Council decisions to support the venture, well prior to me being on council, were prudent and justified.
“So many communities have lost significant heritage buildings and culture because of progress, lack of community support or funds and I am proud of this community for not only working to save the theatre but the amazing history that goes with it.
Cr Thomson acknowledged the Learmont family and Blakeney Millar Foundation for enabling the committee to secure the building and in doing so retain a significant heritage link.
“The Montreal Community Theatre is a wonderful example of a community project that has worked because of a committed volunteers who have ensured the integrity of the building and the reason it was built in the first place is still the primary focus of what it aim to achieve today,” the mayor said.