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222 Queen Victoria Rd (Stirling Highway), Fremantle North IN closed


222 Queen Victoria Rd (Stirling Highway), Fremantle North

Photograph of cinema

This imposing bluestone building holding around 400 patrons was constructed in 1902, and was used by touring film companies from at least 1906, when Bartlett's Electric Biograph performed there. Permanent seasons appear to have started there during World War 1, under several different managements, none of which were particularly successful. James McKerchar had been employed by the BB Picture Co in Scotland ('BB Pictures are Beautiful and Bright'), and by the railways in Western Australia before signing up for active service during World War 1. When he returned from the front in 1918 he spent his demobilisation pay to buy the plant and goodwill of the Town Hall picture show from a Mr Jones, and worked hard to build the business up. The patronage of the children was assured by screening serials, and of community groups by arranging fund-raising nights. As McKerchar only screened twice a day on Fridays and Saturdays, he was often able to obtain the services of Mrs Anderson on the piano, on her days off from the Palladium. Special competitions and entry prizes also helped, so that by the time he left in 1922 (for other venues in Palmyra and Fremantle East) the North Fremantle Town Hall venue was thriving.

There may have followed a period without a permanent management, until the Arcadia Pictures opened in September 1936, under the management of partners F. L. Martin, W. Sweeney and A. L. Cooper. It was operated by Martin and M.Corkhill (Corkell?) for some years, until Martin died in 1946. His (son/wife?) F. H. J. Martin continued briefly, then the business changed hands several times. Around 1951, Jimmy Barton was the operator when Peter Thomson worked as a tray-boy for a shop across the highway from the hall: working on commission, on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he was able to earn about £1 a week - big money for an eleven year-old at that time!

The venue reverted in 1952 to the name North Fremantle Pictures, a name which remained till 1961 when film screenings ceased because the requirements of the Health Department for major renovations of the toilets could not be met. After a period of use by a local ballet group, the hall was taken over by the Fremantle Town Council (which had merged with North Fremantle Town Council) and sold to an antique company, which completely renovated the premises. In 1995 the hall was again put on the market.

The Heritage of Western Australia: the Illustrated Register of the National Estate, Macmillan 1989, pp.28-9
Max Bell, 'North Fremantle Town Hall', Kino no.50, December 1994 p.15; no.51, March 1995, p.31.
Letter from Mrs K. Melancon (daughter of Mr Martin), 16 April 1978, held in Fremantle Library
West Australian, 30 October 1975
Interview (Mark Turton): James McKerchar (1978)
Interview (Ina Bertrand): Peter Thomson (1997)
1 exterior, colour, 1981 (Bill Turner) Link to image
1 exterior (foundation stone), colour, 1981 (Bill Turner)
1 exterior, b&w, Kino no.50, December 1994 p.15 (Max Bell)
1 exterior, b&w, n.d. The Heritage of Western Australia: the Illustrated Register of the National Estate, Macmillan 1989, p.29