Who doesn’t love a bit of Art Deco? I know I do and when I look back through holiday photos and snaps I’ve taken on the streets, many of them feature ageing Art Deco buildings. I’ve visited some great Art Deco cities such as Napier in NZ and Miami in the USA, both premiere Deco destinations. I also visited the city of Saenz Pena on the Chaco in Argentina, where there was obviously a boom in the 1920’s. Though it’s literally a day’s drive from anywhere, the centre of town comprises an enormous amount of now very faded Art Deco architecture. Not really a showcase for Art Deco fabulousness but a nod to the solid building techniques of the era. If there’s one structure that represents Art Deco more than any other building, it’s the cinema.
The late 20’s and early 30’s was the birth of cinema as we know it today. The introduction of talking pictures, the creation of the studio system and the emergence of Hollywood as a centre for film making meant an endless stream of swashbuckling adventures, dashing heroes and swooning heroines. What better way to showcase this wonderful world of escapism than in bold, modern design of Art Deco? Ziggurats, sunbursts, chevrons and sweeping curves. Nearly 100 years on, you can still spot a repurposed Deco cinema at 50 paces.
A visit to the city of Toowoomba in country Queensland, gives you the opportunity to take in an old cinema that has been sympathetically restored to its Art Deco glory days. Located in the centre of the city, the facade hints at the glamour of the interior. The heritage listed Empire Theatre was originally built in 1911 and following a fire, rebuilt in 1933 in the Art Deco style. It was renovated in 1997 and is still a fully operating theatre for the community. The venue has been brought into the 21st Century with state of the art lighting and sound as well as plush seating and amenities. If you look closely, you’ll see plenty of Deco details in the lights, plasterwork and fittings.
One of the most spectacular features of the theatre is the ‘bomber light’, named in WWII because of its likeness to a bomber and the fears that shards of glass would fall on patrons if the theatre was bombed.
You can take a whistle-stop tour of the theatre for a modest fee that gives you the opportunity to soak in the atmosphere as you hear something of its history. Larger groups can also take a back stage tour by prior arrangement.
This is a glorious building that many people in nearby Brisbane would have no idea even exists. Next time you’re in Toowoomba make sure you take a short detour to take in this magnificent tribute to the Art Deco era.
The Empire Theatre
56 Neil St
Toowoomba Qld 4350