Entertaining the Fleurieu since 1923
June 1923: An article published in the Victor Harbor Times announces the intentions of D.H. Griffin & Sons to convert their Ocean Street garage into a ‘modern theatre’, after increased demand for their screenings of ‘movies’ at the Institute Hall in Victor Harbor. Construction began promptly with an intended seating capacity of 700 people. The building was designed by South Australian architect Christopher Arthur Smith.
November 24, 1923: The Victa Cinema began operation, then known as the Victor Theatre. The theatre was under the control of Griffin Pictures. The first two feature films to be shown were The Bohemian Girl and Mord Em’ly.
October 1926: Management changed and the control of the theatre went to National Theatres who were also responsible for managing the Wonderview, also located in Victor Harbor on the beach front.
January 1928: National Theatres went into liquidation and Ozone Theatres Limited took over the management of the theatre. Under this new management, the Victor Theatre was renovated throughout, with the addition of a dress circle, the seating capacity went from 650 seats to a total of 1000 seats.
January 14, 1934: A severe fire destroyed part of the theatre and neighbouring Bells building to the value of £3000 (roughly $290 000 in today’s money).
September 1934: Extra land was purchased by Ozone Theatres to extend the cinema. Work begun on the reconstruction and extension of the cinema in late September, building the cinema we know and love today.
December 21, 1934: A grand reopening of the Victor Theatre took place under the Ozone banner.
1951: Hoyts purchased the Victor Theatre as part of a deal with Ozone and continued to screen films for the masses.
1959: The introduction of television saw attendance to the Victor Theatre dwindle, causing the cancellation of its Monday and Tuesday screenings.
1960: Screenings were only occurring on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. During school holiday periods the cinema held screenings every night, however by 1962 the cinema screened a matinee and evening session on Saturdays only.
1960: A Drive-in Theatre was built in Port Elliot by Roy Denison and Gill Smith.
1963: The decline of the cinema continued causing its closure between October 13 and December 25. Even in 1964 the cinema closed longer term for the winter months starting straight after Anzac Day until December 25.
1970: Hoyts sold the cinema for $25,000 to new owner Roy Denison and was reopened under his control renaming it the Victa Theatre for the 1970/71 Christmas school holidays. The cinema committed itself to running Friday, Saturday and Sunday screenings over the following 4 year period. Furthermore, the cinema held screenings during each school holidays up until 1995.
1975: Improvements were made my Roy Denison including rewiring the theatre and the stage area remodelled and extended, with a new curtain installed. This was to facilitate top quality live concerts and shows, supplementing the income of feature films. These improvements cost over $40 000.
1995: Roy Denison retires and long-time manager Geoff Stock purchased the cinema, with the vision of running it with his family and preserving the beautiful Art Deco cinema while bringing it up to date with the modern era of cinema.
1996: The process began with repairs and painting of the exterior and renaming it ‘Victa Cinema’. The foyer was then restored with removal of curtains, repairs to walls, painting and replacement of the art deco light fittings.
1997: Saw the upgrade to the projection room which included the installation of a platter and Dolby Digital Sound system.
August 1998: Renovation of the auditorium was a major project with the decision of converting the single screen theatre to a twin cinema due to large competition arising from newly built high-profile Multiplexes. Consequently, the theatre closed for its conversion in August, with it reopening only a month later on September 11 in the upstairs area with seating of 286. The downstairs auditorium was later completed and opened on November 6, 1998 with seating of 297. The complete restoration included seats being re-upholstered and re-carpeting of the foyer area.
February 2005: David and Carol Stonnill purchased the cinema from the Stock family, with the intention of preserving and maintaining the beautiful art deco building, and where possible improving the facilities for the comfort of patrons.
2007: Work was commenced to install full reverse-cycle air-conditioning, to replace the old and struggling evaporative air-conditioning unit. This proved to be a bigger task than first thought, thanks to the age of the building and the size of the ground floor auditorium. How-ever the upgrade was finally completed in early 2008
2008: The next project was to upgrade the seating of both auditoriums, replacing the old flip down seats with newer, larger and more modern seating.
2009: An eCinema digital projector was installed in the ground floor cinema, allowing a little more flexibility in providing limited content not available on 35mm film.
November 2012: Both cinemas were upgraded to 2k digital projection, ending the use of 35mm film at Victa Cinemas. This offers a brighter, sharper image and no deterioration over time. A new ‘Silver Screen’ was also installed in Cinema 2, to replace the old deteriorating screen. Cinema 1 (upstairs) still retains its 35mm Projector and platter system, allowing it to still screen 35mm film, if needed.
July 2015: 3D equipment was installed in July 2015 in Cinema 2, now allowing Victa Cinemas to screen 3D films. The first films to screen in 3D were Jurassic World and Inside Out. The installation was completed in time for the winter holidays and proved to be popular with the patrons, both young and old.
January 2016: The cinema was given a face lift with a new coat of paint, using colours which return it to its heritage style, and the addition of new high quality signage.
Late 2016: The City of Victor Harbor installed a digital art projector as part of their Main Street Precinct upgrades. This projects art onto the large art deco front façade of the cinema, creating a unique and awe-inspiring display 7 nights a week.
October 2020: The City of Victor Harbor purchased the Victa Cinemas building and business with big plans in mind, with intentions to include it in the city’s Arts and Culture centre in the future.
Today, patrons of the Victa Cinemas enjoy the style and charm of the original theatre and have a greater variety in the movies that are shown. The Victa Cinema is a popular attraction in its own right and maintains the historical charm of Victor Harbor’s bygone era.