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Woodville Town Hall history

The Woodville Town Hall building was initially constructed in 1903 as council offices and chambers. It was enlarged several times, first in the 1920s and then again in the 1940s, to become a focal point for civic functions and community celebrations.

The Town Hall is a multi-dimensional venue used each week for a range of activities, functions, performances and celebrations.

During its time it has hosted dignitaries, marked milestones, raised funds and cheer for Australian forces, delivered comfort, celebrated weddings and birthdays, held concerts and gala evenings, graduated students, welcomed new Australians, been the venue of debates and important decision-making, had Jaffas hurtled across its floors and Greek tragedies played out on its screen.

The front section of the hall building was used for Council offices until 1964 when a new administration building was constructed adjacent to the hall. This building was replaced with the current Civic Centre and Library in 1997. In 2009, the Federal Government awarded the City of Charles Sturt $3.3 million to refurbish the Woodville Town Hall and return the front of the building to offices.

The Woodville Town Hall is recognised as a Local Heritage Place.

Woodville Picture Theatre

The Woodville Town Hall was a much loved suburban picture theatre for many decades. It was especially popular during  the height of the golden age of cinema when attending the ‘flicks’ was an anticipated weekly event. It is one of the few relatively intact former picture theatres remaining in Adelaide from this era, and is a rare example of the work of Sydney-based architects Karberry and Chard.

The hall section began operating as a picture theatre in 1927 immediately following its construction. It was leased and operated by Mr Daniel Clifford, the owner of Adelaide’s ‘Star’ suburban picture theatre chain. The lease helped repay the loan taken out by Woodville Council to build the hall.

Construction of the hall represented a pivotal moment in the development of Woodville as a progressive suburb. The 1927 opening night booklet elaborately boasted about the quality and significance of the hall:

“Time had it when any old barn sufficed for a picture show. People were content to witness crude productions under primitive conditions, only the expensive ‘seats’ boasted the slightest comfort and ‘music’ from a time worn piano was consider a luxury.

Times have changed! for the Woodville Hall has all the embellishments of the modern Theatre.”

The hall was ornately decorated and furnished. It featured upstairs ‘Lounge De Luxe’ and ‘Dress Circle’ seating and extensive atmospheric, colour-changing lighting, including the 5 large crystal chandeliers that still grace the hall today. A beautiful painted scene adorned the background stage curtain. The total capacity of the hall was 1500.

The picture theatre impressively claimed to have the largest suburban orchestra in Australia with 9 musicians. The projector equipment installed in the ‘Biograph Booth’ was said to be “the latest and most perfect machines in the Commonwealth” projecting a rock-steady picture with no trace of the flicker that occurred with “less up-to-date apparatus”.

Originally a silent movie theatre, the projection equipment was converted for sound within 3 years of the hall opening. The first ‘talkie’ was shown in April 1930. The final upgrading of the equipment occurred in mid-1955 with the installation of ‘CinemaScope’. This was done without the original proscenium surrounding the stage being widened or replaced and as a result, this 1927 feature survives to this day.

The early days of the picture theatre were profitable but, as Australia slid into Depression in the 1930s, this did not last. Soon attendances were so low that Mr Clifford was unable to pay the rent.

After several difficult years, prosperity returned to the Woodville district and the picture theatre once again became a thriving enterprise. Mr Clifford died in 1942 and in 1947 the ‘Star’ chain was sold to Greater Union and the theatre became known as the ‘Woodville Odeon Star Theatre’.

Despite the impact of television, mainstream commercial screenings at Woodville continued for longer than at many other suburban theatres. Eventually the end did come and the Woodville Town Hall closed its doors as a mainstream picture theatre on Saturday 9 November 1974.

Woodville Town Hall is also available to hire: Woodville Town Hall Hire