The picture theatre business predates the building; having started in 1948 when Norman Hunter showed his first bush films to raise money for a community rock pool. At that time Avoca Beach was a rather isolated community, with no bridge across Avoca Lake and only a few dirt roads. When Norman and his family moved to what is now the top of Cliff Avenue, there was no road at all – Norman had to build one.
The bush films proved to be quite a hit and continued to play through the summer months for the next couple of years. In 1951, Norman and his brother Mervyn decided to build a small theatre. These were post-war years and building materials weren’t readily available. Plus there was the added effort of getting materials to the site. In the end, the building was constructed from local timber milled on-site and concrete bricks made by Marriots of Kincumber.
The result was a charmingly authentic building, small and rustic in appearance but built to last. Now in the hands of Norman’s son (also Norman) and his wife Beth, Avoca Beach Picture Theatre is the last privately owned single screen theatre in NSW.
Its function today is not limited to showing a cracking yarn on the screen. Fittingly, given its origins, the theatre has a reputation for being both community oriented and events driven. It specialises in independent film, from opera to surfing, and hosts events such as Flickerfest and the Coasties Film Festival – a short feature competition for local filmmakers.
Nowadays, going to Avoca Beach Picture Theatre has a real sense of occasion. The art deco grandeur of the foyer, the old fashioned snack bar and the red velvet seats all hark back to a more romantic era, before characterless cinema chains swallowed up theatres. This unique space has something special for everyone: you can catch the New York Met Opera season here, or the latest animated children’s movie. There are themed movie nights with wine and canapés, dedicated family days and internationally acclaimed live events – David Helfgott, Simon Tedeschi and Adrian Cunningham have all graced the red-curtained stage of the theatre. It is even available for weddings and corporate events, which also make the most of the theatre’s large grassed area that overlooks the beach.
Norman and Beth remain committed to bringing the best of entertainment to their patrons, as well as to ensuring the longevity of the theatre. For residents and visitors alike, Avoca Beach Picture Theatre is a vital piece of local history and a treasured hub of culture and entertainment.
Avoca Beach Picture Theatre
69 Avoca Drive,
Avoca Beach NSW
Phone: 02 4382 1777