The Garfield Picture Theatre was built in 1924 for Martin Donohue, and according to Mr H. Arnold, who wrote a history of the theatre, it was leased to a Mr J. Taylor. It was said to have seated 800 people, and dances were held on Friday evenings with pictures shown on Saturday nights.
1924: Advertisement in Pakenham Gazette for theatre’s ‘Grand Ball Opening’ on 22nd December 1924
The theatre was one of the many movie-viewing venues constructed during the Australia-wide boom in cinema building in the 1920s. The Garfield Picture Theatre was Cardinia Shire’s first cinema in the region, followed by Kooweerup’s Wattle Theatre and Pakenham’s King’s Picture Theatre which opened in mid to late 1927. The theatre is significant to the area as it’s one of the few picture theatre buildings remaining in the shire. The Garfield Picture Theatre was not only the main entertainment hub for the area, but it was the town’s first source of electricity.
The theatre closed in 1962 and reopened in the 1980s as the Garfield Trading Centre, owned by Sam Jensen, who used to sell used furniture, bric-a-brac and antiques. The theatre stayed that way until 2001, when renovations began by current owners Fred and Susan Perez. The theatre was in need of some serious repair and improvement. Fred and Susan spent 17 years relaying and polishing the original floorboards, installing roof insulation, as well as building a commercial kitchen, inside toilets with a disable toilet, upstairs living quarters, full verandah, and drainage and decking around the whole outer edge of the theatre. As well as a lick of paint, Fred and Susan spent a great deal of time securing all her loose bricks… hence their knick name for her ‘Lucy’ for loosey bricks! Fred and Susan’s dream to return the venue to its former glory took a little longer than originally expected, but the outcome was well worth all their effort.
The theatre is a well-preserved and gabled red brick building, with internal renovations creating a grander experience than the original. The front facade still has its original raised cement letters `Garfield Picture Theatre' and sits above a deep cantilever street verandah which extends the front of the building.
The Garfield Picture Theatre made a triumphant return as an entertainment venue on Sunday 3rd July 2016, after renovations entirely self-funded by Susan and Fred, and now hosts various music events and is a great venue for weddings, corporate events and dances. The theatre now seats 250 and has a lovely outside area with beautiful gardens including piano.
“We both have a love for the arts and there’s a crying demand for local music venues in our region. There’s just nothing like it,“ said Fred.
In August 2018, the theatre invested in a new mixing disk, speakers and microphones along with new lights to ensure all future shows have the best sound quality and light show possible. There is talk of returning the venue back to a picture theatre for a monthly movie, but the theatre is in the process of raising funds, so stay tune!
For more information on the history of the theatre, check out our video below…
c.1925: Theatre promoting the screening of the movie ‘Girl Shy’
c.1980: Theatre was used to sell old furniture and antiques
2017: The theatre today (Picture taken by Karen Thomson of Tynong)
c.1930: Theatre closed for extensions and reopening on 19th March
2016: Theatre renovations are completed and plans begin for reopening
Current owners Fred and Susan Perez who lovingly renovated the theatre
Click play to watch the history of the Garfield Picture Theatre