Apr 092017
 

Brendan Connolly with a copy of the book he co-wrote with Les Tod — Paddocks, Palaces and Picture Shows. Photo: Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate

Preface.

In the early nineteen eighties my uncle, Len Brennan, suggested that I write a history on the family business, Tudor Theatres P/L. After beginning my research, I soon became aware of many other cinemas that had operated on the Central Coast since the late 1800’s, in a variety of venues.

I decided to expand my research to cover all cinema locations, resulting in the book “Paddocks, Palaces and Picture Shows” which I co-wrote with well known Theatre Historian Les Tod. It was published, in 1996, by the Australian Cinema and Theatre Society Inc. The book gives a much more detailed description of the theatres and their operation than will be covered in this more personal version. This account is possibly more in line with what Len Brennan originally had in mind.

In 1974 and 1984 I had recorded the memoirs of Stella (Kath) Brennan the wife of, Tudor Theatres founder, Edward John Thomas Brennan. She tells with supplementary comments from Len Brennan and Betty Connolly, son and daughter of Edward and Stella, the Tudor story in its early days. Newspaper reports help to fill the gaps.

This document is mainly based on the memories of those involved and is only as accurate as the human long term memory allows. Stella was 82 years old when she recorded the first interview and nearly 90 for the second. There are minor discrepancies in her story, and the other accounts, which I have not attempted to rectify, so please allow for slight variations. These variations do not alter the basic facts and is mainly noticeable on some dates and time periods. There is some duplication of events by different references. I have not edited out anything just because it had a previous mention or contradicts something mentioned earlier. I present the facts as told and/or researched by me. The various accounts at one time were intact but are now scattered throughout the document to retain some form of continuity to the story.      BJC.

In 1933 Edward ‘Ted’ Brennan began building a picture theatre at The Entrance, NSW, to provide employment for his family. What resulted, in the following years, was a chain of five purpose built cinemas operating on the NSW Central Coast known as Tudor Theatres.

GLENBROOK BEGININGS

The story of Tudor Theatres did not really begin at The Entrance. The theatre bug hit Edward earlier while living in, what Edward called, semi-retirement at Glenbrook, NSW. His cinema interest was most likely inspired by his brother, Bede Brennan, who operated a cinema/s in the Bankstown area of Sydney.

Len Brennan when interviewed said: “Uncle Bede had theatres, ran buses and had the first Double Decker Bus that was introduced to Australia.”

Going back before the beginnings of Tudor Theatres, to the late 1920’s and early 1930’s we find the Glenbrook property, where Edward and Stella lived, was a buzz of activity on weekends. Their family, friends and neighbours met there, coming from far and wide for tennis, swimming, and a Saturday night movie and dance. Besides providing tennis courts and a huge dam for swimming he built a cinema/dance hall on his property for all to use. This was to be Edward’s first taste of the cinema industry.

Len Brennan continued the story: “It all began when Uncle Bede gave us a silent projector, which we used on the front veranda of our home at Glenbrook with the screen outside in the open, until we built the first theatrette. The theatre was burnt down and some full length movies went up in the fire, too. Then a more elaborate theatrette was built, with little statues near the stage.”

Edward Brennan’s Glenbrook Theatrette c.1930s. Photo: Brendan Connolly

A second cinema/dance hall was built in about 1930 behind the curved driveway (now No.33 Lucasville Street, Glenbrook). This structure replaced the original hall, which was burnt to the ground by a fire. The fire was started by an electric iron being left turned on in an adjoining room of the hall. The new building was a rectangular fibro structure with a corrugated iron roof and more elaborate than the first.

In 1931 Edward’s cinema was described in ‘The Radiogram’ magazine. “To have a private picture theatre built on one’s own property is not only a distinct novelty, but a possession that I feel sure all our readers envy. There is such a theatre, owned by Mr E Brennan of Glenbrook on the Blue Mountains. This miniature theatre has a very beautiful interior, with its domed ceiling effect and recesses, with statues on each side of the stage. The theatre accommodates 100 people and free performances are given every Saturday night to local residents. At the close of the performance, the hall is cleared and dancing is indulged in till midnight.”

“A feature of the theatre is that it has been installed with full talkie equipment. The amplifying equipment of the talkie apparatus consists of an AWA Duoforte. The talkie reproduction is said to equal that of any of the city theatres.”

“In addition to the high class pictures, the proprietor of the theatre also shows advertising slides for which no charge is made to the advertisers, but it has the effect of making the miniature theatre more completely a facsimile of the city theatres.”

From that humble beginning, who would have thought that a major and prestigious cinema chain would emerge to serve the people, of the Central Coast of NSW, throughout the golden years of cinema.

Len Brennan recalled how Tudor theatres came about: “As we were screening commercial films at Glenbrook and the theatrette was free to local residents every Saturday night. The two commercial theatres at Penrith objected to the free screenings and put in a complaint to the film distributors. We were notified that they would no longer be supplying us with films. Dad was so upset, he decided he would build another theatre in Penrith in opposition. He must have discussed it with Uncle Bede who advised him he would be better off building at The Entrance even though, at that time, there was a theatre already operating there.”

Stella ‘Kath’ Brennan recalled those early days: “We lived at Glenbrook for many years. Len and Ron (Sons) had to go to school by train to Springwood. Betty (Daughter) went to school at Glenbrook, she was younger. When Len and Ron had finished at Springwood Grammar School, Ted told me he was going to sell the Glenbrook property. Len was about fifteen and Ron about twelve. Ted sold it three times but I would not sign the papers. He promised me, if I signed, he would take me back to the mountains to live one day.”

With advice from his brother Bede Brennan, Edward realised that building a commercial cinema would give an employment opportunity for his family. Stella resisted any suggestion of moving away from her mountain home. It was only after much discussion and a firm promise from Edward that he would take her back to the mountains one day that she reluctantly agreed to move to The Entrance. (He fulfilled his promise 20 years later by building a holiday home for Stella at Medlow Bath not far from the Hydro Majestic Hotel.)

Stella continued: “We came down to The Entrance from Glenbrook, first to the old place in Denning Street. It has been pulled down now. The old place had about nine or ten rooms, five bedrooms and a big veranda. Betty was about ten when we came to The Entrance and the boys were older.”

“When we left Glenbrook Ted asked the film exchanges about opening a picture show at The Entrance. They advised him to go ahead with it but Len and Ron were still too young at that stage. In the meantime, Ted bought a block of land on the corner (The Entrance Rd and Bayview Ave) and waited for Len and Ron to get older. Len went to Marconi Radio College to learn about film techniques. He had a few years there. Ted had waited for about two years when he was told not to wait any longer because somebody else was going to open if he didn’t.”

PRINCE EDWARD

Len Brennan: “Uncle Bede informed dad that someone else was going to build a theatre at The Entrance. He advised him he should build a theatre as there would be of great potential.”

Stella Brennan and daughter Betty living in tent while their house was being built. Photo: Brendan Connolly

Stella Brennan and daughter Betty living in tent while their house was being built. Photo: Brendan Connolly

In 1933, Edward Brennan moved his family from his retirement property at Glenbrook, on the Blue Mountains, to The Entrance, NSW. At first he set up house in a tent on a block of land in Denning Street. At the front of the block he built his first home at The Entrance.

The land was purchased for the theatre on the corner of The Entrance Road and Bayview Ave. Bricks were piled on the site to enable construction to begin as soon as possible. Although there was a cinema already operating at The Entrance it was rumoured that another theatre was also being proposed for the area. This supposed, additional, opposition did not materialise and within a short time, Edward had the Prince Edward Theatre under construction.

Len continued: “At that time there was a theatre already operating at the Entrance. It was owned by a person named Taylor and running the theatre was Andy Hardy. It was known as the Wintergarden and was actually a hall with a flat floor with home-made amplifying equipment. The operator was a chap by the name of Rusty Fairhall, who actually built the equipment. That was around 1933. The Prince Edward theatre was completed in 1934 around about the Easter period.”

The Prince Edward opened on 21st March, 1934, screening “Golden Harvest” and “Dancing Lady” to a full house. With a nostalgic touch, Edward brought the two statues from his Glenbrook theatrette and placed them in proscenium alcoves in the new theatre. Stella was given the privilege of cutting the ribbon to open the theatre, as she did with all the subsequent openings of all the Tudor cinemas.

 

An unidentified newspaper in the Stella Brennan scrapbook dated Saturday, 24th March, 1934, describes the theatre’s opening. “Handsome and luxurious surroundings, a crowded audience of district and visiting people, and a perfect program of entertainment made Wednesday, the opening night of the Prince Edward Theatre, The Entrance, a brilliant and notable occasion.

Mrs Brennan with a pair of scissors cut the ribbon across the stage. The curtains swung gracefully back revealing the beautiful screen. The National Anthem was played, with the audience standing The Prince Edward Theatre commenced its career of public entertainment.

Few people visualised the brilliance of the completed interior comparing it to the best city theatres. Lighting was ideal, pictures shown to perfection on the silver screen, while the luxurious seating allowed the entertainment to be enjoyed in perfect comfort. Perhaps the greatest triumph was the perfection of sound.”

The Prince Edward had to compete for business with the Wintergarden for only a few months as the Wintergarden was destroyed by fire in November the same year.

Stella describes the early days of operation. “He (Edward) built the Prince Edward theatre and put a Manager in for about three years. Len and Ron helped in the projection room. He never looked back, it was a little gold mine.”

Len continued the story about the early days. “The first manager was a person by the name of Ted Johnson and he also did the operating and the general advertising and publicity. He was associated with the film industry and as this was our first theatre we had to get experience, but I think it was that first winter I eventually took over the operating.

The original idea was to have the one theatre at The Entrance, but it wasn’t until we realised from one of the film companies that they were in favour of expanding theatres to Gosford and Wyong. So, it was the dissatisfaction of the film companies which were not being represented caused the expansion in the first place.”

Over the next few years Edward went on to build and operate what was to become the largest cinema chain to operate on the Central Coast of NSW.

ASTRA WYONG

A second theatre, the Astra, was soon being built in Wyong, in opposition to the existing Coronet Theatre. The Astra never had to compete for patronage as the Coronet was gutted by fire before the Astra opened in 1936.

Excerpts from ‘The Film Weekly’ October 22nd, 1936. “A large attendance of exchange executives and others associated with the industry attended the official opening of the Astra Theatre, at Wyong, on Tuesday, October 13th. The Theatre was completely booked out the week before the opening. Mr Brennan is the first in the State to install the latest RCA, Star of Stars, sound projectors.

Tudor Theatres self promotion film. Courtesy: Brendan Connolly

 

Mrs Brennan was the recipient of some beautiful floral tributes when she cut the ribbon to officially open the new Astra.”

To begin with the Prince Edward business was in the names of Len and Ron Brennan. With the additional theatres being built a parent company was formed and called Tudor Theatres P/L. This now added wife, Stella, and daughter, Betty, to the list of directors which comprised Stella Beryl Kathleen Brennan (Edward’s wife), Leonard Laughton Brennan (son and chairman), Ronald R Brennan (son), and Betty Beryl Connolly, nee Brennan, (daughter). Edward did not include himself as a director.

GOSFORD

After building the Astra the next to be built was the Regal, Gosford, in 1937. It was the most luxurious and stylish theatre ever built on the Central Coast and the flagship of the Tudor chain. While the building was under construction it was discovered the original land survey was out by a few inches, encroaching on the adjoining property. This caused extra heartache and expense to Edward.

Regal Theatre Gosford under construction. Photo: Gwen Dundon

Excerpts from ‘The Gosford Times’ Thursday, September 1, 1936. “A start was made with Gosford’s new picture theatre to be constructed by Mr E J Brennan proprietor of the Prince Edward, The Entrance, and Astra, Wyong.

The confidence Mr Brennan has in the future of the district is emphasised in the large sums of money he has outlaid in picture palaces. The Entrance cost him over 12,000 pounds, Wyong cost him over £15,000, while he feels to give Gosford what is worthy of its citizens, the cost will be over £20,000. He paid £50 a foot for the land on the corner of Donnison and Mann Streets. Mr Brennan has elaborate plans for the Gosford theatre and is giving preference to local workers.

Regal Theatre Gosford Ticket Box. Photo: Brendan Connolly

Excerpts from ‘Brisbane Water Free Press’, Tuesday, September 14, 1937, describes the Regal. “The main entrance is at the corner of two streets and visitors enter the foyer by plate glass and polished maple doors above which are delicately coloured lead-lights. The spacious foyer has a floor of terrazzo, beautifully decorated walls and ceiling and semi concealed lamps. At the right is the enclosed ticket and booking office. Here also polished maple is used with fine effect.

Regal Theatre Gosford foyer. Photo: Brendan Connolly

Regal Theatre Gosford lounge -early days. Photo: Brendan Connolly

One of the artistic features of the Regal is the grand staircase leading to the mezzanine floor. Terrazzo steps, wide and low spaced, are guarded by chrome-plated banisters and polished maple handrails. On the mezzanine floor at the head of the stairway is a huge lounge, luxuriously carpeted and with many comfortable chairs and settees. Opening off the lounge is the roof garden overlooking Mann St.

The auditorium gives an impression of height and spaciousness. The seats may truly be described as luxurious. In the stalls and dress circle there are 985 seats for patrons.”

The opening of the Regal was described in the ‘Gosford Times’, Thursday 16th September 1937.“Opening of the new Regal Theatre in Mann and Donnison Streets on Tuesday Night (September 14, 1937) was a gala occasion for Gosford and District. The magnificent building being filled by the most appreciative gathering. The formal opening was performed by Ald. W C Grahame and congratulated Mr Brennan on his courage and enterprise.

The Regal Theatre Gosford opening Night
Standing out effectively is the radiance of soft flood lights, its big two colour neon sign facing North and South. The music of the Gosford Band gave a festival touch to the occasion.

RCA Deaf Aids slide. Photo: Brendan Connolly

Long before the opening hour hundreds of interested sightseers were thronging the foyer, the grand staircase, the spacious lounge, the roof garden, the crying room and all the other novelties.

The clarity and wonderful reproduction of the RCA High Fidelity projection and sound equipment afforded further proof of absolute modernity. A thoughtful feature was the provision of deaf-aids in certain seats which proved a great boon to those hard of hearing.”

The Regal was built in opposition to an existing theatre already operating in Gosford. The Valencia was run by Frank Buscombe, a well known Gosford businessman. Theatre owner was S.J. Black who also had orange orchards hence his theatre was named after the Valencia orange.

The first few years of the Regal was hard going because of the very strong opposition from the Valencia which had been operating in Gosford since 1927. Frank Buscombe’s grip on the area had been weakened but he was still a formidable opponent. He had what was regarded as the best product at the time supplied through 20th Century Fox. Later Fox decided to switch to Tudor and from that time things began to change for the Regal.

Valencia Theatre – Tourist Guide 1928. Photo: Gwen Dundon Collection

In 1940 the Brennan’s approached Mr. Black to sell the Valencia to which he agreed, leaving Frank Buscombe without a theatre. Tudor Theatres then operated the two theatres in Gosford.

Frank Buscombe had introduced silent films to Gosford and had shown movies in Parson’s Hall before transferring to the Valencia when it opened in 1927. He had his own travelling show and ran a permanent cinema at Ourimbah. He had been a showman for over 40 years and associated with boxing, wrestling, vaudeville, and an auctioneer at Gosford Thursday Markets to name but a few of his ventures.

After taking over the Valencia, Tudor Theatres now owned and operated four cinemas and effectively controlled film exhibition on the Central Coast by way of obtaining first release product. There were a number of independent operators in public halls with the other major theatre chain ran by the Riley Brothers at Woy Woy, Umina and Ettalong. Len had a gentleman’s agreement with the Riley Brothers that allowed each to coexist happily within their own areas. The Regal’s bill posting advertising boards only went as far a Point Clare.

Another newspaper cutting from the Stella Brennan scrapbook dated Sunday, April 17, 1949, describes a fire which occurred at the Valencia Theatre. “Screaming children ran into the streets as flames gutted the projection room of the Valencia Theatre, yesterday afternoon. Two men who were burned on the arms and body were the operator and his assistant. They were treated for several hours at Gosford Hospital then allowed to leave. Gosford Volunteer Fire Brigade arrived quickly but the projection room was gutted. Damage was estimated at £2,000.”

JEWEL TERRIGAL

The fifth and last theatre in the Tudor chain was built at Terrigal, which had been without a cinema for many years. The Jewel opened in 1952. It was the smallest theatre in the group, with a seating capacity of 556 on one level. Stella often told how it cost more money to build the smaller Jewell in 1952 than it cost to build the luxurious Regal in 1937. The Jewell was the least profitable of the chain starting its life only a few years before the introduction of television to Australia.

 

Stella continues. “He (Edward) also built a theatre in Wyong then one in Gosford. The Terrigal Theatre was built much later, after the war. It cost as much to build as the Regal did, and the Regal had a crying room, a lovely lounge and Terrigal was just one floor. We bought out the Valencia and ran it also. I cut all the ribbons on the stage and I opened every theatre. I have photos of me cutting the ribbon. For the Astra opening I wore a blue satin frock and they gave me blood red roses. Somebody would always find out what I was wearing and give me the right bouquet.”

Stella & Edward Brennan – Regal Gosford opening night. Photo: Brendan Connolly

My own experience with Tudor Theatres began in 1953 when my parents moved from Drummoyne, in Sydney, to live at The Entrance. I remember Edward used to sit in the foyer of the Prince Edward smoking a cigar, welcoming patrons as they entered the Theatre. The Prince Edward was his baby.

In those early days banks did not have night safes for the after-hours depositing of money. The theatres takings had to be taken home overnight and deposited the next day. On Wednesday 18th April, 1951, Edward was held up by a masked man holding a revolver while driving home with the night’s takings. Edward resisted and there was an argument till the headlights of an approaching bus illuminated the scene. The man ran off to a nearby truck and escaped empty handed. He was later tracked down and arrested by Police.

Len was the Circuit Manager buying the film for the whole group. He ran the Regal and Valencia. Edward looked after the Prince Edward. The Entrance staff were always put on high alert when the grapevine sent word that Len was on his way to pay a visit. Len used to laugh about this in later years when we spoke of it. The Astra in Wyong and the Jewell at Terrigal were Ron’s responsibility.

Edward managed to have a parking spot for his car just outside the front of the theatre. In those days there were parking restrictions, in front of the building, applicable only while the theatre was open. To comply with the parking regulations the cinema had its own roll out ‘No Parking’ sign which was normally stored in the theatre and placed near the kerb when they opened the doors. Edward always had the theatre staff place the sign an extra car park space away from the theatre when they opened. Later he would drive up to the sign and then roll it to the rear of his car. Reserved parking at its best.

As family members we used a private access to the dress circle at the Prince Edward. We had a row of about six seats, which were permanently reserved. I recall Stella’s favourite cinema snack was Columbine caramels which came in a long cardboard tube. I particularly remember going to the 4.45pm sessions when the smell of hamburgers used to waffle up into the cinema from the takeaway next door during the Christmas holiday season.

I started working in the business in 1963 as an unpaid trainee projectionist which soon led to casual ushering work. In 1965 I was employed full time as usher and billposter working mainly at the Regal and sometimes the Prince Edward.

When I started in cinema work Sunday trading was not legal. Because of this, in the busy season at The Entrance, midnight screenings on a Sunday were very popular. It was in the mid 1960’s Sunday trading was legalised. I believe the Prince Edward was the first cinema to take advantage of the new law. On the day it was legalised, with no previous advertising possible a PA system was installed in a car and it went around all the beaches and camping areas advertising the first Sunday night screening of movies.

Regal Theatre projection room. Photo: Brendan Connolly

In 1968 Don Biddle long time projectionist at the Regal suffered a heart attack and retired. When his replacement proved to be not suitable I became the projectionist at the Regal. I started in the job in October, 1968, at the time Sound of Music was being screened. I held that position till the theatre was sold, in 1974, to the Commonwealth Bank.

After the sale Village Cinemas continued to screen movies at the Regal while they built their Twin Cinemas in Watt St, Gosford. (Since demolished). The Regal was later demolished and a bank built on the site.

Under the leadership of Len, Tudor Theatres always maintained high standards of entertainment and presentation. In the 1940s he introduced long play records, prior to commercial release, to provide the best quality pre-show and intermission music. In the 1960s he moved on to using reel to reel audio tape. He pre-recorded all the music to be played in the cinemas.

Tudor Theatres provided double feature, first release films screened with the best equipment available giving excellent quality. CinemaScope presentation was introduced around November, 1954, with the screening of The Robe.

In 1956 top quality sound was provided for with the installation of ‘Westrex’, four track magnetic, stereophonic sound systems and a wall-to-wall CinemaScope screen.

The Prince Edward and Regal underwent major structural renovations to provide the largest possible screen area. The Regal was reputed to have one of the largest screens in the country. The Prince Edward underwent two stages of renovations. Photos show an earlier conversion with additional seating capacity. With the new wall-to-wall screen it did not provide a big enough picture so seats were removed and the screen brought forward. (Creating a huge back stage area).

Excerpts from the ‘Film Weekly’, January 12, and January 19, 1956. “Giant screen launching brilliant. The Regal Theatre, Gosford, yesterday launched its new policy of super-wide screen presentation coupled with full stereophonic sound, and the new sheet, magnificently lit with a sharp bright image measured 46 feet, stretching almost from wall to wall of the 982 seat auditorium.

A night session drew a near capacity audience on what is regarded as the poorest trading night of the week.

Despite the small seating capacity, the Regal’s screen is one of the largest in Australia. Light via Kalee projectors and 14 inch Peerless arcs pulled as much as 60 amps and showed an image of perfect brightness.

The Westrex stereophonic installation is of particular interest and incorporates all the features found in the best city houses. The amplifier and switching system are of 50 watt capacity which provides a large reserve of power for this intimate theatre. In addition to four-track magnetic and standard optical reproductions the Regal is also equipped for Perspecta sound.

Though on a smaller scale Mr Brennan has similar presentation at The Entrance and is going ahead with other installations at other theatres on the chain. He will have spent £23,000 when the installations are complete.

The ‘Australian Exhibitor’, Thursday January 19, 1956, describe under the heading ‘Sound and Sight are Indissolubly Wedded’. Len Brennan, Chairman of Directors of Tudor Theatres P/L introduced his company’s changeover to CinemaScope, as originally intended, with 4 track magnetic stereophonic sound at Gosford on Monday 9th January with 20th Century Fox’s ‘Love Is A Many Splendored Thing’.

The introduction of magnetic stereophonic sound has caused more comment than the original opening with CinemaScope. The effects speakers not only surround the theatre walls but a number are also installed in the ceiling at selected positions.

The screen at the Gosford Regal is 46 feet wide x 20 feet high. There is a curve of 18 inches in the 46 feet wall-to-wall screen and only 56-58 amps is required to light it instead of the normal 70-80 amps, which Brennan attributes to the reflectivity of the Miracle Mirror screen. The distance between walls is 50 feet 6 inches.

The main curtains drape into the walls and the result of some clever planning and construction of a specially designed curving curtain track.

Not long ago Mr Brennan spent about £13,000 extending the Prince Edward to accommodate an additional 300 seats. In his recent reconstruction he cheerfully sacrificed 150 of these to give the audience the perfect wall-to-wall CinemaScope screen.

Len Brennan said that last year was an all-time record in 21 years of trading a result entirely attributed to CinemaScope.”

Len Brennan continues. “When television came along, we had no talking slides whatsoever. The only slides we screened were silent ones with background music. I think that is a mistake cinemas are making today, there is just too much advertising. We would not run film advertising, it was completely out as far as Tudor Theatres went. We did survive those years with television while cinemas everywhere were closing. It was a fight, but it was due to eliminating the advertising.

The huge screen had impact and it is something missing from the cinemas of today. They don’t have that and it helped us to get through. Another thing was the music. It was always in keeping with the mood of the film to be screened.

With the introduction of television, the theatres had a real problem with the expected competition and drain in attendance. Knowing we had one of the biggest screens in New South Wales, I decided to get a television set on loan from Collett’s Radio and put it on display in the foyer at the Regal to show people the difference between a television and the huge cinema screen.”

following poor attendances after the introduction of Television the Valencia was used by Gosford Musical Society for their live productions. It was also the venue for school concerts in the late 1950’s. Gosford no longer had a need for two cinemas which led to the Valencia being sold in 1960. The rest of the chain continued on, surviving the television years, each theatre in its own way depending on its location.

Valencia Arcade Gosford c.1980s. Photo: Brendan Connolly

Len maintained his high standards for presentation even in the latter years. In the late 1960’s there was to be a big movie premiere. Len reminded me (as projectionist) that it was to be a big night and said the presentation had to be perfect. Being a presentation buff myself I replied that I couldn’t do it any different to the way I always did it. Len gave a nod and smile. He never mentioned presentation to me again.

After the sale of the Regal I obtained full time employment away from cinemas but still retained casual cinema work, at first, with the Erina Drive-in, managed by Norm West. I stayed with Tudor Theatres also doing casual work at the Prince Edward. I was there for the closing night in 1978. I was the Duty Manager at the Drive-in the night it closed in the mid 1980’s.

The Drive-in operated under many names over the years causing confusion for some even to this day, not realising the various names were used by the one and the same site. It started out as Erina Drive-in, then Gosford Drive-in, Skyline Drive-in and closed as the Greater Union Drive-in.

In the late 1980’s I returned to full time projection work with Central Coast Cinemas who ran The Entrance Cinema, and later they took over the Kincumber Cinema as well. Kincumber had originally been opened and operated as The Ritz by Paul Brennan who also had the Avoca theatre. (No relation to the Tudor Brennan’s).

Even though the various cinemas were competing for business there was also a form of camaraderie. I recall one night at the Drive-in theatre, the film had not arrived and left us with no movie to screen. An opposition cinema lent us a movie to get us by. I also recall cinemas sharing their pop-corn stock when supplies ran low.

I also worked for other Central Coast theatres holding various part time and full time positions. On several occasions I worked for two cinemas which were in opposition to each other with no problems.

By 1972 Len and Ron were of retirement age and looking to ease themselves out of the film industry. This resulted in the second theatre in the chain to be sold, which was the Astra in 1972. It was demolished and a shopping centre built on the site. Soon after the Jewell was closed and sold and demolished, then the Regal in 1974. Finally in 1978 the Prince Edward was sold bringing Tudor Theatres to the end of the road.

The Prince Edward was the first in the chain to open and was to be the last to go. It was heavily gutted in 1980 and turned into a twin cinema complex. It recommenced life as The Entrance Cinema. The trained eye can still find traces of what was the old Prince Edward in the original outer walls.

Tudor theatres Directors and Spouse 1954. Photo: Michael Brennan

Beside The Entrance the only other Tudor building not demolished was the Valencia. The Valencia had been sold off in 1960 and was converted into an arcade of shops and offices and known as the Valencia Arcade. I have been told that in the ceiling area of the arcade one can see the original cinema ceiling with ornate ceiling work, an art deco light and the top of the proscenium arch. The ceiling is pale green and cream with gilded plaster garlands.

At the time of writing The Entrance continues to screen movies and would have to be acknowledged as the oldest site on the Central Coast still showing movies.

Except for a few photographs and memories there is now very little left of Tudor Theatres. But the Family involvement in cinemas did not end with the closing of Tudor Theatres. I started working in the industry in 1963 and continued on after the sell off working at many other cinemas till retirement, after 37 years in the industry, in 2000. My son Jason, with theatres almost literally in his blood, has also worked at many Central Coast cinemas. When he left the cinema industry, in 2003, the family had seen almost seventy years of continuous involvement by four generations, which all started with Edward Brennan way back in 1934.

*****

Author: Brendan J L Connolly – 2017

With help from: Stella “Kath” Brennan – Len Brennan – Betty Connolly nee Brennan and SBK Brennan scrapbook -Various newspapers & magazines

Gosford Times 1937 09 16 - Regal Theatre Gosford Opening

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