The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre, comprising the former entrance structure and office tower above, and the former cinema auditoria.
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre was constructed from 1966-69 in the well established entertainment precinct at the east end of Bourke Street. Designed by Sydney architect Peter Muller, it was the first multi-cinema complex in Victoria. The advent of television in Melbourne a decade earlier had seen the demise of the large city theatre and the provision of a facility with three smaller cinemas running simultaneously, a restaurant and associated office tower with rentable space, presented the Hoyts Company with an economically viable option. Established in 1908 as Hoyts Pictures Pty Ltd, this company played a large role in the development of the cinema industry in Victoria, particularly after the introduction of talking films in the late 1920s. Many large, grand theatres were built and well known architects were employed by Hoyts to design their buildings. In reaction to the introduction of television, Hoyts began an expansion, modernisation and replacement programme in the mid-1960s and the largest project was the construction of the $4.5m 13 storey cinema and office tower complex. The genesis for the design by Peter Muller can be seen in a similar project, which remained unbuilt, for Hoyts in Newcastle, NSW in 1960. The originality of the concept and the design ensured that the Cinema Centre received much attention during and after construction, and ultimately led to the closure of the Hoyts -owned Regent Theatre in Collins Street in 1970. Two floors of the office tower were allocated to the Victorian branch of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (Aust) Pty Ltd and the registered offices of Hoyts Theatres Ltd and the remaining ten floors were made available for rent. In 1982 one of the cinemas was divided into two separate cinemas and in 2005 the Cinema Centre was closed after thirty-five years of operation. In 2009 the lower levels of the complex were converted into a health club resulting in extensive remodelling of the cinemas and their associated foyer spaces. The tower has continued to provide rentable office space.
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre is a carefully detailed building comprising a two-level podium that originally housed the cinemas and associated foyers on split levels, a basement that housed plant, car parking and store rooms, and an office tower that rises above the podium. The cinema auditoria were located at the rear of the site, structurally separate from the remainder of the building. Principally an off-form concrete building, it is highly distinctive, innovative and individualistic in design and clearly draws inspiration from Asia. The symmetrical tower block resembles an inverted pagoda with each rising floor level increasing in size. The overhang which resulted provided shading, reduced energy needs and allowed the unusual use of timber window frames in a city office building. Muller's design was based on a structural system which was inspired by oriental post and bracket construction to achieve the stepped form of the tower and this resulted in a distinctive multi-storey building profile in contrast to the commonly used curtain wall or precast panel facades of the 1960s. The tower dominates the exterior form and comprises massive off-form concrete side buttresses, both vertical and tapered in form, which contrast with horizontal concrete balustrading of the front and rear facades. A dramatic fleche, with five encircling rings at its base, crowns the tower. The concrete throughout the building is treated in a highly Brutalist manner with the rough marks of the construction boards remaining clearly evident. Interiors of the public areas were well detailed but little of this remains, with the exception of dentilated concrete beams of the original entrance plaza and lobbies. Muller's early work, including the Cinema Centre, displayed characteristics similar to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and many architectural critics, both contemporary and more recent, have regarded Muller as amongst the best exponents of Wright's philosophies in Australia.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Kulin Nation.
How is it significant?
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
Why is it significant?
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre introduced the first multi-cinema complex to Victoria and consequently has an important association with the development of the cinema industry in the State. The building represents a revitalisation of the cinema industry which had not been seen since the advent of talking movies in the late 1920s. It was the first major excursion into cinema construction in Australia after World War II. [Criterion A]
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre is of architectural significance as a highly innovative and individualistic building with a distinctive tower which dominates the overall design. It is unique in Victoria. Unusually the overall form of the tower draws clear inspiration from Asia and departs from the conventional modernist curtain wall or precast panelled facade which was prevalent in 1960s multi-storey office design. The building displays early characteristics of the emerging Brutalist style in the use of massive expanses of exposed off-form concrete and the obvious imprint of construction boards. [Criterion D]
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:
The Former Hoyts Cinema Centre is significant for its associations with well known Australian architect, Peter Muller, who achieved early recognition as a Sydney house designer and whose work embodied organic architecture, in a similar manner to Frank Lloyd Wright. Muller was one of the first Australian architects to embody Japanese ideals, and this oriental influence is evident in his largest commission, the Former Hoyts Cinema Centre.