By the mid 1950s, thirty nationalities had joined the growing communities surrounding Medina. There were no large towns nearby, and public transport was limited. Only a few people could afford to own and run motor cars and it was a two hour journey via public transport to reach Perth. It was therefore understandable that most of the migrants who originated from large bustling European cities felt that Medina was in the “middle of nowhere”.
With television sets yet to be available, the Medina Cinema played a key role in alleviating the sense of boredom and social dissatisfaction felt within the community, being a source of fun and entertainment upon its establishment.
It was located on town lot number M877 at the north side of Pace Road. The managing director of Medina Pictures Ltd was Joel Moss. It was expected that the open air gardens would begin its operations by October 1954, and the theatre would be functioning by April 1955.
Medina Cinema Gardens had its first programme which ran for four hours on 26th November 1954. Weekly film shows were also screened in a marquee acquired by the Medina Resident’s Association. The marquee which had a seating of 130 people was used weekly, and it temporarily became the town’s community centre.
New buildings rose as Medina continued to grow through government and private efforts and the Medina Picture Theatre officially opened on August 1955. The newly finished cinema opened five nights a week and had matinee sessions every Saturday. Mr. Hartland Sprigg ran the projection box, located on the third level of the building. His wife Jean ran the ticket booth where families on a budget could purchase downstairs seating and behind this area was a special enclosed room with a row of comfortable chairs and viewing windows. This was the “crying room” where mothers took care of their babies. A more expensive ticket could buy a moviegoers viewing upstairs in the lounge which contained large plush chairs. There was also a lolly shop situated on the ground floor, this was a separate business run by a Scottish family by the name of Collins.
Hartland and Jean’s daughter Sharon shares her experiences as a child attending the show:
Once or twice a year we had a Coca-Cola matinee with everyone receiving a free bottle of coke on entry along with games and competitions up on stage … I have fond memories of driving around with my dad every week while he put posters on billboards for movies to be shown that week.
The newly finished cinema in Medina provided entertainment and services which equalled anything found in the city at that time.
Although the development of the district of Kwinana was going as planned, Medina Pictures Ltd was struck with financial problems. This was due to the fact that the anticipated population increase did not reach predicted values, and the nightly film shows were not covering costs. Ultimately, with the arrival of television, weekly attendance to the cinema gradually plummeted as more and more individuals could find entertainment at home. This eventually led to the cinema’s closure.
In 1966, the building in Lot M877 was used by the Police Youth and Citizen’s Club and was also a four square grocery shop for some time. Nevertheless, during its operation the Medina Cinema brought the community closer together as the venue where young love could blossom and many friendships were made.
The above article was written by Local History volunteer, Carlos Jimena.