Opened on 26th December 1911 as West’s Olympia Theatre, in the Sydney inner-city suburb of Darlinghurst, this immense picture palace seated 2,500 on two levels. The opening film was “The Power of Love”
Renovated in 1920 it came under Union Theatres combine. It was claimed to also be Sydney’s first suburban cinema to install ‘talkies’. Under Greater Union Theatres’ control in the 1930’s, some modernization was carried out in the mid to late-1930’s, including a new proscenium, wall decorations, and auditorium light fittings. Seating capacity was reduced to 1,741. Renovated and renamed the Odeon in 1953 or 1954, the theater closed again in 1960; reopened 22nd August 1969 as the Mandala Cinema, the home of cult and rock films.
Closed once more in 1972, the theater was converted into Sydney’s first twin cinema. The Academy Twin Cinemas opened on 29th June 1973, with “Fritz The Cat” and Roman Polanski’s “Macbeth”. Designed by architects H.O. Woodhouse & Danks, the Academy Twin screens mostly art house films. The cinemas are quite spacious but without curtains. There is raked seating and some timber panelling on walls.
Eventually, the original theatre was totally gutted and rebuilt into shops, offices, apartments, restaurant, and a community center for the Greek Orthodox community, with the twin auditoriums being located on the ground floor level and a new entrance from Oxford Street, in the heart of Sydney’s ‘Great Gay Way’.
No vestige remains of the old theatre interior, although the Edwardian facade is the same as the 1911 building, minus the decorative portico. The cinemas seated 478 and 291 respectively, and were known as Cinema 500, Cinema 300. The Academy Twin Cinemas were closed by the Palace Cinemas chain on 27th June 2010.