The long-closed Academy Twin is reopening, but not as a cinema. Paddington's beloved Palace-owned twin cinema closed its doors in 2010 after alleged landlord disputes, now the space is in the hands of musical creator Chris Dockrill, who plans to reopen the theatre with his pretty messed up-sounding rock musical The Island of Doctor Moron.
Giving a shout out to its original 1911 name, the revamped theatre is called The New Olympia. "We've registered that name, a lot of your listeners will know it as the old Palace Academy Twin Cinema on the corner of Oxford and South Dowling Streets," he said in a radio interview with told Cameron Marshall on ABC MNC. "That theatre was really the home for so many movie lovers and moviegoers, not only in Sydney but people from all over the place would go there."
According to the archive-trawlers at Cinema Treasures, the two-tiered Academy Twin originally opened in 1911 as West's Olympia Theatre. The theatre claims to be Sydney's first suburban cinema to show 'talkies' and has undergone a huge number of renovations since the '20s, was massive for Greek films in the '60s and became the cult and surf film-loving Mandala Cinema in '69. In '73, the whole place was transformed and reopened as Sydney's very first twin cinema, opening with the double feature of Fritz the Cat and Roman Polanski's Macbeth. Over the years the cinema's various bits were sold off and converted into apartments, shops and restaurants. Finally, the Academy Twin Cinemas were sadly closed by the Palace Cinemas group (Verona, Chauvel) on June 27, 2010 after alleged landlord disputes.
Now, Dockrill has invested his dosh into the New Olympia, putting on his weird and wonderful rock musical The Island of Doctor Moron with the help of some serious (and as yet unnamed) backers. "A unique and rare opportunity came to us to lease this building and we just couldn't say no," he told the ABC. "We had to jump at it because its location is perfect and the building itself is perfect... The previous tenants, the Palace Cinema Group, literally took everything out of it. For us now, when you walk into the foyer of the theatre, we can set it out in such a way that you will be walking into The Island of Doctor Moron; even before you get into the theatre, you'll be part of that crazy journey where you walk into Doctor Moron's crazy world."
Thematically channelling H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau but sounding a little like a PC-dubious Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Island of Doctor Moron was originally put on at Kempsey High School (of all places) in September 1998. Make what you will of this insanely whack blurb:
Edwyna and Douggie are shipwrecked on a mysterious South Sea island. They are captured by a crazy tribe of Rastafarian voodoo natives who are led by the larger-than-life, Voodoo Valma. They are drugged with Jungle Fever juice, almost cooked in the sacrificial cauldron and then auctioned off by Rubber Gloves, the whip-cracking, leather-squelching Slave market junkie Doctor Moron buys the couple as new experimental subjects.
However completely and utterly WTF (and possibly hinging on offensive) that sounds, the show has quite the budget behind it — and a thumbs up from legendary actor Jack Thompson. "We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. We've been lucky in that so far we’ve actually received some backing from sponsors and people have been coming on board with as little as $100 up to many thousands of dollars.
"Trying to get backing for a brand new musical is almost impossible, especially in Australia," he said. "I’ve been knocking on some of the biggest doors... Our whole plan with this pilot season is to expose the show and to that end we are planning to fly in at least two production scouts from the USA to actually see the show — and of course, we’ll be inviting production scouts, producers and backers from all over Australia."
In final exciting news, the team are deadset on stocking the old candy bar up and restoring it to former glory, with a few nasty surprises. "The home of Doctor Moron will be filled with more than just candy before too much longer! Be there if you dare," says the team's Facebook page. Freaky candy always gets 'em in the door.
The Island of Doctor Moreau opens November 4. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to help the Arts Health Institute. Head to the website for more details.