Winter Garden Theatre Archive
In the mid-1920s the Birch, Carroll and Coyle (BCC) consortium opened a succession of palatial Wintergarden Theatres along the Queensland Coast. The consortium partnership was first forged before World War One in Brisbane between George Birch (who died on 18 August 1917) and Edward Carroll, and was known as Birch and Carroll. In 1923, T. Virgil Coyle of Townsville joined the business but not initially as a full partner. On 1 August 1924, BCC opened their first grand Wintergarden Theatre in Brisbane, with regional theatres in Ipswich and Rockhampton opening within weeks of each other in late 1924, followed by Townsville, Bundaberg and Maryborough.
Construction of the Townsville theatre in Sturt Street began in mid-1926, and by May 1927 BCC were calling for applications for usherette positions in readiness for opening. The “Pleasure Palace of Northern Queensland” - acclaimed as being unsurpassed in Australia for size, comfort and luxurious appointment - was officially opened on 4 June 1927 by Townsville Mayor, Ald W J Heatley. The invitation extended to the Townsville public who, it was “confidently expected,” would crowd the huge theatre to overflowing. Entertainment was provided over the ensuing days by the well-known Allan Wilkie and his Shakespearean theatre company who staged “Henry VIII”, “Measure for Measure”, and “Antony and Cleopatra.”
During the years it operated, the Wintergarden Theatre provided Townsville’s citizens with many live performances by international, national, state and local acts. Local productions included those by the Townsville Choral Society, Townsville Apollo Club, Christian Brothers College, as well as annual school concerts and eisteddfods. The Wintergarden also screened, of course, the latest Hollywood movies as well as focusing on patronising the British Empire by choosing British productions and, in 1932, held an “All-Australian programme.”
For many decades the Wintergarden was a prime entertainment venue until it was sold and ceased operating in the 1970s, after which it stood idle for many years until it was beyond repair and was ultimately demolished in 1991.
Archive Location: 139L
WT/1 16 mm black and white ABC test film showing interior and exterior shots of the Townsville Winter Garden Theatre
WT/2 Copy of WT/1 on DVD