The Oldest Outdoor Theatre in the World

 

‘The oldest operating outdoor theatre in the world’ is the proud claim made by Sun Picture Theatre in Broome, Western Australia.

Sitting on prime real estate in the main street of the town, the building was originally an Asian emporium before it changed hands in 1913 and the new owner, Master Pearler Ted Hunter, had plans drawn for an outdoor theatre seating five hundred people.Work started in 1913 but the theatre was not finished until three years later. It was officially opened on Dec 9th, 1916 with a silent movie.

Fast forward to 1933 when the first movie featuring sound was shown…. ‘Monte Carlo’ starring Jeanette MC Donald and Jack Buchanan. It must have been a hit with the locals!

 

Sun Pictures in Broome

 

Over the years, the theatre has stood the test of time but it has not been with out a few hiccups. Despite war time bombings, tidal floods, cyclones and even a period of racial segregation, this tin shed still remains and the movies still play.

Outdoor screen at Sun Pictures in Broome

Deck chair seating at Outdoor screen at Sun Pictures in Broome

Deck chairs at Sun Pictures in Broome

 

During the day, the theatre is open so you can pop in and wander around. A trip down memory lane is provided by the collection of memorabilia on display. Movie posters and old movie reels decorate the walls.

Memorabilia at Sun Pictures in Broome

 

Memorabilia at Sun Pictures in Broome

 

By night, it’s movies under the stars……..and sometimes the planes as they pass low overhead.

 

 

Do you go to outdoor movie theatres?

 

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Don’t forget to pop over and see the other contributions.

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34 Responses to The Oldest Outdoor Theatre in the World

  1. Lisa Goodmurphy September 20, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    What a cool place – I’ve actually never seen an outdoor movie theatre like that! Believe it or not, I’ve never even been to a drive-in movie theatre!

    • [email protected] September 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      This one in Broome is a classic. I love the tin shed atmosphere and the fact that the planes virtually seem to be flying in to the theatre!! Oh Lisa, fancy missing out on drive-ins!! There are still a few drive-ins in Australia but most have disappeared. You might have to visit us to cross these two off your list!!

  2. Jackie Smith September 20, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    We’ve had some local hotels and downtown businesses have outdoor movie nights in recent years but it was ‘bring your own blanket’ and sit on the ground and watch a movie shown on the side of a building. This is absolutely too fun looking. Didn’t know they had places like this.

    • [email protected] September 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      We actually have a couple of deck chair theatres in Perth, Jackie, where you still have to bring pillows and blankets as the seats can be so low. It’s a fun night at the movies but in Broome you have the added excitement of the planes flying low overhead!

  3. Debra Kolkka September 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    We loved this in Broome. The best bit was when planes came in to land at the nearby airport….directly overhead!

    • [email protected] September 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

      The first time a plane comes in, you wonder what on earth is happening…it feels so close…but it’s a great night out, isn’t it Debra

  4. jan September 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Ha Ha – still the same as it was 30 years ago. Oops – showing my age! Lovely photos, nice memories for lots of people. So you didn’t take in a movie?

    • [email protected] September 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

      Some things never change!!No movie this time….it was a bit cooler than usual and we were a bit lazier!

  5. Muza-chan September 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Great article

  6. Mary @ The World Is A Book September 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    I love how they have preserved it. I’ve never been to an outdoor theater and this one sounds so interesting to visit and watch movies under the stars. I haven’t seen any drive-in movies around here in Southern California so I’ve never been to one either. I’ve always felt like I missed out on some part of movie history.

    • [email protected] September 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

      It’s a quaint part of Broome’s history Mary. I’m surprised that there are no outdoor theatres in Southern California. I would have thought that the weather would be perfect!

  7. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista September 21, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    As a person who grew up watching movies at the drive-in, I find this fascinating! I love this idea but have never seen it before. I would definitely go to the movies and an outdoor theater.

    • [email protected] September 21, 2012 at 9:20 am #

      Going to the movies in Broome is so much fun, especially when the planes come in to land! We have a couple of outdoor theatres in the city as well that pop up for the summer months…always fun on a beautiful night! I hope you get to experience it one time Debbie

  8. Leigh September 21, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    I haven’t been to an outdoor theater in years but I have very fond memories of going. This place looks like it oozes charm. Do they get Hollywood type movies or more home grown type stuff?

    • [email protected] September 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      It’s quite cute Leigh. Mainly recent movies….The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was playing and a new Australian movie called The Sapphires.

  9. Average Traveller September 21, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    We also have ‘pop-up’ byo-blanket movies under the sky in various parking lots and fields around here. There’s a company that rents a large inflatable screen and all of the project gear. I’m sure a set-up like this with seats and a concession would be ulta-popular.

    You mention that the theatre still runs shows, do you know if it keeps busy?

    • [email protected] September 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      It is very busy in Broome’s high season (May-Oct) when everyone heads to Broome to escape winter in the south. Over the summer months, it’s cyclone season and very hot, so most of the locals would head to the airconditioned indoor theatre that they also own.

  10. Sophie September 22, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    I’d love to see this place, Broome is slowly climbing up my list.

    With nights as light as days in summer and too cold winters (when it would have been dark enough), outdoor cinemas wouldn’t work up here, sadly. But I remember when I was at uni in the USA, during summer, there would be films shown at the swimming pool and we could sit in rubber tyres or on mattresses in the pool and watch. Fabulous!

    • [email protected] September 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      What a great memory Sophie! I have an image of you all in the pool watching the movie! I think Australia is calling you!!

  11. Red Nomad OZ September 22, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Snap! I’ve just posted me (different) take on this same cinema!! FAAABULOUS, isn’t it?? We had NO idea about the planes so got quite a shock!!!

    • [email protected] September 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Great minds think alike Red!! It’s certainly a must see in Broome… I’m glad you took in a movie whilst you were there. The surprise of the planes coming in is part of the fun, don’t you think!

  12. Michele @ Malaysian Meanders September 22, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    That’s so cool! I’ve only been in boring ole indoor theatres. If I ever find myself in Broome, I’ll have to check this out. I especially like the picture of the trishaw since I had never seen one outside of Penang.

    • [email protected] September 23, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      The Chinese and Malay influence plays a big part in Broome’s history…hence the trishaw Michele. We’re not that far away..you’ll have to come and visit!

  13. Lauren September 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Very cool. I would love to go to an outdoor theatre or even a drive in movie. I have yet to do either! If I’m ever in Broome, I’ll definitely check this out. Thanks.

    • [email protected] September 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Lauren. Drive in movie theatres are a dying breed here but in the summer months there are quite a few outdoor movie theatres. This one in Broome is a permanent structure and quite an attraction for visitors to Broome. Hope you get to Broome to see it!

  14. Karen (Back Road Journal) September 24, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    How wonderful that it has been saved. I’m very much for keeping things like this as they are a part of our history. At the other end of our lake in Maine is the town of Bridgton. They have a beautiful old drive-in movie theater with two screens showing different films. Tourist and locals love going there.

    • [email protected] September 24, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      It is fabulous that our theatre in Broome and your drive in theatre in Bridgton are still operating and are still popular today. It would be awful if they disappeared.

  15. Linda September 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    Good morning, Jenny.

    Hmm – I like his idea very much, but somehow I don’t think outdoor cinema would catch on here wet and windy Britain. We haven’t even worked out yet how to make indoor cinema popular!

    There is usually a day each year when an outdoor theatre production might get to perform – trouble is we never know which day that’s going to be. OMG! I am such a pom – Trust me to come to a travel site and carp on about the weather!

    What I meant to say before I got distracted, was – Jenny, what an excellent idea and so well presented in your post. Thank you.

    I like anything ‘vintage’ – must be something to do with my age!

    Kind regards,
    L

    • [email protected] September 24, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

      Hi Linda. Great to hear from you and thank you for your comment. I can’t see outdoor theatres working in Britain either! A visit to Broome’s outdoor theatre is something that every visitor must do once, if only to experience the closeness of the planes coming in to land. It’s great that it has survived all these years. Vintage is good! Jenny

  16. Life Images by Jill September 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I have never seen inside the Sun Picture Threatre – thank you for taking me there!

    • [email protected] September 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

      Pleasure! Next time you’re in Broome, you’ll have to pop in and have a look around – it’s open during the day.

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