1 February 2023

Lights, camera, movie action set to screen at Liberty Theatre Yass again

| Sally Hopman
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11 people outside Liberty Theatre Yass.

Thanks to the work of the Friends of the Liberty Theatre and its supporters, the iconic Yass building will soon welcome audiences again. Back row: Yass Valley Council’s Cayla Pothan, Kate Wilson, councillor Kim Turner, former mayor Rowena Abbey, Marie Wearing and Ian Wearing. Front row: David Campbell, Janno Scanes, Peter Crisp, Wendy Tuckerman and Bimbi Turner. Photo: Supplied.

Yass’s Liberty Theatre is back in the spotlight after it secured $250,000 to reopen as what it was originally designed for in 1939 – a state-of-the-art movie theatre.

It has been the dream of a hardworking group of volunteers, the Friends of the Liberty Theatre and Cultural Centre Inc to bring the art deco theatre back to life after it was closed in 1974 and used as a roller-skating rink two nights a week.

Designed as a movie theatre in 1939, the art deco-style construction is listed by the National Trust as a heritage building of national significance. It is the only surviving ocean liner-style cinema, designed by Sydney architects Crick and Furse. In its prime, it could seat 700 people.

For the folk of Yass, it was the place to go on a Saturday night in its heyday, with commercials so novel that people came early to watch them (with TVs yet to arrive in the majority of rural homes), followed by newsreels and the main feature.

For almost 30 years, it has been home to the Yass Repertory Company, believed to be the oldest continuously running such society in NSW. The society uses theatre spaces for its shows, rehearsals and other events. When the films start showing, it will share the site.

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But for the Friends of the Liberty Theatre, it was crucial that a permanent solution be sought for the theatre so it would not deteriorate. Chairperson Bimbi Turner said the volunteers banded together about seven years ago because they saw the historic theatre as an ideal place to provide entertainment for families and young people in Yass.

“It all started because there was not a lot to do for young people and families in Yass,” Mrs Turner said.

“We’ve always looked at it as a long-term project and you could say today is the start of the little acorn in that process.

“We want to bring this wonderful building back to life for the people of Yass.”

The $250,000 will fund the installation of state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment to show movies, both the latest releases as well as vintage favourites. In addition, there are also plans to hold workshops related to film, in acting, design, direction and costume design.

By showing films in the theatre, operated by volunteers, the group hopes to use money raised to fund further theatre restoration work.

“The theatre is in a pretty good condition,” Mrs Turner said. “But like everything else, it just needs regular tweaks to keep it updated and restored.”

Announcing the funding on Tuesday, Member for Goulburn, Wendy Tuckerman, said not only would the money allow the venue to be fit-for-purpose for community access, it would also support the local community.

Inside old theatre

Looking down from the dress circle at the art deco form of the Liberty Theatre, Yass, scheduled to reopen at the end of the year as a movie theatre. Photo: Judith Davidson.

“Yass holds the Liberty Theatre close to its heart and I am so excited and proud to see such significant investment in this iconic building to allow increased use by the community,” Mrs Tuckerman said.

“The Friends of the Liberty Theatre have really done the hard work to give the community something they’ve wanted for a long time and this funding is a step to acknowledge this hard work.”

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Mrs Turner said the funding would allow the theatre to show classic and current release films for the community to enjoy, having been without such entertainment for so long.

“This $250,000 grant is extremely exciting for the Friends of the Liberty Theatre and Cultural Centre Inc in bringing to life the entertainment for the broader community in this iconic 1939 cinema by once again being able to show films.

“We hope to establish a classic film club, but our priority is for family films on weekends, with new releases as well as special themed weekends,” she said.

Mrs Turner said she hoped the Liberty Theatre would reopen by the end of the year.

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Well done! A town needs a cinema and Yass, with a rising population is overdue. Congratulations to the great community who are getting the cinema open again. I will drive from Canberra to have a look when it reopens. 👍🙂

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