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Part of Port’s history up in smoke

3 September 2015

Fire at the former Port Theatre, Bay Street, Port Melbourne Sunday 30 August 2015 - Courtesy MFB Facebook Page
Fire at the former Port Theatre, Bay Street, Port Melbourne Sunday 30 August 2015 – Courtesy MFB Facebook Page

Another piece of Port Melbourne’s history may have been claimed by fire. The building that was once the Port Theatre, on the corner of Bay and Liardet Streets, was severely damaged by fire last Sunday.

Around 80 fire fighters took about an hour to bring the blaze, in the two-storey building, under control.

former Port Theatre, Bay Street, Port Melbourne
former Port Theatre, Bay Street

Housing a Telstra shop, a café and a massage parlour, damage is estimated at $2 million. The structural damage may mean that another bit of Port Melbourne’s history is lost.

The theatre was an important part of Port’s entertainment scene for a number of years. The Standard mentions in 1915 that it offered “attractive changes of programme … The films displayed are the latest arrivals and include the newest war scenes, when available”.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 9.19.35 pm

It wasn’t the first time the brick building had experienced a fire – there was a blaze in 1924. The Argus reported on 9 May that with “cries of ‘Fire’,” “the audience made a wild rush for the door, and one woman sustained a fractured leg”. The fire started in the “operating box” during the screening of “The Governor’s Lady”.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 9.20.45 pm

Closing its doors in 1952, senior residents remember the theatre as the “flea house” and a place for a cuddle in the back stalls. There was nothing romantic about its replacement – a battery factory.

The theatre was built on the site of the Fire Brigade Hotel, once the site of the Foundry Hotel.

written by Grant Aldous

The Port Melbourne Theatre, C 1920s - PMHPS Collection
The Port Melbourne Theatre, C 1920s – PMHPS Collection

References, (2015). MFB (Metropolitan Fire and Emergency… – MFB (Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board) | Facebook, viewed 2 September, 2015

1915 ‘PICTURE THEATRES.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 6 February, p. 3, viewed 2 September, 2015,

1924 ‘PICTURE THEATRE PANIC.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 May, p. 11, viewed 2 September, 2015,


  • leeanne
    Posted May 12, 2017 9.47 pm 0Likes

    My Great great Grandpa Mr Alexander george Rogers was the original owner of the beautiful cinema.The beautiful old cinema was originally a hotel.Alex handed down the cinema to his son my great grandpa George Alexander Rogers.l believe the remains of the burnt out building will be restored and returned to a Hotel.Mr Rogers senior served in Parliment and was given a state funeral.

    • Janet Bolitho
      Posted May 19, 2017 2.57 pm 0Likes

      Wonderful to hear about your direct connection to the Port Picture Theatre Leeanne!

  • Anika
    Posted September 3, 2019 9.26 pm 0Likes

    I’m trying to find out info about the Foundry Hotel. My 4th great-grandfather was Samuel Earnshaw who settled in Sandridge in 1853. He was an iron founder and I have research that suggests he ran the Foundry Hotel at some stage. Would you be able to suggest where I can direct my research? Thanks, Anika

    • David Thompson
      Posted September 4, 2019 3.00 pm 0Likes

      Hi Anika,
      There is a little about the Foundry Hotel in Pat Grainger’s book on Port Melbourne Hotels – Chartered Scoundrels. It was the Foundry Hotel from 1866 – 76 and appears to be a very basic single storey building.

      From 1877 – 1888 it was the New Market Hotel to reflect the market reserve and buildings (where Coles is now) across Bay Street.

      It then became the Fire Brigade Hotel as mentioned in the article. Again this reflects the changing landscape on the other side of Bay Street with the Fire Station being a little way down Liardet Street. In 1892 there was a fire at the hotel (yes, another fire!) and by 1898 it was built of brick with 18 rooms.

      The Fire Brigade Hotel closed in 1909.

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