History: Puttin’ on the Ritz Since 1937

Ritz Cinemas acknowledges that we operate on the land of the Gadigal and Bidjigal peoples who traditionally occupied the Sydney coast. We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attending and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Puttin’ on the Ritz since 1937

Ritz Cinemas is steeped in rich history and tradition. Built in 1937 and now Heritage-listed, it is one of only two original Art Deco cinemas remaining in Sydney. Family-owned, independent, and still offering the lowest price movie tickets around, the cinema has survived a fascinating history of tumultuous change and holds an important place in the local culture.

With an additional three theatres added to the original site in 1997, a further two theatres in 2001, and two more in 2023, the Ritz is now a cinema multiplex cemented in the heart of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Our main theatre boasts one of the largest permanent cinema auditoriums in Sydney, and when combined with the authentic, original Art Deco fittings, Ritz truly manages to provide the excitement of the movie-going experience straight from the golden age of cinema.

Some Key Dates in Ritz's History:

1937 - Ritz Cinema opened in July. It was designed for $20,000 by Aaron Bolot, a Jewish migrant from Crimea.

1954 - Hoyts took over the lease from Macroy Theatres and immediately installed a 'Cinemascope' screen.

1962 - Ritz was purchased by the Sisters of the Brigidine Congregation. The convent leased the theatre to Pritchard and Darwon who then closed the theatre in order to re-equip it with a new screen and projector, repainting and the addition of several Corinthian Columns and neoclassical detailing and lights, toilet upgrades, new tiled area at the front door.

1979 - Dianne Darwon took over the lease from her brother and entered into a new lease agreement, until September 1986, with the Trustees of the Sisters of the Brigidine Congregation, owners of the property. In the words of Tony Cato, the NSW branch manager for the film distributor Hoyts Fox Columbia Tristar: "Dianne Darwon became the female pioneer who changed the whole system. She brought in midnight-to-dawn movie sessions and recession-buster $7 film tickets, which included a tub of popcorn, a cup of coke and a Mars Bar."

1982 - Ritz was identified in Randwick Municipality Users Study as the only cinema with handicapped access.

1983 - Ritz was purchased by Jack Ziade and F & V Mezrani.

1984 - The council received a development application from Janiz Constructions proposing demolition of the Ritz Cinema. However, the Heritage Council advised Randwick Council of its enactment of an Interim Conservation Order.

1985 -  The owners J & J Ziade and F & V Mezrani offered Randwick Council to buy the Ritz. The council declined.

1993 - Randwick’s mayor joins the fight to save the Ritz Theatre. The Rescue Randwick Ritz Committee was formed, and a Permanent Conservation Order was implemented.

1996 - Two more screens were added.

1999 - The campaign to save the Ritz received a major boost when local resident and international film star Mel Gibson gave his support. Ritz was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register.

2002 - Three more screens were added.

2008 - The Australian Film Walk of Fame outside Ritz Cinemas was initiated by Randwick Council and the Australian Film Festival run by Barry Watterson in 2008. The initiative was also supported by The Coogee Arts Festival, The Spot Business Association, The Spot Precinct Committee and Ritz Cinemas.

2017 - Ritz's 80th birthday brought back 70mm and 35mm celluloid film.

2019 - Ritz was acquired by the Tamir family.

2022 - The Ritz celebrates its 85th birthday with a program of 85 films in 85 days (one from every year since it opened) culminating in the Australian Premiere of Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans.

2023 - Exciting renovations and upgrades to the Ritz are completed, including the addition of two brand new auditoriums, a transformation of ground floor and upstairs foyer spaces and the Balcony Bar, upgraded seating in Cinema 1 and an expanded stage, improving its capability for live performances. Future plans for a rooftop cinema above the Ritz are in the works.

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