The Hub

New life for Newtown landmark

The Hub, a Newtown landmark that has largely been closed for almost two decades, is to re-open as a live venue within three months after a $500,000 renovation.

The Vlattas family, who also own the recently renovated Cleveland Street Theatre and have close family ties to the Century Venues group which owns the Enmore Theatre, has put the King Street building out to tender.

Another property they own, the Marina Picture Palace in Rosebery, is down for renovation and re-opening as a live venue next.
Family spokesman Chris Vlattas hopes a theatre company wins the tender for the Hub. ”Cate Blanchett could direct a show here and the quality would be there,” he says. He believes the venue could also be used for music, cabaret or ”live shows like MTV Unplugged”.

The Hub opened as the Bridge theatre in 1913, staging vaudeville shows. It switched to showing movies in 1934.

Mr Vlattas’ grandfather, Chris Louis, bought the 1500-seat venue in 1969 and filled it by screening European soccer games and Greek films. It was damaged by a bomb while empty after a screening of a Yugoslav World War II film in 1971.

By the late ’70s, a new tenant converted The Hub into a porn cinema until pressure from authorities forced its closure in 1996.

Despite appearances, Mr Vlattas says the Hub has never been completely disused in recent years.

”It’s been a location for nearly 40 TV commercials from Europe as well as a Fringe Theatre season of Shakespeare in 2002, and in 2006 it was a venue for the Sydney Comedy Festival,” he says.

Renovations have included returning as closely as possible to the original colour scheme and restoring 11 original, flying saucer-style ceiling lights. The venue has undergone soundproofing so a new operator can feature live music without upsetting nearby residents.
Chris Yiallouros, commercial leasing agent at Kelly and Sons Newtown, says there has been interest in the Hub tender from as far afield as Britain.

The Vlattas family recently finished restoring the 350-seat Cleveland Street Theatre, which has hosted The Chaser’s Giant Dwarf group since January and runs live shows, stand-up comedy, storytelling and, soon, outside broadcasts. They next plan to renovate the 1500-seat Marina Picture Palace, which operated as a cinema until 1981, then became a video store until it closed in 2000.

This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 19, 2014