The magic of
cinema since 1918

1898 – A first for Winton

Travelling peddlers arrive in Winton with Thomas Edison’s latest invention, the Vitascope projector. It’s set up in Steele’s Hall and is paired with a loud-speaking phonograph. This proves a hit to the community and sets in motion a new age of entertainment for the town.

Pictured: ‘The Kiss’ – One of the first films shown to the public in 1896.

1918 – Curtains raised

Family accounts dictate that the Royal Picture Show was established in this year. Cobb & Co stagecoaches stopped along what is now known next door as Cobb Lane, and this would provide some well-earned downtime for patrons after their long journey across the west.

Pictured: The view down Elderslie Street. (State Library of Queensland)

1930 – Look who’s talking

With Winton receiving electricity and a rail line from Longreach in years prior, more opportunities and more visitors allowed for Winton’s first big upgrade; Talkies! Jack Menzel, the theatre proprietor had RCA audio equipment installed with a resounding success.

Pictured: RCA Photophone logo – 1929-1937

1937 – The Evert era begins

The Longreach Leader reports of the sale of the Winton Picture Theatre to Mr John Thomas William Evert (Bill), owner of the Central Hotel. From this point on, the Everts have remained loyal custodians of the theatre for generations. This also makes the beginning of a time of great improvements over the course of the next decades.

Pictured: Bill and his wife Ellen

1938 – Rise of the phoenix

At 10:30pm on October 1st, fierce flames were seen licking the sky above Winton. A blaze powered by a strong breeze swept through Elderslie Street and while no lives were lost, many buildings including the Royal Talkies Theatre were reduced to rubble with a monstrous £15,000 damage bill. The fire originated in the projection room and quickly spread, causing movie-goers to flee the theatre through Cobb Lane.

While it looked like the end for The Royal, this didn’t stop Bill in his efforts. It was reported in a local newspaper that a Mr Evert boarded a mail plane to Brisbane the following Thursday to purchase a new audio plant to replace the one lost in the fire. In November, Bill purchased the land on which the old Royal Mail hotel stood to gain complete control of the rebuild process. The steel skeleton of the new theatre space was erected by December 14th, and a date was set for the re-opening; December 21st. Nothing grand, as Bill wanted it to be business as usual. Corrugated iron cladded the structure and the projection room was made fireproof with Fibro sheeting. Weather permitting, William would be able to re-open his theatre just in time for Christmas.

Pictured: The Royal Mail Hotel and theatre engulfed in flames, and in ruin. (State Library of Queensland)
Pictured: A representation of the triumphant headline seen in The Longreach Leader, December 31st 1938

1940 – Strap on your skates

To make the most of the space available at the front of the seating area, a small skating rink was constructed. This became another drawcard for the theatre, attracting locals who may otherwise not have attended. The rink was used by the Winton community for decades with the strap-on skates stowed ready to use in the lobby.
Pictured: Performances would often be put on by Winton State School

1950 – Smooth sailing

A thriving Winton and surrounding west community saw good times for the Royal Theatre with dances hosted in the venue and a movie-going crowd so regular, that assigned seating for families became a necessity, giving attendees their favourite seats for every viewing.

Pictured: A young Neale Evert (Bill’s son) in the rear left, with his friends ready to attend one of the many gatherings at the Theatre.

1964 – A new generation

Local opal-mining icon Vince Evert took on the reigns of the theatre when his father Bill passed away. He sought new ways to build excitement in the town and paved the way for tourism in the Queensland outback with a legacy lasting to this day. His involvement ensured the theatre was sustained for decades to come.

Pictured: Vince holding a polished mineral sample.

1984 – Fighting the good fight

Vince reluctantly closes the theatre for many months with home video becoming popular and accessible. Through the 1990s, the demands of running the theatre became gradually more restrictive but Vince persevered, taking the banks to task when they came snooping and ensuring some vandals were dealt with swiftly and fairly.

Pictured: View of the theatre from Elderslie Street

2005 – Premiere of The Proposition

Hit movie The Proposition, written by Nick Cave, was shot in various locations across the Winton area and included several local indigenous people in front and behind the camera. Premiering at The Royal Theatre Winton on September 24, 2005, the movie was filmed on 35mm film and screened on the Royal Theatre Winton projectors by local projectionist Steven Snell.

2014 – Just splendid

The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival commenced its yearly events at the Royal Open Air Theatre, showcasing new film-making talent and hosting student short film contests. Regular celebrity appearances are made with the walk of fame outside the theatre showcasing the star-studded lineup of previous years’ attendants.

Pictured: Popcorn served by the bathload!

2018 – One hundred years

On the centenary of the theatre’s opening, the spotlight was on Winton! A handful of reporters came out to document the occasion and a small celebration with the townspeople was held. It was a time to reflect on the efforts of everyone involved and all the wonder and joy brought to the community over those one hundred years.

Pictured: Sallyanne Atkinson with Evert family members, Janice, Maureen and Peter.

2018 – Winton Movies Inc.

Winton Movies Inc. (WMI) is a not-for-profit entity established to promote film and cultural experiences for the Winton community and the Queensland Outback through the open-air Royal Theatre Winton. WMI Chair Jeff Close’s advocacy for the preservation of the theatre led to the formation of WMI in 2018 with the support of Luke Miller, who continues to lead the theatre operations on a voluntary basis.

2020 – The show must go on

A Business Development sub-committee, led by Lydia Evert, is established to bring the theatre back to life and achieve the vision of WMI.

This renovation stage is being funded through grass roots fundraising and grants. WMI Project Manager Gavin Evert, “After we complete the Candy Bar project, we have a lot more work to be done and we need all the help we can get! We need to enclose the projection room to protect the equipment from the elements, we are building more deck chairs, have flooring to repair, the museum will be moved to better showcase the history, the entrance is to be restored, the bathrooms need work, we have some structural work and a lot of painting to be done.”

The passion of the Evert family and the Winton community is on show with this proud effort to bring the theatre back to life and put on a show!

Pictured: Envisioning for a refurbished Candy Bar and commenced renovation work.

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