OZ SPORTS HISTORY HOME


Watchamacallit Theatre (aka Amaro Theatre)?

44-46 Errol Street, North Melbourne


389 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Errol Street pictured in 1964, The theatre building is in the centre with the four prominent windows and is marked "Methodist Mission
History :
This really should be a very short section as according to both Sands and McDougall directories and the Cinematography And Theatre Historical Society (CATHS) database of Australia theatres it never existed!
Directories through the 1930s show the two shops, sometimes under the same name, being used for a variety of purposes, but mostly as drapery stores.
In 1941, however, the occupancy changed to the North Melbourne Methodist Mission, which appears to have owned the site until around 1970 when it became the Lithuanian Club.
The Mission was founded in May, 1926 on a property at 66 Howard Street, North Melbourne, adjoining a Methodist Church established in 1853 (there are references to this being at the corner of Queensberry Street, but it is not clear whether this was the Mission or the Church itself. "(Mission" for post-2014 - is the church still there? The intersection now appears to be a large roundabout).
In March, 1935, there was a minor controversy when it was announced at a Methodist conference in Melbourne that the North Melbourne branch of the Church was considering selling three properties in their area, the most valuable of which was stated to be the Mission, valued at £20,000, the proceeds to be used to fund the costs of a new building.
Just when these plans came to fruition is uncertain and the Mission continued to operate from Howard Street until 1940, when in May, it was announced that the Mission was to spend up to £15,000 on a property it had previously acquired in Errol Street for £8,000 (noted as formerly Fitzgerald's drapery store).
It was announced in October that plans had been drawn up by the leading Melbourne architects, Bates, Smart and McCutcheon with the cost now estimated at £23,000.
"This will give Sunday school accommodation, a chapel seating 110 people, a central hall for religious and social services seating 495 people, a small gymnasium and social hall, modern kitchen, relief rooms, a fumigating plant for treatment of used clothing, clubs for men, youths, and girls, a rest-room for women and caretakers quarters.   The section for which a tender has been accepted includes the modernising of the shop fronts and building above a shop, Sunday school accommodation which will also be available for a girls club during the week"
The Argus, 12 October, 1940
Just when the Mission opened in Errol Street is not known, but there are references in September, 1941 to an Annual Fair being held at the new premises and in May of the following year, a club for serviceman with a lounge, reading and writing room was officially opened by the Lady Mayoress of Melbourne, Mrs Beaurepaire.
The Mission continued in Errol Street until around 1970, when the site became the home of the Lithuanian Club, who remain there today , although undoubtedly modernised inside (oddly enough, the site is in the last directory published in 1974 shown as Copyright Printers Pty Ltd, perhaps reflecting the shop front usage rather than the extensive area behind.
With all that revealed, it seems that the theatre we visited was almost certainly "the central hall seating 495 people" (which the forgettory says is  about right), perhaps later modified to add a stage and screen after it became the Lithuanian Club.
Today
I'm not sure how long the movie venture lasted - even university students stoked up on pot get tired of Star Trek after a while and I think the venture either closed down after a few months or fifty-something decided the evening sessions were not worthwhile and shifted the Star Trek marathon into its timeslot..
For the last ten or so years the site has been used as a live theatre known as the Aramo, shared with the Lithuanian Club, and although the Aramo hosts live performances as part of the Melbourne Fringe and the Comedy Festivals,  I doubt whether Mae west struts her stuff anymore!
Was it the Aramo during our few visits?
The answer is a definite "possibly" - before discovering today's functionality of the site, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that is was s short name commencing with "A"; "Astor" kept bobbing up, but so did a nagging feeling that it was an unusual name, so we'll settle for Aramo for the time being.

Now the Lithuanian Club, the theatre was accessed through the doors on our right, close-up below
Location
44-46 Errol Street, North Melbourne (eastern side, midway between Victoria and Queensberry Streets)  (The name will come!
Memories :
The Aramo(?) theatre was a craze that lasted about six weeks for a group of seven or eight of us.
I think it may have been Bob Easson that uncovered this Friday night one-man wonder in a somewhat dilapidated old theatre set behind two  shops  in Errol Street in North Melbourne.
About the only visible indication a theatre even existed was an A-sign out the front advertising in chalk whatever the night's 1930s or 40s movie was, always with "Central Heating" and "Live Entertainment" thrown in.
Access was via a dimly lit arcade which opened up into a lobby on the left behind two shops - the central heating was a kerosene heater precisely in the middle of the lobby with a guy of about fifty selling tickets from a box.  
But you couldn't enter straight away, because he was also the door attendant, and about two minutes before the show started, he closed the ticket box, opened the theatre doors and collected the ticket you bought a minute beforehand.
I say two minutes, but there was generally a short delay before anything screened, because, of course, he was also the projectionist and it took a little time to get up the stairs to the projection room.
The movies were always black and white and at least 25 years old - the two I can recall were a Mae West classic with the line "Why don't you come up and see me sometime" and an Abbott and Costello (not Tony and Peter) film which featured the immortal "Who's on first, Watts on second" baseball sketch.  
There were also a couple of old-fashioned Westerns of the "good guys are in the white hat" variety, names long lost in the forgettory.   
"Live Entertainment" started about three minutes after the curtain came down at interval - just long enough for fifty-something to get down from the projection room, roll out an old piano and belt out a few tunes - if he was in a good mood and the crowd exceeded perhaps thirty (it rarely did), then there were giveaways, usually a couple of blocks of chocolate, a pair of pantyhose for the ladies or socks for the men tossed into the audience at random before he headed back for the second session.
All great fun after five or six G and T's at the College Lawn, but after around three visits, it was a phenomenon  from outer space that saw an end to the frivolity.
Fifty-something also ran marathon Star Trek sessions starting around midnight when we were all tucked up in bed (sometimes even our own) - they were a bit of a craze with the student set and "our" movies were suddenly dropped and the Star Trek marathon moved into what was obviously a more convenient and I'm sure profitable evening session.
Which was a pity, because we had reached the point where we had decided to share the secret and organise a larger party via the Social Club.