Historic theatre to get revamped outdoor area

Coming soon to The James

Dungog's historic James Theatre is to get a new attraction - in the form of a new outdoor entertaining area to support catering for large functions and public events

Dungog Shire Council has approved a development application for a 26.5 metre square outdoor shelter and storage shed within landscaped grounds at the rear of the Brown Street facility.

The beautifully landscaped area at the rear of the theatre site.

The beautifully landscaped area at the rear of the theatre site.

The James Theatre which sits on council owned land is entirely managed by volunteers, through Friends of the James Theatre Inc.

The group secured a $50,000 state government grant last year and this work is part of those improvements.

The new shelter includes a storage shed on the western end with roller door access to secure the barbecue and incorporates a stainless-steel food preparation bench.

A large masonry rock wall will foot the structure on three sides and in keeping with the intrinsic heritage theme of the site, all framework and cladding will be rough sawn hardwood timber from the forests of the Barrington.

Before the council made its decision on October 21, Nick Helyer from Alison, addressed councillors on behalf of the Friends of the James Theatre and the James Theatre Community Centre Committee (a section 355 council sub-committee).

He said the Friends of the James Theatre's successful funding application under the My Community Project initiative received high support from the community.

"The facility will enable catering on site for significant occasions such as Australia Day, the traditional Christmas in July fundraiser and the black and white charity ball," he said.

The council unanimously agreed to approve the application.

In 2015, the rear of the theatre site was landscaped under a grant and contributions from fundraising.

The theatre is listed in the Dungog Local Environment Plan (DLEP) as a heritage item of local significance and is in the Dungog Commercial Precinct Heritage Conservation Area.

In 2012, the Heritage Council of NSW issued Council with a Notice of Intention to consider listing the James Theatre on the State Heritage Register in acknowledgement of its heritage significance to the people of NSW.

The Heritage Council of NSW identified the theatre, dating from 1918, with use on the site for open air films from 1912, as the oldest purpose-built picture show theatre still operating in NSW.

Its Spanish Mission style renovations of the 1930s make it one of only two remaining in this style operating in NSW, and the only operating cinema in this style outside Sydney.

In 2013, Council was advised that the listing did not proceed, on the grounds that the listing may materially reduce opportunities for reasonable economic use as this could lead to a loss of, or a decline in, volunteer support which is essential for continuing use.