ANNIVERSARIES are a time to not only remember the past, but to also look to the future.
The celebrations marking 90 years of Junee's Athenium Theatre will be no different, with a gala event to be held on Thursday, October 10.
Friends of the Athenium and Cultural Centre chairperson Virginia Stewart said the anniversary was an appropriate time to reflect on the Junee icon.
"It is also interesting to ponder the future of our theatre, especially over the next 10 years," Virginia said.
"I feel the future for the Athenium will be bright and largely reflected in the outcomes of projects already in place as part of Junee council's master plan."
That includes a modern lighting and sound system, and a new projector, with plans for a commercial kitchen and air-conditioning system in their initial stages, and increased storage and outdoor bar and entertaining area.
"The outcome of these plans over the next decade will be exciting," Virginia said.
"The air-conditioning and commercial kitchen will bring a comfortable and pleasurable ambience that will be heart-warming, encouraging greater and more pleasurable use of the theatre for everyone.
"The lighting and sound system will be interactive, allowing it to be developed to meet changing technological needs, while the new exterior lighting will be incorporated into the theatre lighting plan.
"A substantial shift in lighting has already occurred over the past 10 years with the switch from incandescent to LED."
The new exterior lighting will be controllable by a tablet and eventually most control work will be done by the click of a mouse.
It is hoped all of this work will contribute to a strong future for the theatre.
"Over the coming decade there will be greater use and recognition of the Athenium Theatre, both locally and further afield," Virginia said.
"A quiet but gradual shift away from large theatres to smaller, intimate 'houses of entertainment' by touring entertainers and visitors alike is occurring. The Athenium is poised to take full advantage, which will further benefit Junee businesses."
The anniversary celebrations will include speeches, singing Happy Birthday and the cutting of a cake, as well as performances by the town band and screenings of classic newsreels followed by Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman.
A highlight will be the official turning on of the new exterior lighting.
The Friends of the Athenium and Cultural Centre has been active for a number of years and has about 10 members at present.
"We just love the theatre," Virgina said. "We're protectors of the theatre and help to maintain its heritage value, making sure when it is modernised that it keeps with the heritage history.
"Council owns the theatre and we work with council as much as we can.
"We are excited to host the Athenium's celebrations on October 10, exactly 90 years since its opening. Come along and join us in celebrating all that is wonderful about the past and future prospects for the Athenium and Junee."
A focal point for the town
Construction of the Athenium Theatre took less than 12 months from the original application to its completion.
Designed by renowned theatre architects Kaberry & Chard, the theatre was built by J Nyssen and funded by Patrick Cummins, to be operated by his son Ben Cummins and George Laurantus, who also operated the Montreal Theatre in Tumut.
Approval for the structure was granted on May 1, 1929.
A masonry specialist was brought out from Italy to help with the construction of the stucco walls.
An operating licence was granted for providing "general entertainment purposes" for up to 1010 people on October 10, 1929.
Over the first years of its operation, Laurantus and his wife did everything, from signwriting for upcoming attractions, selling tickets and bookkeeping, to the booking, dispatching and projection of the films.
The theatre has hosted local and touring theatre productions and musical performances, screened films and acted as a town hall in many instances.
George Laurantus remained the manager until at least 1938, when the licence was renewed in his name, but in September 1940 the renewal was under the name of a new owner, Robert Tilby Begg.
'Our Glad' performed at theatre
ONE of Australia's premier singers, Gladys Moncrieff, graced the stage at the Athenium shortly after its opening.
Known as "Australia's Queen of Song" and "Our Glad", Moncrieff performed at the theatre in Junee on December 3, 1929, in a production titled Rio Rita.
Moncreiff began singing professionally in Queensland, before moving to Sydney where her career as a theatre performer took off.
Moncrieff became hugely successful as a musical comedy performer - partly through her appearance in the touring production of Rio Rita - had a radio show, toured internationally, made gramophone recordings and became one of the highest paid performers in the history of Australian theatre. She retired in 1962.