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Timelines converge

The National Melbourne is the convergence of two historical timelines beginning in 1921 and 1935 and meeting in 1971.

1921 marks the opening of the building as The Victory Theatre – a 3000 seat cinema opened in the era of black and white silent films.

In 1935 Australian Soprano Gertrude Johnson OBE (1894-1973) established The National Theatre Movement of Victoria followed by The National Theatre Drama School (est 1936), Ballet School (est 1939) and Opera School.

In 1971, The National Theatre Movement of Victoria purchased The Victory, which at the time was owned and operated by Hoyts Cinemas.

Between 1972 and 1974 the cinema was converted into a 783 seat Theatre with purpose-built studios for the Drama and Ballet Schools’ operations replacing what was the cinema’s stalls seating.

The National Theatre
opened in 1974 and will celebrate its golden anniversary later in 2024.

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Frank Van Straten AM
Frank is a performing arts historian. His book National Treasure – The Story of Gertrude Johnson and the National Theatre was published by Victoria Press in 1994. This article is adapted from an article on Gertrude Johnson written by Frank for Live Performance Australia’s online Hall of Fame, and we are grateful to LPA for permitting us to use it.