Heritage Victoria has recommended that the former Hoyts Cinema Centre on Bourke St be heritage-listed, but Planning Minister Matthew Guy has called the building ‘ugly,’ sparking debate around heritage building preservation.

Guy was quoted in the Herald Sun News as saying the Hoyts building and the Total carpark on the corner of Russell and Lt Bourke streets were deemed worthy due to their modernist "brutalist" style.

He argued, however, that such buildings should not be preserved.

"People use the term brutalist architecture to legitimise ugly buildings, but I don't think we should be saving ugly buildings in Melbourne."

The building occupies a prime location in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD and private developers have already showed interest in the site. Developer AXF Group has submitted an application for a mixed use complex, including a 68-level hotel-apartment building.

Hoyts Cinema Centre Bourke St

The Hoyts Cinema Centre on Bourke St.

Heritage Victoria is trying to save the Hoyts Cinema Centre from demolition. The building, designed in 1966 by Sydney architect Peter Muller and completed in 1969, was the first multi-cinema complex in Victoria.

Apart from its historical significance as the first purpose built "cinema centre" in Australia incorporating more than two screens in the same building, Heritage Victoria said the Hoyts Cinema Centre is architecturally significant for the ways in which it differs from most traditional ‘post and beam’ construction systems. The tower displays early characteristics of the emerging brutalist style, which saw a rise in linear, fortress-like and block-shaped buildings.

Hoyts Cinema Centre Bourke St

Foyer of the Hoyts Cinema Centre, built in the late 1960s.

Although opinions are sharply divided, many members of the Melbourne Heritage Action group consider the Hoyts and Total buildings to be city landmarks that deserve Victoria's highest level of heritage protection.

However, heritage protection often comes at a cost to both the building’s owner and the community, mostly because it reduces the supply of alternative uses, such as residential or office spaces, while it also increases pressure to develop other sites more intensively.

As an alternative to protection, renowned Melbourne-based transport and urban development consultant Alan Davies suggested creating a National Architecture Gallery.

The idea is that the gallery would be able to offer virtual re-creations, including 3D modelling and holographic techniques that would enable a virtual walk-through around the buildings. Models, photographs, elements from buildings and original drawings of national and international architecture could be displayed in both permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Hoyts Cinema Centre Bourke St

A model of the Hoyts Cinema Centre building.

Although Davies feels there are buildings that would warrant the cost of permanent protection, he said a National Architecture Gallery addresses cases where the social cost of protection exceeds the social benefits, or where the benefits offered by the building are enjoyed only by a small group.

Hoyts Cinema Centre Bourke St

Drawn perspective from 1966-69.

  • Why do the Victorian government now and particularly Labour past continue to try to change the face of this beautiful city to a modern and ridiculously un-empathetic and unattractive style?
    We need to maintain these building of different eras, for the significance and for respect to our past – not to line the pockets of the Chinese developers, and skimmers at the side.
    This Property is significant, weather not to everyone’s taste or not, along with the Palace Theatre in Bourke Street C1800’s – currently the subject of a Chinese development group, (based off shore), wishing to level the site and build a 50+ storey monstrosity with another unnecessary Hotel and host of apartments of, most likely ridiculous small scales: sub 45m2 (not a local product at all and generally unfundable by banks), that will only be sold off shore to the Asian market – to create another quasi-Asian Melbourne ghetto in a continued false economy that is our CBD property market! What’s next? Maybe they’ll want to level Pellegrini’s, Florentino’s…

    Let’s try to leave some of the original face of Melbourne and our history, even if the Government (past federal and past State), seems to have had a lack of foresight in the planning of migration and the changing face of the occupants and property owners!
    Thankfully the Government are standing by the Palace Theatre, so far… but really – the fight is very much still on.
    If the Cinema complex needs heritage list, grant it! As does the Palace Theatre and the government still have not rules on the significance as yet. Let’s look at the Forum Theatre, (thank god this is in the hands of David Mariner!), and many other significant buildings in the CBD…. Let Heritage Victoria DO THEIR JOB!

    Heritage Victoria has expertise in what is significant and has founded reasoning. A single opinion on aesthetical appeal is not acceptable in formulating an end game! Lest listen to the experts and the ones who are here to ensure we retain some sense of history, architectural significance, and beauty; a balanced ode to the past – rather than just the usual buzz word “liveability”. Redevelopment and more apartments or Hotels is not want we need. If this is not listed, this site will surely face the same inevitable boring fate. 🙁

  • I think this building should be listed as it represents the last in the line of cinemas built with any kind of good taste,before the onslaught beginning in the 1970's, of tacky gaudy "complexes" we have today. The building's exterior is an iconic design of good 60's architecture. Melbourne used to have a good reputation for preserving the best of the past but from what I have read recently this seems to be in question now, the city will suffer as a result, guaranteed!

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