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Byron Shire
June 27, 2022

Reno’s revive picture house recollections

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Paul Bibby

If walls could talk the Brunswick Picture House would have some pretty amazing tales to tell.

And one of the yarns would almost certainly come from the first year of the theatre’s life.

Brunswick Picture House owners Brett Haylock and Chris Chen with former owner Marie Cook and her daughters Louise and Bronwyn. Image Jeff Dawson

‘Rumour has it that the man who commissioned the building was caught in bed with another woman,’ the current co-owner of the Picture House, Brett Haylock, recalls.

‘So apparently, as soon as it was finished, he had to sell the place.

He ended up selling it to the builder – a man named Walter McDonald.

Mr McDonald didn’t much fancy moving into the theatre game himself, so handed the beautiful new building on to his daughter who had just married in Grafton.

That was how the picture house came into the hands of Marie Cook, who still lives in the town 70 years later.

Ms Cook ran the business in its first incarnation as the Victory Theatre – an iconic venue that entertained generations of locals in the north of the Shire.

‘She raised four kids in the house out the back,’ Mr Haylock recalls.

Two of her children, Bronwyn and Fiona (known back in the day as ‘the Cook girls’) recently visited the theatre with their mother.

There they witnessed the ongoing renovations which Mr Haylock and co-owner Chris Chen hope will see the theatre thrive for another 50 years.

‘We’re midway through the reno,’ Mr Haylock said.

‘It’s incredible to see it all unfold after waiting so long.

‘Seeing a building being loved up like this is a heart-bursting experience for Chris and I. To see a venue that we have such strong feelings about transformed like this – it really is a metamorphosis.’

The uncertainty of the times has made it difficult to predict when the Picture House will re-open, but there are whispers that it may be just in time for Christmas.

Whenever the doors open again, you can bet there will be plenty of new stories, and old ones, to tell.


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