The Large Hall/Auditorium
The large hall or auditorium of the Ballaarat Mechanic’s Institute occupied all of the upper story of the first (back) section of the Institute built in 1860. The hall is 84 ft. long, 47 ft. wide and has a 25ft. ceiling. It was designed as a lecture hall, meeting, function and exhibition room. A stage and gallery were added in 1869.
1900 J.C.Williamson and Wybert Reeve show a series of animated (Boer) War pictures, and some England-Australia Cricket highlights. Reeve hosted the first public demonstration in South Australia of moving pictures with a cinématographe Lumière projector in 1896.
1909 The hall was let, for a short period, to a J. C. Langley (operating as J. C. Langley’s Living Pictures and J. C. Langley’s Electric British Bioscope).
1915 Hall was closed on 20th. June due to fire in the proscenium (the section between the stage and the audience).
1916 Hall was re-opened on 12th. September after construction of a new and larger proscenium.
1917 Hall let to the Austral Photoplay Company for showing pictures.
1919 Hall leased to a syndicate of Messrs J. Clemens, C. Gemmola, L. Morgan and F. C. Jelbart and opened as the Britannia Theatre.
1920 A bioscope room and 375 new seats added to the theatre.
1928 The hall was redecorated and most of the seating replaced.
1930 The operator’s cabin was enlarged to accommodate additional projection equipment and a winding room.
1962 Britannia Pictures sublet the theatre (now known as the Odeon) to Mr. R. Pappas.
1965 Lease of Odeon theatre transferred to Village Drive-In, Ballarat.
1966 Theatre re-opened as the Vegas 70 by Village Drive-In.
1981 Vegas 70 theatre closed. All projection, audio equipment, screen and seating removed by lessee.
1982 Lyric Theatre Company leased the hall for 11 years and used it for live performance rehearsals, stage set productions and costume hire.
1993 Hall was leased by Ballarat Cinemas Pty. Ltd. and opened as the Sturt Cinema in September 1994.
1994 Sturt Cinema opened.
2004 Sturt Cinema lease expired. All projection, auto equipment and screen removed by lessee. Hall reverts to the Mechanic’s Institute.
2009 Refurbishment of the theatre commenced.
2013 The theatre re-opened on November 8 2013 with the new name of Minerva Space.
2014 A backlit screen was fitted with a multi-use digital projection system and is now used for regular film events.
2022 The Ballarat Film Society have screenings on the 2nd Thursday of each month.