Adam Hourigan Photography

The Saraton: More than just a picture theatre

IT'S A Clarence Valley institution, a part of Grafton's rich and colourful history, a place that has entertained us, seen thousands of romances blossom and is a rare representation of our regal architectural past.

The Saraton Theatre is much more than a place you go to see the latest blockbusters, it's a rare gem that the city of Grafton should be proud to see stand tall and sparkle nine very challenging decades later.

It has the prestige of being Australia's oldest and largest (950 seat) theatre and cinema and the only State Heritage listed commercial building in the Clarence Valley. Something to think about next you chow down on your choc top.

But it didn't reach these great heights without incident surviving several testing challenges across those decades including multiple fires, the Depression, the invention of television and home movies, our famous floods and more recently the wrecking ball when talk of paving paradise and putting up a carpark was bandied about in 1999.

Thankfully Hazel Hawke (Mrs Bob) put that latter threat to rest during that time when she was in town for a visit during Heritage Week.

She was the chairwoman of the Heritage Council at the time and when she found out what was being proposed, stopped the latter threat by seeing a permanent heritage order slapped on it.

Rather than tossing their hands in the air its owners the Notaras family stepped up to save this faded image of Art Deco loveliness when the then Grafton City Council rejected the family's offer of taking it off their hands for a $1.

Sons of the Saraton's original builders, Angelo and the late Spiro Notaras, headed the family consortium that financed and oversaw the major overhaul.

Millions of dollars and a two years of hard work later, it was re-opened in September 2010 and now stands as a monument to Grafton's past providing its citizens with the latest entertainment delivered with the technological brilliance you would expect from a modern cinema.

The best of both worlds.