When the original Capitol Theatre opened at Manuka in December 1927, there were about enough seats inside for every fifth Canberran in the fledgling capital.
The cinema quickly established itself in the city's imagination, the place to be on Saturday nights and one of the few options for entertainment in an age before television. For years, it was the obvious - and only - choice for a first date.
Now, the second act in the site's history has come to a close, with the announcement this week that the cinema as it currently stands - redeveloped in 1980 and expanded through the 1990s - would not open again after the coronavirus pandemic passes.
The site has perhaps attracted the most development controversy in the city's history. Passions still rage over the demolition of the original theatre, and there has been plenty of recent fervour over the removal of a formerly protected London plane tree which stood in the way of a new development plan: a much smaller cinema within a hotel. That plan, neighbouring business owners hope, will see the area revitalised.
Indeed, the fortunes of the restaurants and cafes of Manuka have long been pegged to the presence of cinema goers - even before the first film was screened.
Andrew McInnes in 1926 wasted no time in establishing a cafe opposite the theatre's construction site, offering three-course meals daily and packed picnic hampers. He even took the name, calling his new establishment the Capitol Cafe.
It was certainly a prudent move, with the theatre and its orchestra - the first films shown were silent, the incidental music was performed live - quickly become the place to go and the place to be seen.
"In an atmosphere quite new to Canberra, the audience imagined itself in one of the older cities of the Commonwealth where only similar taste is displayed in catering for public comfort in amusements. The curtain of blue and henna, the theatre's colours, formed a warm contrast to the graduated shading of the ceiling and walls, which from a cream on the ceiling is gradually intensified to a soothing brown shade on the lower walls," The Canberra Times reported on its front page the morning after the theatre's opening.
"From the fading of twilight the theatre presented a gay scene. New lights had appeared in the aspect of Canberra by night when the lights of the theatre went up over its imposing portico entrance and the whole of the building became visible from afar. The exterior however, revealed little indication of the artistic and restful scheme of the interior, where the fine points of theatrical enterprise have been studied in every detail."
Writing in 1989, Hope Hewitt said Canberra was short on entertainment, even by the standards of post-World War I Australia, so the theatre stood out like a beacon in the darkness.
"For those who can remember, the Capitol has many happy communal occasions associated with it: school concerts, Richard Tauber, and ABC concerts, Allan Wilkie Shakespeare, public ceremonies including the combined school service for the death of George V with the words of Blake's New Jerusalem tactfully thrown up onto the screen; as well as the escape gloriously into the fantasy world of black-and-white films," she wrote.
"Such survivors may even remember with affection the piano music beating up emotion in the darkness, and the thrill of being 'taken' (probably having 'just turned 17') for the first time to the dress circle."
A new sound system was installed in 1931, colour was introduced in 1937 and a major reconstruction followed in 1938. In the 1930s and 1940s, about 340 films were shown a year.
By the 1970s, the cinema was proving expensive to run and, in the minds of its owners, not fit for purpose, setting the scene for a fierce heritage battle over a 52-year-old building in a city barely 70 years old.
Half a week after Canberrans learned the demolition of the theatre was planned, the last film was shown on February 24, 1980
Ian Fry led a public and well-supported the Save the Capitol campaign, collecting signatures and organising protests.
But Territories Minister Robert Ellicott declined to oppose a lease variation that allowed for the site's redevelopment. Mr Ellicott said at the time the original Capitol was "a building of modest architectural value associated with the early development of Canberra, and that at best it was a marginal candidate for inclusion on the register of the National Estate".
By the end of March 1980, the cinema was gone. Nine months later, The Empire Strikes Back was showing in the new complex.
The redeveloped complex was sold in 1989 to Sotiria Liangis, whose son, John Liangis, was tasked with running the cinema for several years in the 1990s. The cinema was again expanded in 1993, adding another two screens. Its most recent operator was Event Cinemas.
This week Mr Liangis said a cinema like the Capitol was no longer viable in Canberra.
"We have a very saturated market in Canberra at the moment, there's a major cinema complex in every town centre, new ones being built. The old days of just having a single cinema for the entire population of Canberra [are] gone," Mr Liangis said.
Mervyn Jones, the long-serving manager of the Capitol Theatre, said in 1981, after the redeveloped cinema complex had opened, the old building was no longer fit for purpose when it was demolished.
"When people asked me about pulling down the old Capitol, I agreed. It was an awful building. The place had to be altered so many times. It cost an enormous amount to heat and it would have cost over half a million dollars to bring it up to modern standards," Mr Jones said.
But he had not been bothered by kids rolling Jaffas down the aisle. "That was fine. We didn't mind that. It meant they would go and buy some more," he said.
The current Capitol Cinema has also come to be unfit for purpose, a place where large theatres were designed for a time before home video, Netflix or digital projection. Operators had to make every screening count.
But with a contentious London plane tree on the site gone, the path to another redevelopment project has been all but cleared.
In a rare interview last year, Mrs Liangis said she cried when the original theatre was torn down.
"When I was still working around Manuka and I hear the building is down, I was crying because I loved that building. It was old ... I just loved that architecture.
"What we tried to replace [the current cinema] with is to restore a bit of [the old architecture] to Canberra," she said.