The Notaras family is honoured and delighted to receive a Blue Plaque from the NSW Government, which recognises and celebrates the work of Ioannis (Jack) and Antonios (Tony) Notaras, who built the Saraton Theatre in Grafton in 1926.
The Blue Plaque is a commemorative placard, which pays tribute to and celebrates noteworthy people and events from NSW history. The Notaras family is honoured that the Saraton Theatre and its pioneers Jack and Tony Notaras have been recognised. It is an incredible recognition of the living history of the Saraton Theatre and celebrates the contribution of Greek migration to the regions more broadly.
Following their father, Lambrinos Notaras, who immigrated from the Greek island of Kythera in 1900, Jack and Tony moved to Grafton, and the brothers formed a prosperous partnership that lasted for more than 50 years. Jack and Tony saw the popularity at the time of cinemas in country towns and built the Saraton Theatre in 1926. To do so they had to borrow $10 million in today ‘s money.
The Saraton Theatre was named following a local competition in which an individual suggested that it be named the Saraton – which is Notaras spelt backwards.
The Saraton Theatre provided a great opportunity for Jack and Tony to integrate and contribute to the local community. Their children remember the brothers as hard-working and fair businessmen. They were civic minded and involved with the community, and well known for their fishing prowess.
The Notaras brothers oversaw Grafton’s principal entertainment at a time when there were no registered clubs, no evening opening of hotels, no television and virtually no professional sport. Over the next 70 years it was remodelled twice, and survived three fires, many floods, the Great Depression and several years of closure.
At the Saraton opening in 1926, the Mayor of Grafton WT Robinson praised the brothers for showing that they “appreciated the district’s value and were prepared to put in all they could to make Grafton a better place to live.”
In 1940, during the dark times of World War II, a major renovation was completed by the Notaras family. Speaking at the reopening, Prime Minister Sir Earle Page commented that “I am sure that in these times we will think more clearly, work better, plan straighter if we mix work with amusement.”
In 2008, Angelo Notaras OAM (son of Tony), his brothers, Mitchell and John, and his cousin Spiro (son of Jack), purchased the theatre from the extended family and began work on its complete and extensive restoration over the next two and a half years. The final cost exceeded $4 million. In 2011, the Notaras family was awarded the National Trust Heritage Award in the Corporate/Government category for the renovation of the Saraton Theatre. The work was described as reflecting their commitment to the town where they grew up, its history, heritage, and future.
The Saraton Theatre continues to play a big part in entertainment for residents of Grafton and the Northern Rivers region, not only for the latest movie releases, but for world-class live shows, local events, and concerts. The Saraton Theatre has formed a cultural and historical touchstone for Grafton’s residents. The historic art-deco building with its iconic colours and architecture provide the community with a piece of living history, where locals can imagine what it must have been like for their forebears to watch movies throughout the 20th century.
The Saraton Theatre continues to be operated as a family-owned and run business. It is a great honour to the Notaras family to accept the Blue Plaque on behalf of Jack and Tony, and for it to be displayed at the Saraton Theatre. They hope it encourages people to come down to the Saraton Theatre as it nears its 100th anniversary in 2026.
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This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 29 November 2023.
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