VICTORIAN PIONEERS OF THE YEAR – EDDIE AND ROMA REVELL
A life-time resident of Mansfield, Eddie was born on 7th August 1934.
Eddie’s life-long love of cinema began early – as a youngster enjoying the serials on a Saturday night at the towns first Picture-Show, the local Returned Serviceman’s Pictures in Highett St. The connection to cinema became even more firmly cemented when his grandfather Joshua Revell was one of three men who formed a syndicate to construct a new cinema “The Regent” which opened in September 1937. At an early age Eddie would be at the Regent to help an uncle light the kerosene-lit exit signs, but he actually preferred attending the opposition RSL Pictures as only they screened serials and gave out badges of famous Australian cricketers with each ticket purchased!
The Regent was sold to Doug Burns in 1948 and renamed the STAR THEATRE in 1949. In 1951 young Eddie was offered the job of ticket seller and within a year he had taken on the role of Trainee Projectionist. This also involved attending the 3-year course in Melbourne to obtain his full Projectionist licence – and work around the “Burns Pictures” cinema circuit which included venues at Seymour, Yea, Euroa, Alexandra and Eildon.
Eddie met his beautiful wife Roma at his brother’s 21st Birthday party in October 1958 and the two were married one year later in October of 1959. They remained like “2 peas in a pod” – inseparable. The couple took over the lease and operation of the Star Theatre from April 1st 1967 and in 1968 they also took over the lease of the Holiday Theatre in nearby Eildon which they operated for 4 years.
The success in Mansfield was ongoing and Eddie and Roma purchased the freehold from Doug Burns in 1974 and continued to make many improvements to their beloved Star. The genuine, friendly and happy disposition of the couple endeared them to the locals and indeed all who ever met them. The two became as much a beloved local institution as the theatre they operated with such devotion.
A massive highlight for such a consummate showman occurred on 20th March 1982 with the hosting of the WORLD PREMIERE of the locally filmed movie ‘The Man from Snowy River” – a huge glittering gala affair which brought the entire town to a standstill. With 5000 people outside the cinema, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and wife Tammy led a cast of 400 visitors down the red carpet which included the stars of the movie. For several weeks the movie screened non-stop as local movie-goers were joined by busloads of tourists to watch the film in the cinema where it premiered. And of course history repeated itself when the Snowy River sequel graced the big screen of the Star Theatre in 1988.
Over the years, Gala movie nights, fundraisers, luncheons, concerts, plays – all forms of entertainment and events were staged at the theatre – the genuine hub and heart of the community with the ever-gracious Eddie and Roma at the helm.
Along with upgrades and improvements the name was simplified to “Mansfield Cinema” in 1995. By June 1998 Eddie and Roma had clocked up 31 years of operating the theatre (an astonishing 44 all up for Eddie) so the business was sold to a local couple, allowing the Revells to enjoy retirement, including attending the annual Movie Convention in Queensland.
Sadly the lovely old theatre, so full of character and charm closed as a cinema in 2006.
Both Eddie and Roma’s many years of service to the cinema industry was acknowledged when they became members of the national “Society of Australian Cinema Pioneers” many years ago. They both enjoyed attending the many functions and activities of the Victorian Branch of the Society where they were held in high esteem. So high in fact, that late last year, the Victorian Committee had unanimously voted to select both Eddie and Roma as the first ever JOINT recipients of the “VICTORIAN CINEMA PIONEER OF THE YEAR AWARD” for 2021. The decision is normally not made known to anyone until late in the year, but Eddie was advised of being chosen several months ago – so we are very thankful he knew of the forthcoming honour. He was delighted – but kept the news under his hat. When Covid restrictions allow, it will be our extreme honour to present the award to Roma.
After an ongoing battle with cancer, on 13th July Eddie passed away quietly in Mansfield with his beloved and much adored wife, Roma holding his hand.
Mansfield has lost two icons – its THEATRE and the MAN who loved it… who loved to “put on a show” and entertain and make people happy – who gave generations of people marvellous memories.
A tribute written by
Vic. Branch Committee Member
& Friend of the Eddie & Roma.