Athenaeum

Address:20 Ocean Beach Rd
Suburb:Sorrento

Mr Isaac Edward Bensilum (who bought the Continental Hotel in 1890) built The Athenaeum in 1894. Designed by Melbourne architect J F Gibbins, the building continues the limestone and brick dressings motif identified in so many of Sorrento’s historic late 19th and early 20th century buildings. Here this distinctive character has long since been painted over and is no longer visible. The Athenaeum was used for functions including meetings, dances, travelling shows and roller-skating. From the mid-1920s the building was also used as a cinema. In 1935 the owner of the Athenaeum, David Macfarlane had plans approved to build an unrealised theatre at the corner of Kerford and Ocean Beach Road however The Depression and WWII intervened. The Sorrento Plaza, as it was to be known, would have been a handsome addition to the townscape, and a fitting corner building in its streamline Moderne style.

The Athenaeum has been restored and updated over the years, continuously running as a cinema since the 1920s, and now features five theatres.