The building was originally known as the ‘Lyceum Theatre’ and was designed by David McClure, and built by Simon Alexander, whose family owned the premises. The Alexander family also owned the Alexander Building on the South-West (opposie) corner of Beaufort and Walcott Streets. It was constructed in 1914/1915 in a Federation Free Classical style and was designed for a mixture of vaudeville and lantern slide shows.
By 1922, the 'Lyceum Theatre' was advertising ‘motion pictures and popular orchestra’. In the mid-1920s, with the development and popularity of silent movies, the 'Lyceum' was converted to a cinema, and the name was changed from the ‘Lyceum’ to the ‘State Theatre’.
In 1939 the theatre was redesigned in an Art Deco style by William Leighton, and reconstructed by Simon Alexander’s son John. In the late 1930s Leighton secured a reputation as a leading cinema designer for his work on several Perth cinemas, including the Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade, the Windsor Theatre in Nedlands, and the Cygnet Cinema in South Perth. He was also behind the refurbishment of the Royal Theatre and Grand Theatre. The remodelling of the 'State Theatre' left it structurally intact but altered its appearance, 'dispensing with the arches and pediments and imposing a simple restrained facade'. The alterations included the entrance to the picture garden, and made provision for a grocery store on the corner, a millinery shop, and refreshments in the cinema vestibule. Leighton’s Art Deco design introduced ‘The Mayan Flower’ to the Theatre. The Art Deco theme runs from the Main Auditorium through the external facades to Beaufort and Walcott Streets. The remodelled 'State Theatre' opened on 12 May 1939.
The Astor Theatre received its current name in 1941 when an Act of Parliament decreed it an offence for a private business to use the name ‘State’. Mr John Alexander’s wife, Mavis, renamed the theatre ‘The Astor’ in memory of a theatre of the same name in New Farm, Brisbane that was the first cinema they went to after their marriage.
With the decline in cinema attendances in the 1950s and 1960s due to the introduction of television, the Astor Theatre became a shadow of its former self, eventually reduced to showing pornographic films. It was also used as a venue for a number of activities including amateur dramatic shows, a dancing studio and bingo. In December 1978, Astor Theatre was purchased by a group of Perth businessmen and families. In 1988 rumours grew that Astor Theatre was to be demolished, and Ron Regan, from Sydney, arranged a five-year lease of Astor Theatre through his company Entrevision Pty Ltd.
In 1989, the 50th Anniversary of its Art Deco redevelopment, the Theatre underwent an extensive refurbishment by Philip McAllister, Architect for Entrevision Cinemas Pty Ltd, who wished to return the cinema to its Art Deco glory and provide a quality film experience in a quality environment.
The cinema was officially re-opened on 26 July 1989 by His Worship the Mayor of the City of Stirling, Cr. A. A. Spagnolo, prior to a screening of Australian director Peter Weir’s film Dead Poets Society.
Since its reopening, the Astor Cinema has undergone further refurbishment in November 2006, with the cinema facilities continuing to be upgraded. With many recent closures, the Astor Cinema is one of Perth’s few remaining inner city cinemas.
In August 2008 the owners announced that the cinema would close because it is no longer profitable, stating that "the cinema had been running at a loss for some time, with just $34 in takings in four hours of trading". A Music Rocks Australia concert (a kid rock band group of schools)was one of the last performances at the Astor. The cinema reopened in October 2009, and now hosts live music, comedy and other community events.
The Astor Cinema was classified by the National Trust (WA) on 1 August 1988. The building is also included on the City of Stirling Municipal Inventory. and was permanently listed on the State Register of Heritage Places on 14 May 1999.
- A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present Apperly, R., Irving, R. and Reynolds (1989) North Ryde, Angus and Robertson
- Perth: A Cinema History Bell, M.D (1986) Sussex, Book Guild
- Essays on Art and Architecture in Western Australia Geneve, V. `William Thomas Leighton: Cinema Architect of the 1930s` in Bromfield, D. (ed.) 1988, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands
- Mount Lawley: The first 150 years 1829-1979 Hamilton, Margaret (1979) Mount Lawley Society
- "WA Register of Heritage Places - Astor Theatre". HCWA. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- "Heritage Assessment - Astor Theatre". HCWA. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- "About the Astor - Cinema History". Astor Cinema. Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- Bolton, Hayley (11 August 2008). "The Astor - Perth's oldest cinema - to close". PerthNow. Archived from the original on 18 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-12.[dead link]
- "Mount Lawley's Astor Cinema closes". ABC Television. 11 August 2008. Archived from the original on 13 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- Music Rocks
- "City of Stirling - Heritage List". City of Stirling. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-12.