Founded film unit in 1954 with drive-in

Village Roadshow founder Roc (Roscoe) Kirby died after an illness Jan. 25 in his home state of Victoria. He was 89.

After taking-over his parents’ humble cinema business, Kirby founded Village Roadshow in 1954 with a single drive-in theater. He soon drove the company’s expansion into multiplexes in Australia and then throughout the world and eventually helped create a movie production, radio network, cinema and theme park empire.

Kirby’s sons Robert and John, with Graham Burke as chief executive, have run Village Roadshow for at least 20 years but their mentor always retained a close interest in the business.

The company has remained silent about Kirby’s death. He has been described as an intensely private man who did not want any publicity.

A notice in Melbourne’s Herald-Sun newspaper read: “The Kirby family sadly advises the passing of Mr. Roc Kirby on Jan 25 2008.” His passing was mourned in newspaper notices by the Cinema Pioneers group, Village Cinemas chief John Iozzi, Austereo radio topper Peter Harvie.

Burke has described Kirby as a “great mentor” and “a man of immense integrity and extraordinary showbusiness instincts. In terms of doing business in a modern way, he was way ahead of his time.” Kirby inducted his children into the business early with his sons serving drinks and popcorn in the kiosk.

Village Roadshow currently consists of a production division, an extensive cinema exhibition business, three theme parks on the Gold Coast and a stake in the listed radio company Austereo.

Kirby had four children and is survived by his wife Beatrice.

–Michaela Boland

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