Langtree Avenue, Mildura
Also known as Hoyts
Showing films from: 1938
‘Don’t Simmer in the Summer – a fortune has been invested in your cool comfort’
Referred to as a ‘symbol of modernity for the town’, the Ozone was a magnificent cinema taking pride of place in the heart of Mildura. The cinema was part of a chain of cinemas all called ‘Ozone’ run by the Waterman Brothers who operated out of South Australia. The Waterman Brothers operated cinemas in many country towns across South Australia, as well as later venturing across the border into Victoria where they operated two cinemas in Mildura: the Astor and the Ozone.
The Ozone opened on the 15th December 1938 having been designed by renowned cinema architects: H. Vivian Taylor and Soilleux, who also worked on six other cinemas in Victoria between 1935-1941, including the best known, Rivoli in Camberwell. The Ozone was a large structure built across two floors that took up a significant 22.5m x 46.5m site on Langtree Avenue.
Taylor and Soilleux were experienced cinema architects who gave equal attention to the aesthetic and technical detail in the cinemas they built. One of the characteristics of the Ozone was the three-dimensional form the façade took – a bold move on the part of Taylor and Soilleux who broke away from the flat street facade that was common in cinema design of the time.
An architecture journal (The Building Magazine) praised the Ozone as an example of the amazing advances that had been made in the design and construction of cinemas, citing it as an example of the type of cinema that bring a ‘restful effect upon the mind’. The façade, which was highly regarded, was described in visual detail:
Interest is at once given to the façade by the design carried out in alternative deep bands of plain and ‘Rippletex’ brickwork, the tonings being in fawn, buffs and creams, judiciously intermingled; these bands are separated at regular intervals by a course of orange ‘Colortex bricks, bounded on either side by Manganese ‘heelers’, evidencing the horizontality of modern design.
The article went on to describe the three-dimensional curved walls that adorned either side of the building as bringing both function and form together: each wall incorporated visually striking large grills that served both as decoration and to discharge the exhausted air from the building’s air-conditioning system.
The colour scheme inside the Ozone was designed to take into account the high temperatures that Mildura can experience in the summer. Various shades of cool-toned greens were used throughout the building, including the mosaic tiles that were used to decorate the main foyer. In what might have been an unusual choice for its location on the edge of the desert, Royal Stewart Hunting tartan was use for carpeting the Mildura Ozone.
The auditorium provided seating in either the stalls (842) or in the dress circle (336), and the ceiling in the dress circle displayed a plaster-cast design of a grape vine, perhaps as a way of acknowledging Mildura’s agricultural industry. The screen was flanked by a large proscenium that sloped in towards to meet the main side walls, each was inlaid with crystal that was lit from behind giving an airy window-like effect.
The sloping side walls in the auditorium were also praised in The Building Magazine as providing ‘extra insulation, an important matter in a hot climate…’, creating space for ventilation ducts, ‘thus improving the distribution of air in the theatre’, and finally ‘to the main advantages, the great benefit to the acoustics of the auditorium, for sloping walls are primarily designed because they deflect sound back on to the auditorium level…’ Again the Ozone showed that form and function could work in harmony together.
Not only would cinemagoers be as comfortable as possible in the summer months but also they would be kept warm in winter by way of individual footplate warmers that were attached to each seat pumping hot water through them.
A soundproof box with its own speaker was located at the rear of the auditorium that functioned as the ‘crying room’, a space where parents with babies or young children could watch the film which out disrupting the other members of the audience. The walls were decorated with images of Mickey Mouse, rabbits and dwarfs. For those who wished to get some fresh air during the film there was also a roof garden.
The first film that was screened at the Ozone on its opening day in December 1938 was The Drum (1938, dir. Zoltan Korda with Sabu Dastagir and Raymond Massey), a British technicolor adventure film that was one of a trilogy of films by Korda about the British Empire.
Sadly, sometimes the action did not stay just on the cinema screen and in September 1952, a 40-year-old man assembled a shotgun while in the milk bar that was part of the Ozone and shot himself dead. The papers reported that cinemagoers heard the shot but the cinema manager ‘was the only person who saw the shooting.’ It also reported that the dead man’s ‘wife had been serving in the milk bar just before the shooting’.
With changing viewing habits that came with television and two drive-in cinemas in the area audience numbers at the Ozone slowly dwindled. On Wednesday 23 June 1971, by now operated by Hoyts, the cinema held its final screening at 7.30pm, the film was David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter (1970), with a cast of Robert Mitchum, John Mills, Trevor Howard and Sarah Mills.
The Ozone was sold to a local man for developing, the conditions of sale stipulated that it could not be used as a cinema. The building stood empty for a number of years before it was demolished to make for a Commonwealth Bank building. Today the space on Langtree Avenue where the mighty Ozone once stood is used for retail and office buildings.