Wonderland

Wonderland

Wonderland
22 Langtree Avenue, Mildura
Also known as Paramount, Astor
Showing films from: 1923

The history of showing films in the building at 22 Langtree Avenue goes back to 1923 when a cinema called the Paramount opened, it quickly changed its name to Wonderland, and some years later became the Astor.

The Wonderland was operated by Alex Thomson of the Mildura Amusement Company. Thomson owned two other cinemas in town, one was an open-air cinema across the road in Langtree Avenue, which was also confusingly called ‘Wonderland’ and the other was an indoor cinema called the ‘Olympia Pictures’ a few blocks away in Orange Avenue.

The Wonderland (indoor) was fairly plain building made from poured concrete and a brick finish, the roof was steel with the gabled end decorated with mock Tudor glass and timber panels. The façade had an overhanging canopy, the building was one storey high. The façade of the cinema was flanked by two shops on either side of open fronted space, which had a freestanding octagonal-shaped ticket box in the middle. Once tickets had been purchased the auditorium could be entered via two doors on either side of the ticket box.

The auditorium itself was plain in comparison to the type of cinemas that Mildura would later see, such as the Ozone, but this was still the early days in cinema projection for Mildura so there would have been some hesitation in the amount of money that was invested in such an enterprise. Initially film screenings were probably were not so great at the Wonderland, the projection booth was on ground level and the screening portals were situated just above head height. The Wonderland didn’t have a sloped floor, so if seated towards the rear of the building it would no doubt have been difficult to see the screen. However, having a flat floor also meant that the building could be used for various purposes and not just limited to just showing films. Cinemas of this period would often have hard benches for seats so they could be move around, again enabling the space to be used for different events.

In 1930 the first ‘talking picture’ was screened at the Wonderland, The Idle Rich (1929, dir. William C. deMille with Conrad Nagel and Bessie Love) an early sound comedy from MGM. The film was based on the Broadway play, White Collars.

Ownership of the Wonderland had changed hands a couple of times and by 1935 it was in the hands of Mr T. Houghton, who also owned many of the other cinemas in the Sunraysia area.

By now the Capital, a new up-to-date cinema, had just opened only a few doors further down Langtree Avenue offering further competition to the Wonderland. Given that cinemas were becoming more lavish all the time the Wonderland would find it hard to survive in this new climate of ‘picture palaces’. Houghton made a wise business decision to move with the times and make drastic improvements to the cinema. It took two years to get the plans agreed but the result was the Astor.

Read out about the Astor.

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