The Alhambra building [now Mudgee Home Decor] was once a theatre that screened silent films, however - like many of the actors in those movies - it's time in show business was superseded by the arrival of a new era.
On with the show
Established in 1912 by Ted Wilkins, Mudgee's Alhambra theatre could seat 500 people and screened silent films for around a decade following its opening, which soon became a popular form of entertainment for the town.
As per the medium, the movies were accompanied by pianists - some also members of the Mudgee Amateur Dramatic Society - who had to play along to the action of the film with the sheet music provided.
A significant moment came in 1913, the preview in the Mudgee Guardian read, "the Alhambra theatre is due to screen a noteworthy film next Saturday night, it is entitled The Gentler Passion".
"The whole 3150 feet [about 35 minutes] is richly coloured and exquisitely set. It is a remarkable story of love, jealousy, intrigue and passion."
Although, come 1921 there was strife, as the days of locals getting "first-class pictures at the old price of sixpence" came to an end.
Mr Russell Wight has decided to close the Alhambra Theatre for three or four weeks until the influenza epidemic so abates as to remove the prevailing popular fear of infection.'Influenza closes the Alambra Theatre', Mudgee Guardian, April 24, 1919
In an open letter published in the Mudgee Guardian, the proprietors of the town's two theatres Russell Wight (Alhambra) and Dan Webb (Criterion) broke the news to patrons that "from July 2 we are taxed with the [Federal Government's film duty] increase, therefore we are reluctantly compelled to increase our prices to 9d and 1/6".
"We must state that unless we raise, our films will at once cease to be sent to Mudgee and we will be classed as 'blackleg' showmen. As you know, Mudgee is the only town in NSW, or in fact Australasia, that has been showing pictures for 6d for at least three months back".
The Alhambra also held benefit screenings for a number of causes, including the Agricultural Society, Mudgee High School, and the Mudgee District Hospital. As well as 'welcome home' events for local servicemen returning from World War I.
In September 1917 the Mudgee Guardian was drumming up support for a night "when an unusually attractive programme will be presented" in aid of Private Percy Baker, "who has returned home from the western battlefields blind".
"There is nothing too much that we can do for one who has sacrificed so much for us, and it is to be hoped there will be a bumper house at the Alhambra tomorrow night," the article read.
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More than movies
And the building showed its worth as a venue for music in 1913, as reported in the Mudgee Guardian. "An interesting concert was given to a fair audience in the Alhambra Theatre last Thursday night," the article read.
"Contrary to what was expected, this place of amusement proved itself as the finest concert hall in Mudgee, its acoustics were particularly fine. Mrs F W Harmer was the organiser of the concert, the proceeds from which will go towards the expense of removing and renovating the big organ at St John's Church."
In 1919, proprietor Wight undertook renovations on the building intended to boost its usability.
"The Alhambra will be no longer a picture theatre only, put a picture theatre, a concert hall and a place of general amusement as well," the Guardian reported.
"Alterations made to the stage will make it available for use for all classes of theatrical representations, as well as for concerts, lectures, public speaking and the like. The floor of the theatre has been placed in good order for dancing, and it's claimed for that it will be without equal in Mudgee for the enjoyment of the light fantastic."
Then new owner Fred McBeath in 1924 had intentions to concentrate on music and planned to organise an Alhambra Orchestra. With the Mudgee Guardian reporting, "patrons of this theatre can therefore be assured of not only seeing good pictures, but of hearing the latest music".
Curiously, boxing matches were held at the theatre as well.
In June 1915 the Guardian promoted a tournament with a 10 stone limit (lightweight) and prize money of £15. The next month Jack Lyle met Paddy Regan and it was reported the former would "donate a 'fiver' to Australia Day if he wins".
The Alhambra Theatre ceased screening in the mid-1920s. And the cinema scene in Mudgee would change completely in 1936 with the opening of the Regent Theatre.
The building was bought by Bobby Roth in the 1930s and used as storage for Roth's stores for a number of decades that followed. And from the 1970s until the mid-2000s a variety of businesses passed through.
It would also be renovated and get a face-lift and awning. Today it's occupied by Mudgee Home Decor.
- This article was produced from the archives of the Mudgee Historical Society, including John Broadley's Historic and Architectural Study, and the Mudgee Guardian/The Weekly.