The Civic Theatre's time as a cinema was short-lived - it actually took longer to build - and even though it still stands the current use is a far cry from its intended purpose.
Not long after the opening of the Regent Theatre, owner Ivan Adams turned his attention to his other Mudgee cinema, the Criterion Theatre in Church Street [the building now houses Just Jeans among others]. The correspondence with the Government departments can be found in the Mudgee Historical Society archives, it provides an insight into the protracted establishment and early demise of the Civic.
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In 1940 Adams applied to the Theatre and Films Commission to build a facility in Mortimer Street, originally intended to be called the "New Criterion". The application stated that the "old" Criterion wasn't a modern theatre and was only being used for a weekly matinee.
Furthermore, the site had "become one of the most valuable in Mudgee and there is big demand for this building by a number of business people". The application also mentioned an arrangement between Adams and the Commission that he would surrender his licence for the Criterion in exchange for one for the proposed new theatre.
Redubbed the "Civic", the plan was for the building to have a flat floor, in order to be dual-purpose as a hall. With 832 seats not proposed to be fixed in order to achieve this, although later letters exchanged indicated the seats would be screwed down.
However, in 1946 Adams wrote the Film Commissioner that several years earlier construction had been interrupted when workers were called up by the Allied Works Council to build a small arms factory in Mudgee. And that he was sourcing materials to finish the build, although it wouldn't be completed until nearly a decade later.
I wish to confirm that I will not be renewing the licence for the Civic Theatre, Mudgee. I am reluctantly compelled to do this for financial reasons brought about by the advent of television in this territory. It has only been going for the past two months and the loss of patronage is alarming.Owner Ivan Adams writing to the Chief Secretary's Department in 1962
Correspondence from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1954 confirmed the sale of the screen from MGM's St James Theatre in Sydney for use in the Civic. Adams applied for a licence to show films at his new theatre in 1958 - but its time in the movie business would be short.
In 1962, the owner wrote to the Chief Secretary's Department [the since abolished office that was responsible for theatre regulation and licensing at the time] stating he wouldn't be renewing the licence on the Civic.
"I am reluctantly compelled to do this for financial reasons brought about by the advent of television in this territory. It has only been going for the past two months and the loss of patronage is alarming, and if it continues at this rate for the balance of the year, the Regent Theatre will not be a financial proposition," he wrote.
A letter from a police constable to the Chief Secretary in 1963 confirmed that the now unlicensed Civic was no longer being used as a cinema, instead it was storing furniture for Loneragans department store.
Later the theatre would be used for stage productions by the Mudgee Musical Society [see above] and local schools, as well as presentations and functions. It was then converted into retail space and in the early 2000s merged with the adjacent Woolworths building to create the Metroplaza complex.
- This article was produced from the archives of the Mudgee Historical Society and the Mudgee Guardian/The Weekly.
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