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Wonderview Theatre, Victor Harbour


Photo: Brian Pearson

The Wonderview Theatre at Victor Harbour opened at 8:00 p.m., on 22 December, 1923. It was built for National Pictures Ltd., which controlled The National, Prospect, National Pictures, North Adelaide and the Parkside Picture Pavilion ["The Victor Harbour Times", 21 December, 1923, p.3]. As the theatre's advertising put it:

["The Victor Harbour Times", 21 December, 1923, p.3]

It may have been the world's best picture, but its specific identity was concealed in the billing:"Special Picture Programme."

["The Victor Harbour Times", 21 December, 1923, p.3]

However, not all went according to plan, and the Duo Concerto was not delivered in time for the grand opening show. It was not until Tuesday, 8 January, 1924, that the instrument arrived. The theatre advertisement stated that:

["The Victor Harbour Times", 11 January, 1924, p.1]

The instrument created enough interest for the local press to describe its features:

["The Victor Harbour Times", 11 January, 1924, p.3]

At the time of the theatre's opening, it was stated that the building would be used for dances, and it can be presumed that the Duo Concerto would have contributed to those occasions as well. The operator's name was not given, but on Valentine's Day, 1924, there was a special show:

["The Victor Harbour Times", 8 February, 1924, p.1]

Tom King played pianos and photoplayers in a number of Adelaide picture theatres during the silent film days, and it can reasonably be assumed he would have made good use of the Duo Concerto for that special show.

The Duo Concerto was a photoplayer marketed through E F Wilks & Co. of 317-321 Pitt St., Sydney. How many different models were available is not known, but an advertisement showed a piano with a double roll-player with a case attached to its treble end, of about the same size as the piano, which would suggest that it had probably just two or maybe three ranks of pipes and a complement of percussions and effects. The text of the advertisement claimed that it "will give you the efficiency of an 8-piece orchestra, and is driven by a slow-speed motor, which margin of current any Picture Show in the suburbs and country can supply." ["Everyone's", Sydney, 14 December, 1921] The instrument was rather grandly entitled "The Duo-Concerto Pipe Organ Orchestra Player Piano Combined", a rather pretentious name for such a small organ. Only one other Duo-Concerto is known to have been installed in Australia, at Moss' Pictures , Ballina, in northern New South Wales, in 1922. ["Everyone's", Sydney, 22 February, 1922].

The Wonderview, along with the Victor Theatre, Victor Harbour, and the other theatres operated by National Pictures Limited, was taken over by Ozone Amusements Limited on 31 January, 1928. A press announcement stated:

["The Victor Harbour Times", 3 February, 1928, p.1]

It was not long before the Victor Theatre supplanted the Wonderview as the major cinema venue in Victor Harbour, for it was announced that:

["The Victor Harbour Times", 1 June, 1928]

Notes by cinema historian John Thiele indicate that the Wonderview was closed for films until 6 October, 1928, when it opened for one Saturday night.  It then opened again from Saturday, 8 December, 1928, to Saturday 6 April, 1929. [John Thiele, Adelaide, correspondence to writer, 27 July, 1999]

On 14 January, 1931, there was a serious fire at the rear end of the Victor Theatre, which led to that theatre being closed for most of the remainder of that year while it was rebuilt [John Thiele, "The Victa Theatre", Kino Quarterly, Autumn, 1999, p.6].  Films shows were transferred to the Wonderview, and as sound (Western Electric)equipment had been installed in the Victor in November, 1930, at a cost of 3000  [ibid.], it is presumed that this was moved to the Wonderview for that period.

By Christmas, 1931, the Victor Theatre was back in business, and the Wonderview was operating as a dance hall:

["The Victor Harbour Times", 25 December,1931, p.1]

For the next decade the Wonderview saw only occasional use, mainly as an assembly hall for the high school [John Thiele, "The Victa Theatre", Kino Quarterly, Autumn, 1999, p.6].

During World War 2, an influx of service personnel brought so much business to the Victor Theatre that the management installed new projection equipment in the Wonderview and reopened it to accommodate the overflow crowds [Ibid.].

That was its last fling as a picture theatre, but it was not until the 1980s that the building was finally demolished [John Thiele, Adelaide, correspondence to writer, 27 July, 1999].

When the photoplayer was removed and what its fate was are not known.

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