Page 8 - untitled
P. 8

17.  THE NEW MENTONE THEATRE                                                by Trevor Walters

             The New Mentone theatre was situated on the North-West corner of Balcombe Road and Nepean Highway,

             The New Mentone opened on Saturday 5th May, 1928 and was a 1  ,306 seat luxurious theatre which had all the
             latest in comfort and technology. The builders were Mr. A.E. Lydford and Sons, and the Architects were Behringer,
             Taylor and Johnson.

             Mr. Lydford was born in Bristol in 1874. He migrated to Australia in 1905 and settled in Oakleigh. In 1924 he
             moved to Mentone, established himself as a builder, and erected a factory in Swanson Street trading as A.E.
             Lydford Pty. Ltd, a company he ran until his death.

             He bought 12 1/2  acres of land bounded by William St, Balcombe Rd  and Pt. Nepean Road where he built
             houses, shops and the New Mentone theatre.

             He  personally  conceived the  idea  of the  New Mentone  theatre on  a  site that  others had  condemned  and
             conducted the management and operation of the theatre with his family for two years.

             Although opening in the day's of silent movies, the opening films being "Beau Sabreur" supported by "Jesse
             James" both from Paramount, Mr.  Lydford considered himself an entrepreneur and  showman, was quick to
             realise talking pictures were the future and installed western electric sound equipment and Mentone became
             the first suburban theatre in Victoria to screen talkies.

             This was done against the advice from City Theatre Management who said it was too new to be a success.  He
             proved them all wrong as Mentone played to capacity houses all week. Despite strong opposition from some of
             his associated and citizens of Mentone he adhered to his belief in the potential of the site where he built the
             New Mentone theatre.

             Mentone was one of the largest and luxurious in  Victoria.  It had its own  orchestra, a white baby grand was
             positioned in the lounge foyer, the walls of the upstairs foyer were decorated with murals depicting a balcony
             with a rural view. While the orchestra was still in residence many hits from the Tivoli entertained between films.
             Each seat had a clear line of vision to the stage, the acoustics were excellent and the latest in venterlating
             equipment installed.

             Mr. Lydford and his three sons ran the theatre until the depression in the early 30's forced them to sell. Fowler
             and Carr who ran the Mordialloc theatre took over.  Mr Hugh Carr took over management of the theatre and
             Bert Wells who started as an  assistant projectionist at Mordialloc went to Mentone as projectionist, replacing
             Ozzie Parnell who was the first projectionist at Mentone.

             Other projectionists who worked at Mentone were  Jack McCormick, Ken  Lemon, Sid Smith as well as Bon
             Carr, son of the owner. The biobox was installed with Simplex projectors.  Apart from sound equipment being
             installed the only other change to the equipment came with the introduction of Cinemascope.

             In the late 1950's like most theatres at this time, the New Mentone was in gradual decline. The screening policy
             of six nights, plus an intermediate session Saturday's as well as a Saturday children's matinee was cut back to
             two nights (Fri & Sat).  The intermediate session remained but was abandoned at the end of January 1961 only
             to be revived on selected programmes.  The children's matinee continued to screen til the theatre closed.
             In an endeavour to improve business a midweek evening screening was introduced, first on Wednesday's then
             changed to Tuesday's but this also failed.

             Television was not the only opposition that Mentone had to contend with, but also the ever increasing drive-in
             circuit which had taken so many of Mentone's customers away.

             The New Mentone theatre finally succumbed to these pressures and closed  on  Saturday, 24th  September,

             Opened in the day's of Silent Movies, the Mentone Theatre closed with the screening of "Northwest Frontier"
             supported by "Once Upon A Time".  Both movies were in Cinemascope and colour.
   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13