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Moving pictures first came to Ingham, in 1910 when The Empire Picture Co., a travelling show direct from the Lyceum Theatre in Sydney, offered a program of “Dramatic, Sensational and Comic Pictures” to a curious Ingham public. By 1913, a small local company, the Lyric Picture Company, was regularly showing silent “moving pictures” once a week in the Divisional Shire Hall. A year later, the Ingham Picture Co., took over the Lyric Pictures Company under the direction of James Reid Godschall Johnson who moved operations to a new timber premises further along the street.
The new picture theatre was reputed to hold up to one thousand patrons: three hundred which were accommodated on canvas chairs under the partially roofed sky. Ingham’s “Picture Palace” showed moving pictures from a cinematograph machine which beamed the image onto a large white painted screen. The silent pictures were accompanied by piano music which provided drama and excitement at each showing.
In addition, boxing matches and patriotic events were held to raise funds for World War One efforts. This included the rousing speeches for the first Anzac Day event, 1916. Despite its popularity, the venue remained exposed to inclement weather which meant a new venue needed to be found.
In late 1920, Mrs P. Allen owner of the Day Dawn Hotel, erected a new picture theatre adjoining the Commercial Banking Company. The old “Palace”, two doors down, was quickly dismantled and converted into a hardware store which was occupied by Messrs Smellie and Co.
The new “Picture Palace” was a modern improvement to the street. Constructed from brick, it incorporated a prominent timber façade at the front, and a fully covered theatre inside. It debuted as a venue in January 1921, to traded thuds between pugilists Hussey, of Halifax, and McLeod, of Ingham. Together they fought for 16 gruelling rounds one particularly oppressive January afternoon, as temperatures soured to “over 100 degrees in the shade” (38 Degrees Celsius).
However, its life as the only moving picture theatre in town was short lived. In March 1921, the new Shire Hall was complete and the council leased the hall out to the Olympia Picture Company. Both theatres then competed for patrons. The Olympia Picture Co. showed its silent pictures at the Shire Hall on Thursday and Saturday nights with a matinee on Saturday afternoon, while The Ingham Picture Co. featured silent movies at the “Palace” on Tuesday and Saturday nights.
With James Reid Godschall Johnson as manager, the Ingham Picture Co. set about expanding its business. It opened a new and sumptuous theatre – the “De Luxe theatre”, in East Ingham, 1926. In 1929, the De Luxe theatre was fitted with a “talkie plants” and the age of silent moving pictures ended.
The “Peoples Palace” theatre closed its doors for the last time and was leased to the Andrews Bros.: a General Drapers, Men’s and Boy’s outfitters. The Andrews Brothers Co. Ingham, outfitted the Ingham community for over thirty years until they finally closed their doors in the late 1960s. By the 1970s, the former “Peoples Palace” had fallen into dereliction and like many buildings in Ingham, was destroyed by fire.
The last of the early theatres, the De Luxe Theatre, now sits silent in Herbert Street. It remains a sentinel for silent delights: when moving pictures came to town.
Images provided by the Ingham Family History Photographic Collection.