An iconic Art Deco theatre that looks like it’s landed from space, the Malachi Gilmore Hall in Oberon NSW will finally re-open to the public this April after 40 years lying dormant.
Situated in the heart of Oberon and affectionally called ‘The Malachi’ by the locals, this striking architectural gem was built in 1937 at the height of the jazz era. The demise of weekly movie watching and Friday night dances during the 1970s saw the Hall sold in 1984 and converted from a cinema and dance hall into a wool handlers’ warehouse. Now in 2022, the Malachi has undergone an extensive refit to restore it back to its original purpose and create a dedicated visual and performing arts hub in the centre of town.
The launch in April includes a series of events to welcome back locals and visitors including the Dance Makers Collective’s heritage inspired dance theatre show ’The Rivoli’ (9 and 10 April), Human Rabbit Entertainment’s Indigenous stand-up comedy show (23 April) and The Producers’ Table (30 April), a performance dinner as the finale event for Oberon’s Field to Forest 2022, a month-long food and wine festival.
“A regional town needs art to thrive and we have big plans to bring all ages of our community together at the Malachi, and to attract visitors through a variety of events and experiences.” said Lucy East, co-owner of The Malachi.
“The community is so excited and is encouragingly supporting our vision for the Malachi as it has been calling out to be restored for decades. It is a much-loved part of Oberon’s history, and we feel very privileged to be the custodians for its future.” added Lucy.
The Malachi is privately owned by Lucy and Johnny East who bought the building in 2017 after discovering the building for sale whilst on a road trip to Oberon. It was a trip often made by Lucy, whose strong family connection to Oberon extends to her great uncle working as the Malachi’s first cinema projectionist. The Easts found the opportunity to reactivate this unique piece of cultural heritage and have spent four years bringing this passion project back to life.
The restoration job-list has included structural and decorative repairs to the interiors, the installation of new state of the art sound and lighting systems and fitting out the auditorium with innovative art exhibition and theatre production capabilities. The exterior restoration is planned for Summer 2023 when the State Heritage listed façade will undergo its first clean and paint job in four decades.
Key features of the Malachi include a 200-seat hall with proscenium stage and a rare unpainted caneite panelled ceiling. The auditorium and foyer has beautiful West Australian jarrah hardwood floors with a quirky diagonal fireplace and unique curved wall of glass blocks.
Planned events for 2022 include cinema screenings, live music, art exhibitions and dinner dances. Regular concerts include the ‘Malachi Nights’ series, focussing on new original music performed live by local and nationally renowned singer-songwriters. Suggested uses for the Malachi have been welcomed through local consultation, and the ideas include film clubs for kids (think the Lego movie screening with BYO Lego), a monthly Young Adults Screen Society with topical discussions and pizza for dinner from next door’s pizzeria to a Winter Botanical weekend organised by the garden club.
When the Malachi was built in 1937 it was funded by the local Oberon Catholic Church and the local Bishop gave his blessing of its original and ‘as futuristic as 1978’ design. It was designed by Agabiti & Millane, a Sydney architectural firm, with a striking façade of curving and rectangular shapes. Interwar Art Deco features include rendered bricks, glass bricks, metal railings, ornate interior plaster and stucco work. The land was donated by the family of Malachi Gilmore, an Irish settler, and named after him. At the time it was – as it is now – a dramatic addition to the streetscape of Oberon.
The reactivation of the Malachi has been made possible with funding from both NSW and Federal Government support, and the building has been restored by local tradespeople and many generous offers of volunteer help. The venue will provide a welcome boost to Oberon’s cultural and heritage tourism sector and provide a newly recruited front of house crew with work opportunities.
The Malachi was once the centre of Oberon’s social life, with various balls, variety shows, school concerts, Queen and Princesses competitions, weddings, CWA dances, sports club dinners, and not to forget the three-times-a-week talkies! (a film with soundtrack). Its fascinating history can be found on the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall’s listing on the New South Wales State Heritage Register, gazetted on 5 December 2003.
April launches a new season in the life of this remarkable building and its revival is an ode to the great times of the Malachi’s heyday and a bright and creative future ahead.
The Malachi is located at 124 Oberon Street, Oberon.