Since the 1890s movies have continued to entertain and inform us. Before the widespread use of television we would go to the “movie house” or cinema to be entertained and also view news clips from around the world.
We have to thank the Lumiere brothers in France for their work in making modern movies available in the 1890s, before that we had simple animations in the form of “Magic Lantern” shows.
Australia was in the forefront of movie production in the early stages with “The Story of the Kelly Gang” the first feature film in the world. Other early notable Australian movies included “40,000 Horsemen” filmed on the Kurnell sandhills. Australia has also produced some notable actors and actresses over many decades for Hollywood studios from Errol Flynn and Peter Finch to Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman amongst many others. Naturally Peter Weir and George Miller stand out as great Australian film directors.
Australian film production companies from the early days included Efftee Studios in Melbourne (established 1930 by F. W. Thring) and Cinesound Studios at Pagewood, Sydney (established 1931 largely under the influence of Ken G Hall). Remember, also, the newsreel theatrettes in Sydney. There was one at Wynyard and another adjoining the State Theatre in Market St Sydney. You could watch the news in film from Movietone or Cinesound perhaps during your lunch break if working in the city. Quite a number of cinemas had a resident organist and musical organs installed so that you would be entertained during the intermission or whilst waiting for the movies to start. You would also be shown Val Morgan slides advertising local businesses.
During the 1950s and 60s on a Saturday at the movie matinee at the local cinema you could watch the latest episode of “Tarzan”, a John Wayne western, or perhaps the latest movie starring Elvis Presley after being shown to your seat by a usherette or usher in their smart uniform. Perhaps you may have gone on a date and sat in the balcony or maybe the back stalls to watch “South Pacific” or “The Sound of Music” in Cinemascope whilst eating a choc top ice cream or perhaps pop corn that was bought at the cinema kiosk or candy bar.
If sitting in the back stalls some would have fun by rolling “Jaffa’s” down the aisle of the cinema. You may have bought a box of “Fantales” to eat and read the wrappers so as to learn something of the movie stars of the day.
Perhaps instead of going to the cinema you may have gone to one of the many drive-in theatres that were around. Some of the more adventurous or daring may have snuck in to the drive-in by hiding in the boot of the car of a friend. You would have with you perhaps a pillow and a blanket in the car.
In the Hills District the cinema that one would attend would be the Castle Hill Theatre owned by the Pegler family (Remember James Pegler the popular Hills based singer of the 1960s and extremely popular with the “Blue Rinse” set) . In the Hawkesbury region there was the Regent at Richmond and the Royal at Windsor.
Don’t forget to contribute your memories and also any old photographs that you would like to see published in this magazine’s “As We Were” section.