On 17 February 1954, The Argus ran a feature on the first drive-in theatre in Australia, some twenty years after they were introduced in the USA. The writer of the piece paints an amusing picture of future clients happily, and perhaps shabbily, ensconced in their own vehicles while catching up on their cinema idols. This particular drive-in closed on 22 June 1983.
ITS COMFORT LIES IN ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN DO
At dusk this evening “Skyline,” Australia’s first drive-in theatre, will open in Toorak Road, Burwood, with 1,500 picture-goers snugly seated in their own cars in a ten-acre auditorium. Probably the most interesting development in entertainment here since the advent of sound pictures, the drive-in theatre provides the ultimate in relaxation and comfort for movie patrons.
The key note is informality. Unlike the ordinary cinema-goer, you can smoke to your heart’s content, crack peanuts, wear slippers or shorts or a dressing-gown, come unshaven, or do your knitting. What’s more, you can bring along liquor-provided it’s drunk in moderation. And if you don’t care for the movie . . . just settle back for forty winks and snore your head off. You’re in your own car and can’t disturb a soul.
There are no gossips in the seat behind to irk you, nobody to squeeze past your knees just as the villain draws a bead on the hero. The programme is continuous, and you may come and go as you please.
Husbands who for years have refused to budge out of the home to go to an evening show will relent when they can jump into the car and roll off to the movies without having to “get all dressed up.” If it’s a night out for the family you just pile into the car, pay at the ticket office without getting out of your seat, and let a “car hop” direct you to your parking spot.
The screen, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, towers 50ft. high and 34ft. wide at one end of the large enclosure. It is designed to take not only standard 2-D movies, but also technicolor films and 3-D offerings.
A small loudspeaker hangs on a post beside every parking space. You merely, lift it into your car, attach it to your window or steering column, and adjust the volume to suit yourself. Above the loudspeaker’s volume control is a small switch which, when pressed,flashes a red light on your parking stand and summons an attendant to carry out your slightest whim.
If you feel peckish during the show, nattily-garbed refreshment boys, travelling through the theatre on tricycles, will serve you with hot-dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, sweets or cigarettes. But that’s not all. If your car develops a mechanical fault there’s the specially selected staff of “car hops” who will fix the trouble.
As each car enters, the theatre attendants give windscreens a thorough cleaning to ensure perfect vision during the show. At the first sign of rain your car’s windscreen will be coated with a special glycerine preparation to make raindrops run off the glass without blurring your view. Even a thick fog won’t mar the show. Heat from portable braziers standing inside the theatre’s fence will clear away all but the most dense “pea souper.”
Later this year, patrons will be able to join in supper club dances after the show, on a dance floor in the middle of the theatre ground. This will be inclusive of the admission price, and music will be supplied from modern dance recordings.
Skyline’s doors are open to any vehicle on wheels, except bicycles and scooters. So if you drive a motor-cycle, utility van, or even a horse and cart, all this is yours – and movies, too !
This is the Imperial Picture Pavilion at Lutwyche in Brisbane – photo by F W Theil – copyright expired.
On Friday 1 April 1922 Brisbane residents could have made their way by the Kedron Park tram or car (plenty of standing room for motors) to this cinema to see the silent film “Humoresque”. This pavilion of moving pictures provided room under cover for 1500 people.
Musical accompaniment to the film was provided by Mrs Lambert Knight on piano and Miss Allen on violin. There’s a review of the film here at Cinema Becomes Her by Allison McCulloch. Not to be confused with the 1946 version (with sound and colour) starring Joan Crawford and John Garfield.
The first Cinesound Review newsreels were screened in Australian cinemas in 1931.
This ad from The Advertiser of 14 November 1931 teases cinema goers with the lure of
“intimate pictures of the Principals and Counsel in the Field divorce case. In the first issue of The Australian Reporter – Cinesound Review”
The Field divorce case filled the pages of newspapers through 1931 and 1932. It lasted 87 days in the court room and gleaned thousands of pounds for Sydney Field’s lawyers, demonstrating the salacious treatment of divorces where fault was found. An appeal by Mrs Field even went to the High Court.
More pedestrian issues appeared in this edition screened at Brisbane’s Tivoli Theatre days later.
One of the most enjoyable features on the programme is a Cinesound review. Australians will welcome this pictorial record of recent events in various parts of the Continent, described in the “talking reporter” style by an Australian, in the native way. In this week’s budget one sees Phar Lap‘s departure for overseas, hears Arthur Mailey and Don Bradman talking about Eddie Gilbert’s bowling, and even gets the late news of the crash of the air mail plane, Southern Sun, accompanied by “shots” of her departure from Hobart, Melbourne, and Sydney.
Over at the National Film and Sound Archive 88 newsreel clips are available to view online, including silent footage from as early as 1908.